"Merrick, A guardsman's LIFE is to die. My job has always been to send them to places where they CAN die. I am not afraid to spend them, but I never waste men. Because of their sacrifice, the Inquisitor now has the proof she needs." [...] "Now, Sergeant Major, you may proceed with your attempt to kill me, but as I mentioned, I do not waste men if I can avoid it, and killing you for insubordination would be very... wasteful. Are you with me?"
A subversion of the Even Evil Has Standards
trope, when a villain refuses to do something horrible
not because it is too evil and/or abhorrent, but rather because it's not in their interests to do so; it's a waste of limited resources, and may even be counter-productive
Sometimes, even a villain finds it furthers their aims to Pet the Dog
from time to time, even if it's just for show. Maybe there's dog-kicking
in their past; even if there isn't, the Pragmatic Villain is the type to have studied those who have. No matter the combination of dogs and boots, and they're sure to have investigated them all quite thoroughly, there just isn't anything to be gained by it
and one's toes get a little tender after too much of that kind of thing. Also, a dog kicked too often can bite back
. Though a pragmatic villain is likely to be less destructive than their Card-Carrying Villain
counterpart, they are made all the more dangerous by their focus on their ultimate goals and their reluctance to carry the Villain Ball
Oftentimes, their course of action is determined solely by discerning which
would best serve their purposes
. Being evil, to them, just keeps their options open when it comes to illegal and immoral acts, and doesn't stop them from using 'legitimate' (or at least socially respectable) strategies and tactics. Heroes are sometimes surprised when said villains do something "unexpectedly" evil later, when they were doing "good" things before. Should kicking the dog become a necessary step in their masterplan however, expect their kick to have the power and precision of a football player going for a game winning field goal, usually while stating it's Nothing Personal
Virtually any Villain with Good Publicity
tends to be a master of this trope, especially one who is also Dangerously Genre Savvy
. Villains With Good Publicity almost always have years of experience in earning the trust of their supporters, and are well aware that angering dog-lovers (among others) will not advance their cause and may hinder it
. Even for those who don't happen to be Affably Evil
, if any dog-kicking is deemed necessary, they will keep these acts of cruelty out of the public eye, or when they can't do that, they'll do what they can to make it look like the victim deserved it
; how evil they truly are under cover of darkness
must remain shrouded in darkness. They also tend to be masters of the Xanatos Gambit
. The Noble Demon
will probably attempt to justify his nobility this way, with varying degrees of believability. Whenever there's a Generic Doomsday Villain
or an Omnicidal Maniac
around, there's a good chance the other villains
will form an Enemy Mine
with the heroes to stop them, as they want to rule the world, not destroy it.
Or at least not steal their job of fighting the heroes.
Even most Chaotic Evil Ax-Crazy
villains who do things For the Evulz
fall to this trope. There's no fun or challenge
for them if everyone's dead or know what to do next.
An obvious foil to villains with Complexity Addiction
(who will do the evil deed anyway
), though some do manage to pair the two. A subtrope is Can't Kill You, Still Need You
if applied to villains. Contrast Stupid Evil
, where the villain hurts their own interests by preferring indiscriminate evil. Compare and contrast Shoot the Dog
, where a hero or anti-hero does a morally questionable act for pragmatic reasons. See also Cooperation Gambit
, Cut Lex Luthor a Check
, Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat
, Sanity Has Advantages
, and Bread and Circuses
. Compare Evil Virtues
, where a villain has good traits. For the less
evil and more moderate version of this trope, see Jerk with a Heart of Jerk
Not to be confused with Do Wrong, Right
, where an evil act is decried for being poorly executed.
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Anime and Manga
- In Code Geass, Cornelia tries to fight the drug trade because the drugs hurt productivity among the conquered Japanese.
- Guilford and Darlton have little time for the racist attitudes of many Britannians in the military. Not particularly because of principle, but because they think that a meritocratic military which allows in talented Japanese like Suzaku is much more effective than filling the ranks with incompetent Britannians.
- Schneizel turns out to be this by the end of the series - up until then, he has debated an ethical/economical view to mercilessly conquering other nations. His major retinue comes from disgraced/insane rejects of Britannia's worst, but he has used them like a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits. As a result, everyone trusts his word over Lelouch's in the Black Knights, using nothing but semi-coherent (and some incorrect/faked) evidence. And then he gets to fire a nuke on Britannia's capital to shut his other siblings up, and everyone just thinks that it was a necessary evil. By the end, he's preaching eternal peace and using nuclear Armageddon to do it.
- Dutch from Black Lagoon runs illegal booze, slaves, guns and drugs. He does piracy when the delivery business goes slow. He does not, however, condone his employees running off Ax-Crazy and taking out their issues by shooting at noncombatants when he's in a combat zone. Not because he gives a crap about their lives, but because he wants to know that his backup can be relied upon and stay professional.
- Most of the cast of Black Lagoon act out of this trope almost all of the time: People who don't seldom last long (except Revy, who has a tendency to run off Ax-Crazy when she has a bad day but is also a main character). Balalaika averts it once when she declares personal war on Hansel and Gretel for killing one of her men, though she also had a pragmatic reason since the pair were destabilising Roanapur by their presence.
- Dutch also says in the manga that he doesn’t want to risk himself in an operation that could make him a lot of money, (dooming himself to work for significantly less money that other operators) because he knows doing the job is a great way to get himself killed).
- During the Baile de la Muerte arc, everyone in Roanapur (except Roberta) wants the American soldiers to get out of town safely, simply because if they died it'd draw a lot of unwanted attention from the United States government.
- The Gandor Family in Baccano! stays steadfastly out of the drug trade, sticking with relatively less objectionable crimes like bootlegging and gambling. This is due to actual moral objections on the part of Keith Gandor, but the other two Gandor brothers, Luck especially, recognize that it's also because their relatively small organization is not equipped to compete with the larger organized crime families currently running drugs.
- The Maou in the light novel/manga, Maoyuu Maou Yuusha is an example of this, although she is more pragmatic than evil.
- Moo in the Monster Rancher anime captured Holly to use the Magic Stone to locate his original body, figuring he could destroy the heroes with it. They rescued her, but by that time he had gotten what he needed to know. Rather than let them find out where he was going or try and stop him in his humanoid form, he simply left them behind so they had no idea where he was.
- In Dragon Ball Z, Nappa and Vegeta (of the Saiyan race) are surprised that a Half-Saiyan/Half-Human Hybrid creates a much stronger warrior than either the Saiyans or humans alone. Nappa suggests that the two go to Earth conquer it, and use their women to breed an army of extremely powerful warriors. Vegeta shoots him down immediately—not because he was against the plan itself, but because it would be ridiculously stupid to breed a race of beings that would one day be far more powerful than you are yourself. Instead, he suggests they just blow the planet up after making their wish for immortality. Seeing as how Vegeta is eventually defeated, and won over (more or less) to the side of Earth, the fact that he ends up marrying a human and having a child with her suggests he's at least possibly implementing the interbreeding plan with the aim of now protecting his newfound home.
- This is the reason why Ginjo from Bleach told Tsukishima to stop Mind Raping Chad and Orihime. He has no moral objection to it, but destroying your hostages' minds means you can't use them as pawns. It's easier to just stick to Mind Control.
- Mayuri has shades of this too. He sticks with the Soul Society because it gets him: an officer position, funding, minions, supplies, etc. Working freelance gets you an execution by the Soul Society.
- Kenpachi Zaraki helps save Rukia, not because he believes that her execution is morally wrong... but because he wants to fight Ichigo again. That and it gives him a rare opportunity to fight against his fellow captains, some of the strongest possible foes.
- Bambietta Basterbine has a habit of sleeping with a random mook, then killing him. Her comrades chew her out for this, saying it's a waste of hot guys.
- In Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force, Arnage and Veyron take on two other Eclipse infectees. The latter's willy-nilly attacks on innocents will be blamed on the Hückebein, who don't want the added attention.
- Death Note has Villain Protagonist Light Yagami who was willing to kill tens of thousands of criminals and other undesirables to further his ambitions. But he doesn't approve when his less stable follower Teru Mikami, announces that Kira is going to kill lazy people as well... because Light considers the move premature. Once all the criminals are dead and Kira is regarded as God, Light fully intends to prune out other undesirable elements from "his" world.
- In Naruto, it could be argued that every ninja village practices this. While glossed over, the series does admit to ninja taking jobs like kidnapping and assassination. By and large, everything a ninja village does is either to win a war or because they were hired to.
- In Kakashi Gaiden, Kakashi argues against going to save Rin because he believes that as a medical ninja, she will be treated well as long as she tends to their wounded, and the mission takes precedence at the moment. Obito, however, argues that if the Rock ninjas who captured her are "brainless flunkies", they will simply interrogate her. Obito turns out to be right.
- Orochimaru helps stop Obito on the basis that if the world's destroyed, he won't be able to continue his experiments
- Everything Hisoka from Hunter × Hunter does is so that he can help cultivate fighters with potential into someone who can give him a good fight, or in Chrollo's case, to set up a situation where he can fight them without interference.
- Arlong from One Piece is a Fishman Supremacist who despises humans, but is willing to put his prejudices aside for profit, and prefers bribing corrupt Marine Captains over attacking them. He also finds Nami valuable for her map making skills and praises her for it.
- Donquixote Doflamingo from One Piece is the beloved king to the citizens of Dressrosa. While he is renowned as an accomplished pirate worldwide, his people know him as their savior. He is seen shooting Trafalgar Law in public, but explains it away by implicating the victim as a terrorist against the country.
