A character who keeps turning up in a video game. In mild cases, this is just a travelling salesman or NPC who shows up with no logical regard to how they could be there. In dramatic cases, this is obviously an important character who plays the idiot as a disguise, so you aren't suspicious of them following you. This is different than the Goldfish Poop Gang, since you generally don't fight them along the way. Also different is Inexplicably Identical Individuals, where it's not the same traveller but a set of distant relatives with an uncanny family resemblance. The Recurring Extra is a Recurring Traveller who doesn't do anything. They might also be a merchant constantly trying to extort money from you, even if the failure of your main character means the end of the world. Sometimes in an RPG, The Recurring Traveller is a character who always happens to be staying in a bedroom of the same inn that your party is staying at. He may comment about being a tourist or sight-seer. He may give tips about the local environment, monsters, hazards and landmarks. The Recurring Traveller is frequently used as a device to help the player when they're in a difficult area. If you run short of supplies after fighting your way through an especially dangerous area, the Recurring Traveller just happens to be someone who can either heal your party or let you replenish your inventory.
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- The merchant from Aladdin and his shop pops up nearly everywhere - on the desert, inside a prison, inside sultan's palace and even inside a genie's lamp. However, considering that he's apparently a wizard, this might be somewhat justified.
- Considering that the original scrapped ending to the first movie was meant to reveal that the merchant WAS actually the Genie, his ability to appear anywhere Aladdin does makes perfect sense.
- Ooccoo from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is a slightly more disturbing example, as she is a being that has the bald head of a human, but the size and body of a chicken. She is a rather interesting variation, as she can be used as an item in the various dungeons. Specifically, she can teleport you to the dungeon entrance if you need to get something from a shop, etc. Her usefulness and the fact that she's a genuinely nice lady more than make up for her odd appearance. She also is a part of the main plot, as the reason she shows up in every dungeon is that she's trying to find a way to her home, which happens to be the location of the final piece of the Mirror of Twilight. Did I mention that it also happens to be a city in the sky?
- There's also a photographer in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX who shows up throughout the game.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, a map-maker named Tingle is hovering on his balloon in the air in every area in the Overworld. If you pop it, he'll drop down and sell you a map of the area (cheaply) and one of another area (expensively.) Just how he's never seen to move but always manages to be where you show up is a mystery.
- Old Man HoHo and Beedle from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
- There are several of these in Ōkami. There's Waka, who follows you through the entire game including your fight with the Big Bad, and is the most reasonable, because he has magic powers. In the last chapter, you have Oki, who manages to follow you through a magic gateway to 100 years into the past. And in the first chapter, you have Susano, the inept, stupid, useless fool who, despite being completely incompetent, manages to get past the puzzles it takes you hours to solve in a few minutes. How the hell did he get into the Moon Cave, anyway? Not that we're complaining, mind.
- Murray the Talking Skull from The Curse of Monkey Island shows up in every chapter of the game save for the third and last chapters. One could theorize that he's simply following Guybrush around in hopes of getting his arm back, except he has no legs.
- The merchant from Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon. "We have a special bond, you and I!"
- Not one, but three characters in Professor Layton. We have Granny Riddle, who picks up lost puzzles for you, Pavel the guy who keeps getting lost, and Stachenscarfen. Out of the three though, the first game revealed everyone as robots, and the second game revealed everyone as a hallucination, so it's debatable about Granny Riddle and Stachenscarfen. Pavel has absolutely no excuse though.
- In the third game, Pavel's appearance is even a mark of Foreshadowing that you're not actually in the future.
- Taken to extremes in Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter. As you unseal ancient portals, traverse dusty pathways, and uncover secrets burried for aeons in search of the legendary 'Surface World', the same set of young merchants have gotten there before you, ready to sell you the items you need. Particularly grinding towards the end, as you open a huge, ancient, rusty vault-door, which clearly hasn't moved for centuries, and still find them waiting on the other side...
- Merchant Hag Melentia from Dark Souls II. She's first seen in the Forest of Giants and later settles down in hub town Majula, but the changes in her item selection through the game suggests she goes around a lot. She seems to be following the player, in fact.
- The infamous portrait photographer in Earthbound literally falls out of the sky to snap a picture of your party. Say fuzzy pickles!
- Mother 3 has the Item Guy, who appears in locations that are so obviously inaccessible ( including the final area, which is thousands of feet underground with the only way to get to it being a one-way elevator controlled by the Big Bad) it could practically be considered a Lampshade Hanging in its own right, even though it's played more or less straight.
- This seems to happen a lot in Final Fantasy games:
- Namingway from Final Fantasy IV.
- In Final Fantasy VIII, the primary minigame featured is a card game and there are high level opponents that you can duel against if you can find them and have invested enough time into the mini-game. One such person titled the "Queen of Cards" or somesuch thing like that can be found at the end of the game during Time Compression, where logically no one is supposed to be around aside from the Final Boss of the game, and the Player's party (who are there to defeat said Big Bad). Not only can you duel her at this late stage in the game, doing so is required if you wish to get some ultra rare items.
- Stiltzkin the travelling Moogle in Final Fantasy IX. He even turns up in the alternate dimension Terra!
- You'll meet several of these in Final Fantasy X, including the merchants O'aka and Rin, the Exposition Fairy Maechen, and other summoners who are engaged in their own pilgrimages, such as Isaaru and Dona.
- Every now and again, you can run into certain NPCs in Final Fantasy XII more than once. The merchant Dyce, who the party first meets outside the Tomb of Raithwall, can later be found on the outskirts of the Port of Balfonheim, in both cases always ready to do business with any wandering adventurers he encounters. Another merchant named Gatsly initially hires Vaan to kill a monster that threatens a trading caravan carrying some important merchandise, and can later be found in the Muthru Bazaar selling his goods after the player destroys the monster.
- Several of the Moogles - Montblanc's brothers and sister especially - also recur in various places across the game.
- Gilgamesh is believed to be the same guy each time in each of the games he appears, as opposed to being one of many characters that sports a recurring name (like Cid, Biggs, and Wedge). He even references the events in other games - mentioning Bartz in Final Fantasy IV The After Years and carrying various famous Final Fantasy (replica) swords in his Final Fantasy XII appearance.
- The Dissidia: Final Fantasy games finally confirmed that Gilgamesh is, in fact, the same man in every game - ever since falling into the Void in FFV, he's traveled from universe to universe, collecting (what he believes to be) rare and powerful swords, always hoping for another chance to battle Bartz.
- Chocolina in Final Fantasy XIII-2. Which is especially odd, since the game has you hopping around time and space. Sazh's DLC episode confirms that Chocolina is Dajh's chocobo chick, given a human form by Etro to help those in need, whatever era they may be in.
- In Makai Toshi SaGa, also known as The Final Fantasy Legend, a dapper gentleman in a black suit and hat pops up throughout the game to give your party tidbits of advice as they climb the World Tower. At the top of the tower he reveals himself as The Creator, who set up the entire plot as a game.
- The old man from Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, but this justified as he is a thing, the Light Crystral.
- Martel from The Legend of Dragoon.
- In Paper Mario, a trio of castle maids can be found in a couple of locations during the adventure.
- Similarly, the Traveling Sisters 3 from Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door can be found in many major locations. To a slightly greater extent, Dupree often pops up in one or two more of the major locations (although you have to go back toward the entrance to the Boggly Woods before the end of Chapter 2 to see him there).
- The weird stalker who appears at the front of every Gym in the Pokémon series to give you advice, later, Scott