- In Bakuman。, when Nanamine realizes that "What is Required" will certainly be canceled, he loses hope and Kosugi, the editor he had bullied into going along with his plan of getting ahead, loses his temper in response to Nanamine giving up after how far he went, and punches Nanamine. Nanamine considers getting Kosugi fired and even suing him for battery, but decides not to since it will only serve to make him a laughingstock of the Internet.
- Kiritsugu Emiya of Fate/Zero may not see himself as a villain, but deliberately uses methods he knows to be both pragmatic and villainous. In his perspective, there is no such thing as a noble war, and that chivalry is the greater crime for perpetuating war by glamorizing it, rather than ending fights with merciless and abrupt execution and leaving survivors with no taste for war.
- In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, the only thing stopping Homura from outright villainy is the fact that her main goal is to ensure Madoka's happiness...a goal which cannot be achieved through immoral methods. So Homura says, at least.
- Crime Boss Wallenquist from Sin City refuses to seek revenge on Wallace, who almost singlehandedly dismantled his human slavery market, because there's no benefit to him.
"Revenge is a loser's game. There's no percentage in it. All that matters is profit and power."
- In "The Big Fat Kill", Dwight appears to know this about Wallenquist, and count on it. He makes a point of killing all of Wallenquist's men so he'll conclude that fighting Old Town is more trouble than it's worth. The idea of escalation never seems to come up.
- The Shocker, one of Spider-Man's enemies, is almost unique among the wall-crawler's enemies in that he's rarely concerned with taking revenge on our hero and prefers to only commit crimes that are actually profitable. Of course, superhero comics being what they are, Spider-Man is almost always the one to interfere with the Shocker's robberies. He also avoids doing anything above robberies as he believes doing anything beyond that will simply attract the attention of The Punisher.
- The Hobgoblin started out with this, vowing to avoid the Green Goblin's mistakes and only went to kill Spider-Man to make sure he wouldn't mess with his plans. However, these traits were lost, though the character's backstory is complicated, with there having been multiple Hobgoblins. The original Hobgoblin still has profit as his biggest motivator, and is actually willing to let other villains use his gimmick, provided they pay him a cut and aren't too embarrassing to him.
- Another Spider-Man example; after escaping from Ravencroft, Carnage assaulted Martha Robinson and then wrote his catchphrase "Carnage Rules" using her blood and his next to her on an elevator wall, but did not kill her, because he felt that a live, injured, and frightened victim would cause more panic among the Daily Bugle staff than a corpse would. (And it certainly did.)
- In The Superior Foes of Spider-Man, Tombstone was disappointed that his daughter Janice wished to become a costumed supervillain rather than be a mob lawyer since he felt the latter was more profitable and in his eyes equivalent to legalized crime. Nonetheless, he didn't stop her, but told her that she had to support herself if she wished to pursue supervillainy.
- Bullseye may be an Axe Crazy Psycho for Hire, but during the Dark Reign, he was lucid enough to realize that he was working for someone who was out of his gourd when Norman Osborn planned to attack Asgard. (And he wasn't the only villain working for Osborn who thought so.)
- He needed Wonder Woman to point it out, but no, Ares does not support nuclear and biological war - he needs war in order to live. A nuclear war would give Ares a short-term major power boost, but with no one left to fight wars he would eventually fade into nothing. Smaller scale wars that can constantly feed him are more practical for long term survival.
- Darkseid is like this a lot:
- He will never try to conquer the universe through Time Travel on the grounds that it is far too reckless. There are simply far too many things that could go wrong when you alter history.
- Also the reason he teamed up with the heroes to take down the Anti-Monitor. It wasn't out of the goodness of his heart, but if anyone was going to destroy and conquer the universe, it's going to be him.
- He objects to Desaad and Sleez's acts of evil because they are largely pointless. Desaad is a petty sadist. Sleez once mind-controlled Superman, but instead of doing anything useful with him like trying to conquer the world, he made Superman star in a porno.
- Another example occurred in Cosmic Odyssey (not surprising, since Odyssey had basically the same plot as Crisis on Infinite Earths), in which it was Darkseid, of all people, who organized the heroes to fight the Anti-Life Entity. Of course, Darkseid did try to manipulate the situation to his own advantage, fully in keeping with this trope.
- Christu Bulat from The Punisher MAX arc "The Slavers", in total contrast to his father. The relationship between the two is rather strained because Christu views human trafficking as a business and raping girls as just part of the business. He also berates his father for using his bare hands instead of a gun to kill a gang member, as well as for shooting the whole gang. As you could guess from his profession, though, he's still a heartless, raping bastard. His pragmatism is best demonstrated by his willingness to kill his own father. It doesn't work out, both because he underestimated his father and because he gets disemboweled.
- In the Watchmen universe, after the "costumed hero" phase hit its peak, most costumed villains started either reforming entirely or switching to "less showy" pursuits like drug dealing and prostitution rackets.
- The Joker explained that he doesn't place Joker Venom on post office stamps because it was too ludicrous a crime even for him, preferring instead to operate on a much smarter level in regards to such matters. This was also when he was framed for placing Joker Venom on postage stamps and nearly executed as a result.
- He himself also invokes the trope, whenever the bad guys do a Villain Team-Up, they RARELY (If ever) invite the Joker in. While most of them were genuinely afraid of him, some of them didn't like The Joker because he's not exactly a team player and is considered unprofessional and untrustworthy even from his fellow villains. The exception is Lex Luthor, who does invite him if he's in charge of the villain team ups on the basis that it's safer to have an unpredictable Joker on your team than it is to have an unpredictable Joker who's offended you snubbed him.
- He begged off from doing a Villain Teamup with Carnage because Carnage just wanted to maim and kill, while Joker preferred panache in his murders.
I always thought of myself as the Orson Welles
of crime and chaos, while you, apparently, aspire to be nothing more than... David Hasselhoff
- You're Dracula. The series is Requiem Chevalier Vampire. Six million lemures, the souls of those who were mistreated and murdered in life and can only be stopped by killing their tormentor in death, are swarming your ship. Do you fight them all one on one? Or do you step into your back room and break Hitler's neck, wiping out all six million in a stroke?
- The Red Skull may indulge in petty wasteful sadistic villainy often, but he does not appreciate anyone on his payroll doing the same. Villainy committed on his dime has to have some kind of profit for him.
- One comic showed him foiling a plan by Madam Hydra, his subordinate at the time, that wanted to blind every American who was watching a television set at some point. He said he was called a lot of things, but never a Nihilist anarchist.
- Hilariously, he once renounced Nazism to embrace... nihilist anarchism. It didn't take.
- His clone takes this to another level — while still an unrepentant racist, he's started recruiting from both sexes and all races, in order to gather enough people who hate mutants as much as he does.
- The Flash's Rogues tend towards this, especially Captain Cold; it is one of their unspoken rules not to kill speedsters, since they know that the other superheroes will hunt them down, will not stop, and may even be "creative" about retribution... for example, what Wally "The Flash" West did to Inertia for de-powering Wally's cousin Bart Allen, also aka The Flash, which led to his death when the Rogues panicked and unwittingly killed him. They promptly turned on Inertia for that, meaning that Iris told Wally that Inertia was the "prime mover" in Bart's death, but still ended up on the run for a year; Final Crisis: Rogues Revenge was about them deciding to first hang up the spandex and disband, but then upon hearing of Inertia's escape, they decide to do their one last job and kill Inertia in revenge. Upon succeeding, they dump his corpse in Keystone City with a message to "Tell the Flash we're even - The Rogues."
- Also, when Libra tries to get the Rogues to join, Captain Cold's refusal explicitly taunts him: "Have fun with the heat comin' your way for takin' out the Martian." That, and as Captain Cold pointed out in Rogues Revenge: #1, they were persona non grata among supervillains in the year after they'd killed a Flash, so Captain Cold isn't inclined to back them either.
- In Empowered, most career villains (including mooks) avoid killing heroes unless absolutely necessary, particularly the weak, useless ones like Empowered — doing so will result in your victim's hero friend tracking you down to exact bloody vengeance instead of just arresting you.
- This sometimes applies to low-level criminals and petty thugs in some of the later Marvel Comics as well. In one Incredible Hulk comic, for instance, two perverts in the showers at the local YMCA are planning to rape Bruce Banner until he warns them about his having super powers; they decide not to see whether he's bluffing. Moreover, in the future depicted in Spider-Girl's comics, several bands of assassins made it a policy only to subdue cops who got in their way and never to kill them, since the various law enforcement agencies involved tend to retaliate swiftly and brutally against cop-killers. A couple of petty burglars caught in the act by a superhero also surrender immediately rather than risk the near-certainty of being pounded into the pavement for fighting or fleeing.
- Diabolik is a criminal who mainly steals from other criminals, but it's not because he hates them, it's because they tend to keep their money and jewels in their homes and banks have become too much even for him.
"My dear Eva, illicit business pays well, and what really matters is that it's done in cash. I'm sure that home is full of money."
- Many criminals appearing in Paperinik's stories, both in the normal stories and Paperinik New Adventures:
- Petty criminals caught by Paperinik in the act will surrender, because whatever they do they'll get arrested and if they try and resist or escape they'll just get beat up;
- In Paperinik New Adventures, the Evronians are Emotion Eaters who invade any planet on their way to drain their inhabitants of all emotions with a process that will transform them into Coolflames. They won't drain all inhabitants, however, as some could be useful at a later date and they still need a breeding population to feed themselves. They also spare significant energy sources as they're approaching an energetic crisis, and are desperately searching an infinite one specifically to avert it.
- In the reboot, Gorthan reacts to finding out that Coolflamization can be reversed by not destroying Earth, as humans are particularly rich in emotions and raiding them continuously to drain them will be more profitable in the long run. In a possible future they do so for one thousand years.
- Also from Paperinik New Adventures, the Organization, who provide multiple examples:
- They are time pirates who aim at changing history in such a way they'll be in command of the world, but their attempts at doing it (or at least the one seen in the series) involve assembling a device to move history on their preferred course because they're smart enough to know it could easily backfire;
- In one occasion they help Paperinik stopping the creation of a bubble that would otherwise erase time itself because it would destroy everything they want to steal;
- When they decide to get rid of Paperinik, they send their agent to act after the defeat of the Evronians, as they knew his role into the event and that otherwise the Evronians would have become unstoppable and invaded Earth. They also only do it because Paperinik was becoming too much of a danger for them;
- When they accidentally end up ruling the world as an unintended consequence of their apparent success in killing Paperinik, the future they rule over doesn't seem any different from what is seen in other occasions, presumably because otherwise there would be too many rebellions;
- Their main agent the Raider once showed up to prevent Duckburg from getting destroying in a nuclear fusion experiment going awry. It's not out of the goodness of his heart, but because the nuclear experiment working would be the only possible power source for his Othership that isn't too surveilled. In fact, had he not needed to charge the Othership he would have left the events proceeding as normal because he isn't stupid enough to risk running afoul of The Butterfly Effect;
- In his final appearance in the first series, the Raider betrays the Organization to the Time Police because, with time travel stopping working, it was time to retire, and the Time Police paid well.
- In the reboot we have the time pirate Kronin (a composite character of the Raider and his predecessor in the job). He steals from all across time, but won't try and change time because he fears running afoul of The Butterfly Effect. He states so in his "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Zondag, who had stolen Kronin's time machine and prevented the birth of Evron's main enemies only to cause the Evronians to leave their militaristic ways, thus destroying the Evronian Empire he was planning to rule over.
- In the Jackie Chan Adventures Queen Of All Oni, Jade fits this trope, being Dangerously Genre Savvy, and a Fallen Hero (as well as at least partially Affably Evil), she realizes that a World Domination plot would be unwise, since the Demon Sorcerers attempting to do so was the very thing that turned them into Sealed Evil in a Can, and she wants to avoid the same fate.
- The Cuban refuses to get into a turf war with the Shadow Hand when they show up in Mexico City looking for the Vault of Endless Night, as he figures it's too dangerous to fight them, and that it's a win-win situation whether they succeed or fail anyway.
- Dungeon Keeper Ami is an odd case- Ami has to resort to this, as opposed to acting the part of a hero, like she wants. Otherwise her minions have discipline problems. Of course, the heroes wouldn't belive her anyway...
- Game Theory is a For Want of a Nail fanfic of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha which diverged from canon due to Precia following this trope. It pays off for her when she is able to convince Nanoha to help her revive Alicia.
- The A Certain Magical Index fic A Certain Crazy Christmas Special has a hilarious version in the reason why Bad Santa kidnapped a bunch of girls to pull his sleigh instead of using real reindeer:
One might ask why he did not use real reindeer
It probably would have been just as cool
Simply Santa didn't want to mess with PETA
He was crazy but not that much of a fool
- In A Cure for Love Light becomes irritated when he learns his followers have opened death camps because it's not as efficient nor as controlled as killing with the murder notebook, not to mention it's bad for P.R.
- In the Pony POV Series, the Dark World version of Discord often has to rein in Fluttercruel and keep her from killing their victims, because he feels that having subjects to torment in the long run is better than killing for a thrill in the here and now.
- Many Naruto fanfics have unspoken codes among ninja based on this trope. These include:
- Limiting the torture of Genin because they're less likely to have valuable information.
- Not raping women because their kunoichi comrades would kill them.
- Not taking certain jobs no matter how lucrative because the loss of P.R. would cost them more money than they'd make.
- In First Try Series Haku and Zabuza do not attack Tazuna's family when they have to kill Tazuna, not because its wrong but because it would breed ill will among the locals, who might help any ninja hunting them down
- In Perfection Is Overrated, The Usurper doesn't like Hitomi killing indiscriminately, as he feels it draws too much attention to her. Word of God reveals that none of the other SUEs would be willing to team up with Hitomi, partly out of a sense of self preservation and partly because they consider what she is doing unacceptable.
- In Empire when Lucius Malfoy learns that Snape used his rep to help the Boy-Who-Lived he gives his actual support because it's a politically smart move.
- In Waking Nightmares, Medic points out that although he once invented a zombie plague, he never would actually use it. Not because of the moral implications, but because a zombie horde cannot be controlled. When Twilight inadvertently remarks that uncontrollable infection vectors are an additional risk, he congratulates her for having the right priorities.
- Theodore Nott in Harry Potter: The Serpent Lord differs from many pureblood supremacists in that he isn't interested in killing anyone of "lesser blood". His reasons for such are strictly because regardless of who's in charge, the world needs people working blue-collar jobs to make society function.
- Draco Malfoy/Black in The Power He Knows Not Is gives up on the idea of ruling the muggles after he learns there's roughly 70 million in England alone. In his words, there's maybe 100 thousand wizards in magical England. Factor out the underage, old, and sick and you have maybe half that. Even if Voldemort had the loyalty of every witch and wizard in England, they'd be outnumbered hundreds to one. He still thinks the "Light side" are a bunch of idealistic fools but understands the sheer futility of ever trying to conquer the muggle world.
- Both Another Perspective and Defending Sirius Black have the Dursleys help Sirius Black clear his name, simply so he can get custody of Harry and they'll never have to see him again.
- From the same stories, several Death Eaters support Sirius Black getting a trial because they don't want to set a precedent of rich purebloods being sent to Azkaban without a trial.
- In Crowns of the Kingdom, Lady Tremaine elects to stay out of the villains' team up because it wouldn't benefit her or her daughters.
- Jennifer Black in Black Princess Ascendant releases Cedric Diggory from a Life Debt after deciding that the potential ill-will from him and the rest of Hufflepuff aren't worth having the Head Boy at her beck and call. The goodwill she builds up by doing so also helps. She's extremely annoyed however to learn that, despite her beliefs, Cedric didn't expect her to release him from the debt.
- Ganondorf in Tangled In Time decides not to kill the infant Link because doing so would only have the child reborn. He decides to raise him as his own so Link would be too attached to him to fight and so he wouldn't learn anything that he could use against Ganondorf. As a result when Link is forced to answer the call and rise against him he barely has any skill in handling weaponry and has no idea who's fighting against.
- In one Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Star Wars crossover, Jabba buys and implements Andrew's and Xander's method for cloning organs as it's far more profitable than having to capture beings and harvest their organs to sell on the black market, particularly since it's renewable unlike harvesting.
- While normally portrayed as Stupid Evil, Travers in the Warslayer works with Buffy since she's both highly effective and supplying the Watcher's Council with two squads of Battle Sisters. He also realizes the Cruciamentum is pointless since each of the three Slayers regularly fight vampires and demons without even using their powers (Powered Armor, Chainswords, and BFGs help).
- Maledict from Sonic X: Dark Chaos doesn't want to destroy the galaxy with his galaxy-destroying superweapon because the resources of the Milky Way are too useful to squander - and trillions of his own subjects would die in the process, which could form another rebellion and hurt the Demon Empire. The rewrite makes him so pragmatic that he quickly turns into an Anti-Villain, often criticizing the excesses of his servants and turning him into a personification of Hobbes Was Right.
- In Necessary To Win, after some consideration, Shiho decides not to disown Miho after she wins the tournament, realizing that not even she can see it as a solution to her family's school's present situation.
- In The Rise Of Darth Vulcan, the villain avoids lines like murder and slavery. It's both that Even Evil Has Standards and the fact that crossing those lines would bring down on him a greater show of force from his opponents.
- Peace Forged in Fire: Praetor Velal of the Romulan Star Empire, initially. By his own admission, he sues for peace with the Romulan Republic not because he likes D'Tan's splinter state, but because the Empire simply no longer has the resources or political will to continue fighting, what with Empress Sela's kidnapping and uprisings over the news that the Tal'Shiar were responsible for the supernova that destroyed Romulus. He later joins the Republic in an Enemy Mine against the Tal'Shiar, because they attacked his men to break up the peace talks.
- The entire motivation of Harry Potter aka James Moriarty in Business. Everything he does is to either gain more money, power, or both, everything else is irrelevant. He even acknowledges that his plans wouldn't see any profit for several months but would rake in mountains of gold afterwards.
- Furthermore, when he learns that many of his "employees" are werewolves, his only response is to make sure they have access to Wolfsbane Potion if they want it and are given the week of the full moon off.
- Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness:
- In Act II, this is the only reason Tsukune's inner ghoul helps save Kokoa from a Superpower Meltdown; so it could use Kokoa's newfound feelings for Tsukune to its advantage by manipulating her into giving it enough power from her overcharge to hijack Tsukune's body completely. The others are Properly Paranoid enough to suspect that the ghoul had an ulterior motive, but, unfortunately, fail to realize just what until it's too late.
- In Act III, Falla helps Luna figure out how to save Rason by freeing her from her prison and avert Luna's Suicidal Cosmic Temper Tantrum. Not because she actually cares if Luna destroys the world, but because Luna is The Only One who can free her.
- Also in Act III, Hokuto outright states he hopes that Tsukune and co. thwart Kiria's Evil Plan, but only because if Kiria fails, then Hokuto will have free reign to enact his own Evil Plan as per his agreement with Kiria.
- In a My Little Pony fanfic called Three Evil Rulers, Three Cold Hearts, the three rulers from the Hearth's Warming Eve play are revealed to still have been encased in ice, and Discord revives them to wreak havoc. The three rulers attempt to brainwash their respective former civilizations to make war on each other again, and at the climax, they are finally defeated when their former assistants are also seemingly revived, and show up to help the Mane 6 fight the rulers with love and friendship. Except they aren't really the former assistants—they're Queen Chrysalis and a couple of Changelings in disguise! So why would they help our heroes? Queen Chrysalis is still a villain, but a pragmatic one, and her species feeds off love. But if the evil rulers keep spreading hatred, the Changelings would starve, so the queen temporarily gave her aid to the heroes so her species wouldn't have to hibernate.
- Sasuke Uchiha in Unconventional Win decides against trying to assassinate the Five Kage and instating a new world order after Naruto hooks up with Kaguya as not only would pissing her off be a bad idea, but the only person who could help him beat her would instead be helping her.
- In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, Terra elects to not kill the humans of Earth until after his group conquers them, as he would rather they relinquished power to the Stardroids.
- Ashes of the Past has Giovanni, boss of Team Rocket. He has an entire department dedicated to directing heroes to possible world-threatening crises. Why? Because you can't conquer/rule/extort the world if there is no world. Also, he sees the ability to remake reality useful, but ultimately too flashy and too risky to gain.
Films — Animation
- One of the lessons the main character in Megamind learns after apparently killing Metro Man. Part of the enjoyment of being a supervillain is having a worthy superhero to do battle with.
- While Sir Hiss from Robin Hood seemed genuinely shocked that Prince John would execute Friar Tuck to lure Robin Hood out, he was probably afraid that doing so would risk of them being excommunicated by the Catholic Church, a powerful political entity at that time.
- It's also a bad move because killing a beloved friar could cause a peasant riot.
- In Frozen, Prince Hans gave blankets and food to the poor, so the people can accept him easily once he takes over the kingdom.
- In My Little Pony Equestria Girls, Sunset Shimmer mostly has standards, but also complains when her two followers trash the decorations for the Fall Formal too completely — since she wants there to be enough damage to allow her to frame Twilight Sparkle for it, but not so much that the Fall Formal can't be held on schedule.
Films — Live-Action
- Havelock Vetinari, Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, does not really rule his realm with an iron fist. He has the novel idea of maintaining control by making people actually want him in charge, or at the very least, make removing him from power an unsavory prospect. In both Going Postal and Making Money he's confronted by people trying to usurp him. Instead of cracking down on them, he points Loveable Rogue Moist Von Lipwig in their general direction, and waits until he makes sure his usurpers are publicly discredited. Then he reminds them he's the Tyrant and can, in fact, crack down on them.
He didn't administer a reign of terror. Just the occasional light shower.
- In Jingo the D'regs have the same philosophy as Genghis Khan regarding their treatment of merchants. Kill merchants, or steal too much, and they don't come back. Rob them just enough and your sons can rob them too. Vimes compares it to farming.
- The Assassins Guild is like this; they kill only for money, never taking sides, which allows them to survive political upheavals in the city because when one tyrant overthrows another the new one will want their services as well. They also refuse to assassinate anyone whose death they feel will destabilize the city; civic chaos is no good, and they want the city rich enough to afford their very expensive fees.
- In the Draka series, the Draka are horrified at the Holocaust. Because the death camps were a massive waste of resources.
- In A Harvest Of War Guinevere Thyll is a strong proponent of this, outright saying that morality is only useful when it's convenient.
- In The Hobbit, the three trolls don't want to eat Bilbo, simply because he wasn't big enough to go through the trouble of skinning and boning him.
- The Lord of the Rings:
- The orcs don't torture Merry and Pippin and actually heal them, because they don't have time to linger in enemy territory (and some of the orcs have orders not to search or plunder them).
- Similarly, Sauron doesn't torment or question Pippin through the palantír - because "he wanted [Pippin], quickly, so he could deal with [him] in the Dark Tower, slowly."
- Shagrat the Uruk-hai commander defends the captured Frodo from Gorbag and the Minas Morgul orcs. Not because he cares about Frodo, but because Gorbag wants to steal Frodo's Mithril coat and other possessions for himself, whereas Shagrat has orders to take everything to Sauron.
- Touched upon in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, when Dr Gonzo mentions the defence adopted by one of his clients: "Why would I fuck children? They're too small!"
- Quoth Niccolò Machiavelli: "The prince can always avoid hatred if he abstains from the property of his subjects and citizens and from their women". The Prince is the textbook for Pragmatic Villainy. He also advised that a Prince was better off with popular support over the nobility. The nobles only want to oppress, and the people just want to not be oppressed. Support of the people is therefore the better and easier path.
- This position was also noted in his Discourses on Livy. Both The Prince and The Discourses heavily influenced Enlightenment thought on politics (although people tried to mention it as little as possible), and in particular is responsible for this gem, penned by James Madison in "Federalist No. 51":
If men were angels, no Government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on Government would be necessary. In framing a Government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the Government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the People is, no doubt, the primary control on the Government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.
- Federalist 51 is about checks and balances in the federal government. In other words, the whole point of checks and balances is to ensure that even if the whole government is composed of villains to a man, the structure of the system is such that it is in the interests of these villains to advance the public good. This is the entire theory of modern liberal democracy.
- It's important to remember, however, that Machiavelli was in favor of republics, and "The Prince" was intended to be a critique of the behavior of despots, not a field guide.
- The Thrawn Trilogy:
- Grand Admiral Thrawn will execute subordinates who failed and tried to pin the blame on others, but subordinates who failed at almost the exact same job who tried harder and took responsibility? Everyone braces for the order and the poor schlub sweats, but what happens? Promoted. It's a Career Building Blunder. Thrawn explains to Pellaeon that this Tractor Beam operator tried a novel technique when faced with something he wasn't trained for, that it might have failed but still looked valid, and if the operator can perfect this technique and teach it to others (shown to pay off in the Hand of Thrawn duology), the Empire won't have a problem with people escaping tractor beams in this way. Pellaeon privately remarks that Thrawn's action also served to make everyone who saw it much more willing to give him their all.
- And when he gives an I Want Them Alive order, he also says "if possible. If not — If not, I'll understand."
- Star Wars Expanded Universe novels:
- In Tatooine Ghost, set a few months before the Thrawn trilogy, readers can infer that Thrawn put on stormtrooper armor and went dirtside with some of his soldiers, not telling them who he was but still making them aware that he was someone very important. A squad leader is rough while trying to get information out of someone, and when asked about it says he thought that brutal was the new doctrine. Thrawn hits the squad leader with his blaster, then asks the leader if he wants to do Thrawn any favors now, and orders him to tell the truth. The squad leader says no, and Thrawn pointedly says that someone who has been threatened is likely to give nothing more than what they need to survive. The new doctrine is efficiency.
- Tarzen Tagge makes sure that the Tagge Company only builds the highest quality construction work. That way the customers have no reason to complain to law enforcement. An investigation would reveal Tarzen's smuggling operations. Eventually the legitimate business is so profitable that the smuggling becomes redundant.
- For obvious reasons, when Corran Horn goes undercover as a pirate in I, Jedi, he prefers this sort of piracy, encouraging the gang to kill as few as possible to encourage cooperation in the future. While a few of the pirates are in it more For the Evulz, most of them recognize the potential of this racket and end up accepting a legitimate security contract at the end of the novel. Later, when the pirate gang has to fight its way out of a confrontation with the New Republic Navy, Corran convinces the crew's leader that they should use ion cannons to disable the Republic fighters... because some forces will have to be diverted to rescue the pilots, distracting from chasing the pirates.
- Fliry Vorru has this as his modus operandi. Everything he does has a practical purpose. In The Bacta War, he's constantly advising Isard on the best method to root out the problem of Wedge Antilles and his squadron, even if it doesn't appeal to Isard's desire for blood (and her primary objective to "destroy the Rebels"). Often the methods are targeted at crippling the economic capabilities of Antilles and the people working with him, and/or increasing their own. This becomes increasingly difficult as Isard becomes more unstable over time.
- Carl Sagan, in a footnote in his nonfiction book Pale Blue Dot, says this about fears that aliens will ship us off Earth as food.
"Put aside the profound biological differences
that must exist between the hypothetical aliens and ourselves; imagine that we constitute an interstellar gastronomic delicacy. Why transport large numbers of us to alien restaurants? The freightage is enormous. Wouldn't it be better just to steal a few humans, sequence our amino acids or whatever else is the source of our delectability, and then just synthesize
the identical food product
- How to Succeed in Evil: Central character Edwin Windsor makes a lucrative, if frustrating, living counseling would-be supervillains to turn their efforts away from wanton destruction and towards more profitable strategies.
- It's not just practical in the sense of money as a goal, the book's primary plot-line centers around how genuinely terrifying and brutally efficient the man is at achieving his goal when the goal ISN'T money, but revenge.
- Amusingly, Topper's efforts to play counterpoint to his friend by doing everything just for kicks also clarifies into a clear goal in the second book, and he is similarly successful in obtaining what he was aiming for because of his underlying pragmatism in getting there, even if the goal itself is somewhat nonsensical.
- Cardinal Richelieu in The Three Musketeers is stated to have given up such petty things as vengeance, since they end up in the way of getting and keeping power.
- Sword of Truth series:
- Both Darken Rahl shows shades of this. In the first book, you'd expect Rahl to pull a You Have Failed Me when it turns out Richard broke through Denna's training. Hell, she certainly expect it. Instead Rahl reasons that her failure was no fault of her own, and shrugs it off. In the same scene, Richard plans to get Rahl angry enough to kill him, so that he can't use Richard's knowledge of the Book of Counted Shadows. Rahl calmly listens to Richard, then, after verifying his knowledge, shrugs, and gives him two options, amounting to, "Help me open the right box, or don't. I've got a 50-50 chance of getting it right either way, and if I end the world, no skin off my nose."
- Emperor Jagang perhaps manages to be a bigger monster, but he's still smart enough to gather intelligence and listen to his advisers, especially when they're experts in magic and he's not. In Phantom, for instance, he and the Sisters of the Dark are looking for the Book of Counted Shadows. On finding what appears to be a copy, he thinks it's fake, while the Sisters insist it could be real. You might expect him to simply overrule them considering they're essentially slaves. Instead, they have a pretty civil debate about it. He also reads the warnings in spell books and heeds them. Jagang also reads lots of books and sends some of his best troops off looking to salvage ancient libraries in the hopes of finding knowledge from the wizards' war that could help him. He didn't even care terribly much when the Palace of the Prophets was destroyed, because the knowledge buried under in one of the "central sites" was much more valuable to him. When Kahlan is captured, has her mind erased, and is made invisible to almost everyone. Her captors are captured by Jagang, and they discover that the process that turned Kahlan invisible was tainted, and that random people will be able to see her. Instead of killing his prisoners who failed in their magic, he sends her out walking in the camp, naked (though with guards close by) to see who notices, thus assembling guards who can see her.
- The Fellowship of Order sent spies to many of the wonders of the world to use or copy their magic. In one instance, they sent one of their top people to work in the stables just so he'd have a chance at copying a magical construct.
- From Dune: "A pogrom? That's not like the Harkonnens. A pogrom is wasteful." Because of this, the Baron doesn't much like Rabban, who is just a brute, and he is more than willing to sacrifice Rabban for his smarter younger brother Feyd-Rautha. On the other hand, putting Rabban in charge for a while, then deposing him in favor of Feyd-Rautha makes the latter look much better by comparison. So putting a monster in charge is ultimately quite pragmatic.
- Zig-Zagged in Animorphs with Visser One, who claims she wants Earth to be conquered slowly and secretly because it's more pragmatic than Visser Three's plans of open war and genocide. In reality, she's worried that an open war could coincidentally kill two children she gave birth to through a previous human host. However, since the whole point of going after Earth was because there are enough people to give every Yeerk a host, the whole thing would have been pointless if Visser Three killed a large percentage of humans.
- The government in 1984 outlaws the death penalty, preferring to torture and brainwash potential rebels into model citizens, rather than killing them immediately, and risk them becoming martyrs for the next generation's rebels. However, ultimately they will disappear, long after everyone has forgotten about them.
- The Reynard Cycle: Shortly after the "attack" on Dis, the Calvarian general Drauglir had to stop his men from hanging Mosca, his Southern translator. He may consider the man to be less than a dog, but he was of the opinion that training another translator would take too much time.
- A Song of Ice and Fire: Reminds us that Stupid Evil has a price, so makes the Pragmatic Evil that much shinier by comparison (even if it, too comes at a price).
- Sandra Arminger of the Novels Of The Change is the voice of reason to her husband's pure sadism. His vainglory, too; there are times when she exhorts him to make a kill that he perceives as damaging to his reputation. Once her husband is dead and there's a firm peace between Portland and the other nearby nations, she becomes so bloodlessly pragmatic that she comes off as a particularly intrigue-oriented good guy.
- In the Night Watch series, the Dark Others tend toward this when declining more villainous actions:
- In one scene, a Dark Other manifests a cat to torture a mouse and his cohorts are disgusted with him because it would waste less energy to just kill the mouse himself, and he's distracted from his job of guarding their headquarters. To an extent, he's also considered to be acting Stupid Evil.
- The Dark Other Edgar is shown not using magic to steal from a store because he wouldn't want to be caught by the other side and because since humans are the "resources" of his side, it's foolish to hurt them needlessly. Edgar also decides to do a light Charm Person on an attractive woman rather than brainwashing her, because (more or less) consensual sex is more fun than rape.
- Zabulon/Zavulon, despite being an obvious Big Bad, is generally in the role of helping the Night Watch stop some apocalyptic scenario, since if they are allowed to happen, he won't have any victims. However, his help is always done to further some other, hidden scheme, and he's quite happy about massive casualties to the extent they help his side.
- Their disposition towards this approach also mostly averts the common "Villains Act, Heroes React" pattern. Dark Ones are mostly content with the status quo and rarely go out of their way to try and make the world more miserable, since humans themselves could usually be trusted with it. They even more often than not go along with the grand projects devised by the Light Ones to improve the humans, because, being cynical bastards, Dark Ones are assured that the human nature will prevail no matter what and those projects will backfire spectacularly, thus proving their point and providing them with all the delicious misery they could wish. They are usually right.
- The Dresden Files:
- Gentleman Johnny Marcone mercilessly crushes gang violence in Chicago and cuts down civilian casualties, imposing order in the criminal underworld, making it so that his presence is by far preferable to the anarchy that would follow, should he be taken down. He fights on the side of the good guys more often than not, if only because the villain of whatever book he's in is a greater threat to Marcone's business than Dresden is. And to top it all off, he provides Harry Dresden, a man notorious for "having problems with buildings," a lifetime membership to all of Marcone's exclusive clubs to ensure that Harry doesn't smash them to pieces breaking in all the time. This is best exemplified with Marcone, by the attitude of one of his subordinates when she saw Harry enter. "What must I give you to get you to leave very quickly."
- Lara Raith qualifies as well. She helps Harry out each time because doing so will increase her own political power. First he helps her overthrow her father by getting the man to reveal he was a Complete Monster who saw every child, even Lara, as disposable and then weaken him to the point Lara could win easily.
- The White Court vampires turn out to have been part of a secret war against terrifying ancient gods, taking it almost solely upon themselves rather than involve anyone else. Why? Because the more people know of these gods, the more powerful they get, and if the gods were allowed to live again they'd ruin the White Court's food supply.
- In Death: Alex Ricker in Promises In Death demonstrates this in his conversation with Roarke. Alex reveals that the men who robbed his store and were found floating in the river all carved up were killed off by his father, Max Ricker. Max did this because the thieves embarrassed Alex and embarrassment is apparently unacceptable. Alex didn't have them killed and didn't want the problem handled that way, and that he doesn't do murder...because it's just not practical.
- In Tony Hillerman's People of Darkness, the hit man Colton Wolf kills as few people as he can manage (aside from his assigned targets), because the fewer people that are killed, the shorter the resulting manhunt is.
- This is one of the defining traits of the Lady in the Black Company novels- she's almost entirely devoid of compassion and mercy, and totally devoid of remorse, but neither is she cruel for the sake of cruelty- everything she does is to get some kind of advantage, and her empire is designed to be stable and enduring. She's deliberately contrasted with her psychotic rival and sister Soulcatcher, who is pretty much pure chaos, and her ex-husband, the Dominator, whose empire, rather than being oppressive but stable and organized was almost literal Hell on Earth.
- The Hunger Games have Children Forced To Kill called "Tributes" as young as 12 in a Deadly Game. But game's organizers forbids them to use firearms because they're seen as an unfair advantage. If the kids just shot each other quickly, it wouldn't be as much fun for the Capital to watch.
- The organisers also ensure that the climate of the Games Arenas are not too challenging - they want the tributes to be fighting each other, not spending all their time and effort struggling to stay warm and alive in desperate cold temperatures.
- The Queen in A Woman's Work is ruthless enough to encourage her son to wear bright royal uniforms while she wears something more subdued (because who will an assassin instinctively aim at?) but makes sure her people are educated (at government schools with an approved curriculum), employed, have a good medical system, knows many of her troops by name, and when she conquers a new territory has most of the defeated nobles property distributed among the lower classes of the conquered country and immediately starts infrastructure programs to help improve their lives. She even allows the odd dissident to make public speeches against her reign, giving her an excuse to remind the "oppressed citizens" that she's made their lives much better. And letting them to beat up the troublemaker.
- The Corrupt Corporate Executive in Stephen King's The Running Man insists to Ben Richards that he didn't have his wife killed as part of a plan to recruit him as a Hunter. He makes no attempt to convince Richards that he's above such a thing, merely that it would have been a lousy plan and Richards would have seen through it, as evidenced by the fact that his suspicions immediately landed on the network when he heard about the misdeed.
- In Star Trek: The Battle of Betazed, the Vorta overseer Luaran objects to her colleague Gul Lemec casually shooting Betazoids during their occupation of the Betazoid homeworld. Like most Vorta, she has no moral qualms at all, but does not approve of needless violence when there are more orderly ways to keep things in check. As far as she's concerned, Lemec's brutality will only serve to increase resistance among the occupied Betazoids.
- While Moriarty and Moran in Kim Newman's The Hound Of The D'Urbervilles are not above doing things For the Evulz, they often adhere to this trope. At one point, Moriarty researched stealing the Crown Jewels of Britain, but rather than actually pulling the caper, sells the plans to the guardians, so they may tighten their security. And Moran discourses at some length about the foolishness of criminals who steal unique, one-of-a-kind, well-known (or religiously-venerated) valuables, because they're impossible to fence and often bring retribution after the thief.
- Richard Stark's (Donald Westlake's) Parker is a career thief with no real moral, but he tries to avoid killing people because he knows the police search harder for a murderer than a thief. He does not cheat his partners because he knows they have to trust him to work together. This trope does go out the window if one of his partners betrays him, though. Then he will hunt you down to the ends of the earth.
- Discussed in The Magician's Nephew. One bit of narration points out that once the witch was finished with Digory, she completely ignored him, because witches are "terribly practical."
- In Companions Of The Night, Don’t kill children is one of the first rules vampires learn. Because of moral reasons? No. It’s because missing or murdered children always attract more attention than missing or murdered adults.
Ethan: One thing we’ve learned over the years, the number one rule – after You can never have too many covers on a window – is Don’t mess with kids.
- In Alien Nation, Aphossno, the overseer scout, helps Cathy do develop a therapy against a genocide-attempt by genetically engineered from a "Purist" (Anti-Tenctonese hate groups) group. He does that, because the overseers can't profit from dead "cargo" (He plans not only to re-enslave the former Tenctonese slaves, but also to enslave humanity, since the overseers military technology, according to the overseers, is vastly superior).
- In "Sense and Sensitivity", Wolfram & Hart refuses to help mobster Little Tony after he attempts to shoot up a police station. They consider him Too Dumb to Live and it would be next to impossible to acquit a Cop Killer.
- In "Why We Fight", during World War II, Angel convinced Spike and the other vampires to spare the crew of the submarine they were on because none of them knew how to operate it. If they killed the crew, they would have been trapped on the bottom of the ocean.
- Babylon 5: In the beginning, G'Kar had the appearance of a pantomime villain, so it came a something of a surprise when he saved Catherine Sakai's life. His explanation:
There was no profit—no advantage—in letting you fall to an untimely and most uncomfortable death. It would distress the commander to no good end.
- Boardwalk Empire:
- In the words of Jimmy Darmody: "You can't kill everyone, Manny. It's not good business." Of course, Jimmy's temper and ruthlessness sometimes means that he takes steps that make everyone else think he is going too far and being impractical himself...
- Both Arnold Rothstein and his Bastard Understudy Meyer Lansky are tremendous examples of this.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- A humorous version of this comes up in season 6, when a vampire refuses to drink Buffy's blood because she's been eating a lot at a crappy fast food joint. Eating her at that point would likely make him feel sick. She also smells terrible.
- An earlier episode had someone spared because the taste of steroids in his blood disgusted the vampire. Also, they were special steroids that were slowly turning him into a fish, so it's understandable.
- Mayor Willikins was equal parts Affably Evil and this trope.
- Back in the 1800's, Angelus called Spike a moron for picking unnecessary fights and attacking humans in public. All that leads to is them getting run out of town by an angry mob, and they have to wait a generation before it is safe to enter that town again.
- In the season 2 finale, Spike helped Buffy foil Angelus and Drusilla's plan to destroy the world not because it was right, but because destroying the world would deprive him of the various entertainments he liked such as sports teams, rock bands, and alcohol.
- Scorpius from Farscape is incredibly goal-oriented, and rarely lets petty things like "emotions" get in the way of his mission. Thus, even when John Crichton has utterly demolished his base, ruining his plans for revenge against the Scarrans, he states the following when John asks if he is considering following through on his earlier threat to glass Earth.
Scorpius: To what purpose? Vengeance against you? The only vengeance I cared about is no longer within my grasp!
- The very reason the Flander's Company was created in-universe.
- Game of Thrones:
- Cersei is clearly appalled by Joffrey's decision to have Eddard executed, knowing that Ned's survival was the only way to prevent war with the North.
- Later on, her father, Tywin Lannister, saves a group of prisoners including Arya Stark, although he doesn't seem to have realized it, from torture and death. Not because the whole torture thing bothers him, but because, hey, why waste free laborers?
- Roose Bolton is furious at his son Ramsay's torture of Theon Greyjoy into madness - because it has destroyed Theon's usefulness to him as a valuable hostage.
- Tywin's best encapsulated this in Season 3, with a quote regarding The Red Wedding.
Tywin: Explain to me why it is more noble to kill 10,000 men in battle than a dozen at dinner.
- Hannibal: When Hannibal is killing intending to eat the victim, he minimizes their stress and suffering. He's not showing them kindness: a stressed animal releases hormones that cause the meat to taste off. When he's killing for other reasons he will readily be as brutal and violent as required.
- House of Saddam: After Uday kills one of his father's confidants (he insulted Uday's mother by introducing Saddam to a new mistress), the enraged Saddam unleashes a beating on his son. While chewing Uday out, Saddam claims that he's upset not by Uday's violent behavior, but that there's no point to it.
Saddam: You think violence is a pastime!? It is a tool! What are we? Barbarians?!
- In Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger, Basco ta Jolokia is perfectly fine with letting kids die, blowing up schools, and even killing his own Morality Pet to get what he wants. However, he decides to spare (and in one case, save) the Gokaigers because they're all after the same treasure and it's easier to let them do the heavy lifting for him* .
- Samaritan of Person of Interest is willing to eliminate anybody it considers a threat or hindrance to its plans, but if they cease to be a threat will let them go.
- The various gangs in Sons of Anarchy sometimes set aside blood feuds in favour of profit.
- In Stargate SG-1: The System Lord Yu agrees to add Earth to the Asgard Protected Planets Treaty, votes to oppose Anubis's admission into the ranks of the Goa'uld System Lords, spares Teal'c's life after a failed assasination attempt and eventually cooperates with the SGC against Anubis. However, he does all this because he has no interest in our section of the galaxy, he knows Anubis is not going to peacefully integrate into the System Lords, he expects Teal'c to go back and kill the man who planned the assassination attempt and Anubis eventually grows into a threat too large to be faced alone. Daniel Jackson explicitly points out that, despite their past relationship, Yu is not to be trusted or liked, only counted on to make a practical decision not hampered by the normal Goa'uld mindset. In the later seasons he also begins to descend into senility and is steered to a practical decision by his First Prime.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
- The Ferengi are a Planet of Hats based on greed. They've never had slavery as an institution or practiced genocide—because people who are enslaved and/or dead can't buy things; though some of them don't mind selling people as slaves to cultures that do have slavery, or selling weapons of mass destruction to genocidal warlords. One of their first appearances even uses this to invoke the "what profit vengeance" Aesop, with one DaiMon's crew deposing him for wasting their resources in an obsessive attempt to get revenge on Picard, because this cut severely into their profit margins.
- After a Cardassian ship gets blown up in suspicious circumstances, one Starfleet officer notes that even so, the Cardassians are not going to pick a fight with the Federation, or even ramp up their border security, since they are more than happy with the peace treaty. It gives them expanded territory, and they now have colonies on the Federation's side of the border that will not be mistreated and do provide a conveniently discreet view of the Federation's activities from behind the lines, so they are not going to throw away the deal they've got over such a trifling incident as this.
- During the Dominion Occupation of Bajor and Terok Nor, the Dominion treated the Bajorans far better than the Cardassians did during their previous Occupation. As was explicitly demonstrated in later episodes, this wasn't just because the Dominion had a neutrality pact with Bajor: the Dominion was all too willing to violate agreements with its allies when it was to its advantage to do so. What motivated the Dominion to keep its word was a desire to draw the starkest contrast possible in the minds of subjugated peoples between how it would treat them if they submitted, and what it would do to them if they defied it.
- Gul Dukat, in particular, plays this trope to the hilt in both directions, claiming to have cut back on Cardassian cruelty and oppression and improved the Bajorans' working conditions wherever possible during the Occupation of Bajor pre-series. In the series itself, he regularly allies with the "good guys" every time it serves his best interest, including particularly siding with the leaders of a popular uprising on Cardassia whom he considers to be a legitimate new government, and helping smuggle their Detapa (ruling council) to safety on Deep Space Nine during a Klingon invasion. Even in his more insane and villainous moments toward the end, one can see he always continues to do whatever he believes will serve his own practical best interest, right or wrong.
- The Female Changeling gets an instance of this near the end of the series. The Dominion have just gained the Breen as allies, who have a weapon that totally disables any ship it hits. This decisive advantage allows the Breen to destroy a combined Federation/Klingon/Romulan armada, including the Defiant. When all the survivors are stuck in escape pods, the Changeling orders them spared; not because she's feeling generous but because, as she explains to Weyoun, the demoralizing effect the terrified survivors will have on the alliance's war efforts is worth far more than their deaths would be. Weyoun immediately sees the wisdom of this decision, though neither of them takes into account that among the survivors is Captain Sisko, whose ability to rally the troops is most substantial.
- Star Trek: Voyager uses this trope as a Take That against the Kazon villain race from the first season. When an off-hand comment about them is made in front of Seven, she recalls how the Borg ran into one of their colonies. They refused to assimilate the colony because it would detract from their perfection. They didn't even have desirable physical qualities. Even the Talaxians got praise for that.
- Supernatural: Every time a Deal with the Devil is made, the victim is supposed to get to live for 10 more years before the demons come for him. Crowley is outraged when a lesser demon comes for his victims early:
- The Wire:
- In an episode of Taxi where Louie is given a blank check by Jim's father to compensate for Jim burning down Louie's apartment, Louie explains that he's not putting in a ridiculous amount because he knows it won't be honored. But there is an amount that will be just low enough for Jim's dad to agree to pay it with only minimal reluctance, which Louie needs to calculate.
- In an episode of The X-Files, Cancer Man has the alien bounty hunter save Mulder's dying mother. When he asks why, Cancer Man tells him that his mothers' death would make Mulder more dangerous, as he would have nothing to lose.
- In the Blue Bloods episode "Officer Down" The Mafia joins in on a manhunt for a Cop Killer who was affiliated with them. Discussed later: Grandpa Henry notes that the Mafia had explicit rules against killing cops when he was on the force, because cop killers put the whole department on edge and make doing business difficult.
- In Dick Tracy, the final Big Boy Caprice story by Max Allan Collins has him trying to kill Tracy with a million dollar open contract on the detective. Eventually, the organized crime ruling committee, The Apparatus, confront Caprice and tell him that the contract must be canceled. In this case, this is a matter of professionalism considering that not only is murdering police officers stupidly bad for business, but also Tracy has learned about the mob contract on him and has taken personal control of the department's Organized Crime Unit to retaliate. The Apparatus knows that they can't afford to let Tracy come at them full bore and so they must take action.
- Velor Vedevix of Cerberus Daily News was a pirate and slaver before the Reaper invasion. Once the true magnitude of the threat was revealed, he began focusing his efforts on fighting the Reapers, gathering other pirates to fight, scavenging in the Terminus systems, even openly delivering needed supplies to Alliance warships that would have happily blown him out of space a month earlier. If the Reapers win, no more piracy.
- Illithids in Dungeons & Dragons have to be pragmatic since their powerbase is a mere shadow of what it was in their glory days. Illithids would like nothing better than to gorge themselves on humanoid brains, but most of them are smart enough to realize that indulging their appetites too frequently would bring the wrath of every other humanoid race upon their tentacled heads. So the Illithids limit themselves to one or two brains a month while engaging in backroom deals, slave trading, and subtly aiming for power in the shadows.
- Blue and or black villains in Magic: The Gathering tend to abide by this. For example, in the Odyssey and Onslaught Cycles, the Cabal is a ruthlessly evil organization that is, nevertheless, primarily interested in profit, and the Cabal Patriarch recognizes that certain types of evil are...wasteful.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- The Tau are (besides the Card-Carrying Villain that is Chaos) the only faction that do not have "All the aliens must die, sooner or later" as policy, and are willing to incorporate other species into the Empire - sometimes at gunpoint, but other times a species will willingly join the Tau.
- The Dark Eldar was made into this to explain how a bunch of Neutral Evil backstabbers were still alive after 20,000 years.
- Indeed, every faction in 40k are pragmatic villains; Dan Abnett pointed out that if Chaos really was a "nail a baby to your helmet" society as some claim they would simply collapse in on themselves and be destroyed within a week. As such, even the most villainous 40k factions must, by definition, have a functioning society. Since they can all threaten the Imperium to a greater or lesser degree, that means there must be people who can engage in pragmatic villainy. Any examples (from any race) that contradicts this can therefore be dismissed on the grounds of "every sufficiently large organisation has a bloody twit in a position of power."
- Likewise, for all the anti-xenos rhetoric that's fed to the common masses, the Imperium of Man actually runs on cold, hard Realpolitik, even working together with the Tau in a form of faction-scale Enemy Mine to help defeat the Tyranids. Of course, both sides are also trying to subtly maneuver one another into doing the dirty work so that their own side ends up with the advantage in the aftermath...
- The Imperial Guard is (in)famous for its incompetent generals, shoot-happy commissars, and complete lack of compassion when it comes to sparing lives of their own men. Which isn't to say that they don't try to avoid massive losses, it's enough of a hassle organizing armies trillions strong without losing them before they even see combat. The tabletop general who follows the We Have Reserves approach (Minefield? Order troops to advance! An enemy fortress with no artillery on your side? Order troops to advance!) only does so because thus far it's worked, and as a Frontline General he at least can't be accused of cowardice.
- In Rifts, the Vampire Kingdom of Mexico. Their Master Vampire is evil and ruthless, but he's Lawful Evil and understands the value of keeping a contented blood supply around, and thus the Kingdom is actually one of the safest and most peaceful realms on Rifts Earth. Blood is provided through a painless system of blood donations, staggered to avoid causing harm to the humans who donate, and vampires are forbidden from attacking humans to feed (though they still tend to be dicks toward them; they are, after all, nearly always evil). In part because of this system, Mexico is the most powerful and advanced of the Vampire Kingdoms.
- In Werewolf: The Apocalypse, even other minions of the Wyrm will destroy any Gray Mass infestation that shows up. Their corruption is so virulent and indiscriminate that they even jeopardize the other minions of the Wyrm and the Wyrm's greater plans.
- Pentex does every underhanded thing you'd ever expect from the most stereotypical "eeeeeeeeeeeevil corporation" ever, but they do have some rules - and they are, first and foremost, a business. One of the guys who ran their electronics division thought it would be a good idea to stuff as many evil spirits as possible into his company's goods; the thing is, that meant they didn't work, or at least not well enough to sell. Rumor has it he ended up the main course at his replacement's welcome luau.
- Shows up with some of the supercomputers in GURPS Reign Of Steel (a 'Robot War, the robots won' setting). The basic and most common example is that several of the supercomputers that have kept to the Kill All Humans goal of the original A.I. have decided that it's really more resource-efficient to work them to death, since you at least get something more than a dead human out of it. More elaborate examples tailored to the A.I.'s specific interests:
- Washington, who runs a Vichy Earth arrangement where it pretends to the humans in its zone that they are the masters and it is a loyal advisor A.I. — this allows it to harness human ingenuity and economic prowess, while limiting the risk of revolts and keeping itself safely in charge.
- Moscow, who wants to amass human knowledge. Since humans are often the best at finding that kind of knowledge, it only makes sense to leave humans around to recruit as agents — and it's not a bad idea to let them get an education, too, since that makes them better agents.
- Brisbane, who is absolutely obsessed with science, the weirder the better. Killing all humans would be a waste of resources — it'd make entire categories of experiments impossible.
- Caracas, who wants humanity reduced to a hunter-gatherer state to keep them from harming the environment, but is rational about the priority of it and consequently doesn't waste resources enforcing it that could be better used some other way (and with a Zonemind that wants to eradicate all organic life to the north, that better way sometimes includes co-operating with or at least avoiding fighting against human guerrillas on raids into Zone Mexico).
- Since Shadowrunners are essentially freelance criminals, the more successful crews subscribe to this ideology. Basically, be a Gentleman Thief: don't destroy stuff you aren't being paid to destroy, don't kill anybody you aren't being paid to kill, and don't get caught by the news.
- Most megas you steal from tend to follow the same 'code': Shadowrunning is simply a cost of doing business. Runners who can avoid or escape internal security and the police response without leaving the corps with a big pile of death benefits and property damage or an irreplaceable loss of prestige may not be worth sending a kill team after. On the other hand, if the price of hiring assassins becomes just another decimal point to the losses you've already caused them, the insurance that you won't be troubling them again becomes very tempting indeed.
- In Heroes of Might and Magic IV, after founding his own kingdom, the necromancer Gauldoth the Half-Dead gains a once-in-a-lifetime chance to invade his neighbouring nation while their armies are elsewhere and become the most powerful ruler in the world. Instead of doing this, he sends the invasion plans to the queen of said nation, telling his Number Two that whenever a necromancer gets too greedy, every living thing in the world allies against them. Instead, he's content on ruling his own little nation for all eternity, overlooked by everyone else.
- Super Mario Bros.' Bowser. At times he helps the Mario Brothers and other people, only because he wants to be the only one to take over the Mushroom Kingdom. Also, since his goal is conquest and not destruction, he'll assist the Mario Brothers so that others can't destroy what he wants to conquer.
- Sonic the Hedgehog's Eggman is pretty much the same deal, contrasting his Faux Affably Evil counterpart Eggman Nega, who'll happily destroy the world at a whim.
- Caster in Fate/stay night refrains from actually outright killing the victims she drains because that would draw even more attention, too much to cover up with a story about gas leaks.
- The Agency of Hitman normally go after criminals and the like due to the fact that people pay more for world stability. Also, Agent 47 prefers not to kill anyone who isn't his target, since collateral damage isn't professional and it creates the risk of more witnesses (though he will kill witnesses if he has to).
- This is the reason why "professional" pirates in EVE Online hate the more Griefer-like rat bastard ones. A professional pirate will trap your ship and make you a simple offer - pay them or your ship and capsule will be destroyed. If you pay up, they'll let you go, otherwise they blow you up and loot your wreck. The rat bastards will do the same thing, except if you pay up they destroy you and loot your wreck anyway. The professionals hate the bastards because they make people far less likely to pay up, which is far more reliable profit than looting wrecks (as what survives a wreck is random). Quite a lot of people in Eve refuse to ever pay ransoms for their ships simply because they don't believe in "honest" pirates any more.
- "The Practical Incarnation" is the name for the most evil of your previous selves you encounter in Planescape: Torment. Everything he did had a practical use, even if it ultimately resulted in horrible things like convincing a woman he loved her so her very soul would stick around and act as an oracle for him. He even leaves you with some very good, easy-to-follow instructions, so much the better to make sure you can carry on his work even after his death.
- Fallout: New Vegas:
- Mr. House is not a nice man and freely says that he desires to become the region's dictator (he prefers "autocrat"), but he has no interest in power without a purpose and his plans for the Mojave would certainly benefit mankind as a whole. Likewise, he's merciless in dealing with people who have earned his ire or even have a chance of standing in his way, but in personal interactions he's usually just sort of condescending, not showing any overt malice.
- Father Elijah, a fanatic, actually had some pretty sensible policies during his time as the leader of the Brotherhood of Steel, including obtaining beneficial technology such as farming equipment and trading such technology with wastelanders in order to gain their support. Elijah doesn't care about wastelanders and is happy to sacrifice them if needed, but was smart enough to recognize that the Brotherhood was too small and insular to survive without support from their wastelander neighbors (a fact which even his much more moral successor completely missed). Or not. His successor can be made to admit that the Brotherhood is doomed, but he's not willing to break the Codex like Elijah was. Elijah breaks the rules for what he sees as the greater purpose of his organisation... both the ones that keep the Brotherhood from being outright evil, and the ones that have long lost their purpose in the modern wasteland.
- The Khans are a group of raiders that act like "professional" pirates. They're mainly hostile to the NCR, but tend to ignore locals of the Mojave, and are willing to trade, though the only thing they have to trade is drugs (though they will sell weapons to the Courier if he manages to get on their good side) and by the time of the game mostly keep to themselves at Red Rock Canyon.
- You can also use this trope as an argument to convince the Khan's drug cooks to make medicines in addition to their regular drugs; a more diverse product line, plus customers who are less likely to die allowing for more repeat business, will give them more profits.
- The Fiends have at least learned to stay out of Westside after their leader Motor-Runner decided that the local Supermutant who protects the community is more trouble than it's worth to kill.
- In the final battle, Legate Lanius will only consider retreat if he's properly convinced/bluffed that he will face inevitable defeat, either through attrition, through an inability to support his army or even by convincing him that the NCR is setting a trap for him.
- Colonel Moore is this. She is willing to put up with anything the Courier does because it will lead to winning the war, but she makes sure to slander the Courier and gets Ambassador Crocker fired for doing things their way instead of hers.
- Gloria Van Graff is a completely ruthless bitch of a businesswoman who will do what is necessary to monopolize the weapons trade in the Mojave. She is also willing to work with the NCR to take down Caesar's Legion, because the NCR has a larger economy, and because she (unlike several other Mojave faction leaders) isn't delusional enough to think she will be the exception to Caesar's rule of killing those who outive their usefulness.
- "Good" choices in Overlord are often framed as this. For instance, after retrieving a village's stolen food supply, you're given the option to take it to feed your horde—but giving it back to the villagers instead increases their productivity (represented in-game by a higher respawn rate for the sheep you kill to feed your basic troops.)
- Portal 2:
- In the Deus Ex: Human Revolution "The Missing Link" DLC, you can find an email from the evil base commander where he claims he was informed that his subordinates are raping their female prisoners and demands that they stop or face harsh punishment...because this decreases the chance that they survive the horrific surgical procedure that turns them into Hyron Drones.
- Flemeth of Dragon Age is a mysterious shapeshifting "witch of the wilds" and an Evil Matriarch besides, but she scoffs at the stories of her kidnapping and eating children. "Pah! As if I had nothing better to do!"
- Golden Sun:
- Not so much a matter of avoiding morally reprehensible actions, but Agatio parts with his dignity in Golden Sun: The Lost Age and consciously plays the part of a dumb brute being manipulated by Alex because he knows that will get the job done, though he makes it clear that he's actually a Dangerously Genre Savvy Genius Bruiser and not fond of Alex's attitude.
- Considering the events near the end of the previous game, Agatio also seems to be much more tolerant of Felix not directly following their plans than his predecessors were. Though he's pretty rough about reminding Felix what's at stake, he doesn't turn on Felix until Felix acts against him on behalf of Isaac, and even then he bides his time until Felix has finished his part and is no longer needed for the plan to succeed.
- PAYDAY: The Heist has this for the heist crew. They don't want to kill civilians because it will make the cops more aggressive against them and having no hostages gives cops less incentive to hesitate in attacking. In a gameplay perspective, you don't want to kill civilians because doing so delays your release from police custody, gives the team less hostages to barter your release with, and you incur a monetary penalty at the end of the level.
- The sequel gives you two more good reasons: untied civilians will now resurrect players with the "Stockholm Syndrome" skill, and police hostages can now be converted to your side - the ones with orange bulletproof armor are REALLY good meatshields because regular bullets DO NO DAMAGE TO ORANGE ARMOR HITS.
- Ares in Injustice: Gods Among Us helps the heroes stop Superman's Government since the lack of conflict has left the God of War with little power.
- Frank Fontaine opened up soup kitchens within Rapture, not out of love, but to turn the city's lower class into an army.
- Soren in Fire Emblem Tellius can skirt this at times, such as suggesting that Ike turn over Princess Elincia to the invading Daein soldiers to earn favor with the currently superior occupying force. He drops it as soon as Ike decides to protect her, though, and it's clear that despite his more questionable suggestions he's ultimately loyal to Ike and the Greil Mercenaries.
- In StarCraft's expansion Brood War, when Kerrigan is facing the UED, she gets in an Enemy Mine situation with Arcturus Mengsk, the guy who once betrayed her, and promises she will help him take his planet back from the UED in exchange for his help. Much to everyone's surprise , she does keep her word... because by doing so, she considerably weakens the UED's grasp in the sector. Once it's done, she promplty betrays him.
- Similarly, in the sequel Heart of the Swarm, she stops Zagara from killing Protoss prisonner Lessara in one dialogue, explaining that "cruelty is a tool; you should only use it when it's actually needed". She does end up killing Lessara, but only as a last resort.
- Sleeping Dogs, Broken-Nose Jiang despises Big Smile Lee's prostitution and women-selling operations because she believes they are archaic and don't provide as much profit as certain alternatives.
- In Star Wars: The Old Republic, the various Imperial characters, particularly Sith often tend to justify Light Side decisions this way. By the Rise of the Hutt Cartel expansion, Darth Marr and a Light Side Sith Inquisitor can both champion that the Empire should adopt Villain with Good Publicity as their public image, seeing it as the only way to help stabilise the Empire and repair the damage from the ongoing war with the Republic and infighting between Sith.
- In Danganronpa, Genocide Syo the Ultimate Killing Fiend decides that if the point of the murder game is to not get caught, and Syo can't stand not leaving evidence at the crime scene, then it would be easiest to just not kill anybody.
- In Skyrim, the Thieves Guild has a "no killing" rule, because leaving behind dead bodies draw attention and makes people more hostile (and getting rid of the bodies takes work and money), and they'd much rather be seen as a nuisance than a serious threat. Similarly, if you side with the Volkihar vampires, many of their side quests have you put down various non-affiliated groups of vampires, because the more advanced vampires in the castle don't appreciate their unsubtle methods and doesn't want the cattle (i.e. mortals) to get unduly spooked and possibly hostile. And they don't want to share.
- Governor Laureano de Torres y Ayala in Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is shown to be against slavery, only because it will fuel resentment and rebellion in the long run, rather than seeing it as immoral.
- Exterminatus Now: The Cesspool mercenaries won't sell weapons to the Cultists of Darkness. Because they refuse to pay up front and try to weasel out of the bills.
- The Order of the Stick:
- The Trolls of Homestuck are a mostly violent race with their Blue and Orange Morality that don't consider lying, manipulating, and murdering to be particularly bad things to do. However, they consider Vriska to be Stupid Evil: not because she's doing anything wrong by their standards, but because she's kicking dogs to fulfill her own vanity rather than being productive about it.
- Schlock Mercenary got some parties understanding this better than others. Ob'enn may be Scary Dogmatic Aliens — not that their military love their theocracy all that much — but they became the second superpower in the Milky Way not for being stupid:
- Earth intelligence agent Kowalski has proven himself to be a ruthless stone-cold killer, but at one point when he says some inconvenient would-be bystanders "have to go", it turns out he's speaking literally, and has them shipped off on a luxury space-cruise.
- Mokepon has Estelle, of Team Rocket.
"Not that I'm complaining, but... Why did you help me get out? I'd kind of got the impression that Team Rocket was... bad..."
"There wasn't any reason for you to die. ... That is, assuming you're not going to go talking to people about what happened here. But you seem smart enough to know that would be a very poor decision."
- Pretty much the basis of the Evil Overlord List.
- Dark General Cobalt of Sailor Nothing is this in contrast to his Card-Carrying Villain acquaintances. It's not that he has a moral objection to rape, torture, and murder, it's just that he finds it a colossal waste of time. He'd much rather focus on getting things done. Interestingly, his pragmatism actually results in his being the villain the heroes encounter the most—in the interests of actually getting his project off the ground, he decides to kill the girls who've been wiping out his underlings.
- Troops following Lord Doom, an Evil Overlord from the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, are under strict orders to protect innocent bystanders as much as possible and keep collateral damage to a minimum during their operations specifically because the villain believes that such activities are a waste of time and "bad for business", since loyal, happy subjects who feel their Lord and Master is looking out for their safety engage in rebellions far less often than fearful, unhappy subjects who feel their Lord and Master tortures them for his own amusement do.
- Quite a few characters in the Whateley Universe have shades of this. Take Mimeo — with his shapeshifting and power-copying abilities and definite intelligence, he could readily become a dangerous Hero Killer if he ever put his mind to it. (He is on the record as the sort of villain that can confidently take on entire teams and expect to win.) Instead he's quite content to fight a bunch of opponents for a while to acquire their powers, then use those while they last to pull off his real scheme, and then do a vanishing act to enjoy his ill-gotten gains; that approach has been working well for him for years by now and as far as he's concerned he has no reason to change it.
- Coil of Worm, who wants to take over a city, is this. His stated goals include an involved plan to reduce unemployment via a massive reconstruction effort, reduction in drug-dealing to less harmful drugs, and no more hate crimes in the streets by superpowered Neo-Nazis. As he states, this is because his pride simply couldn't bear it if something that he owned didn't function at the absolute best levels.
- The protagonist herself is one of the best examples of the crossover between this trope and Anti-Villain; Her fundamental goal is safety for herself and whomever she considers "her people", to the extent that she originally planned to be a hero. In the end, she tends to come down on the side of murder and mayhem because it seems to be the most pragmatic means to those ends, and her 'virtue' is almost always a matter of stopping because she's already won, not doing something because it would be counterproductive in the long run, or doing something 'good' because she and her gang benefit overall. Even her power and its uses are focused primarily around logistics more than anything else.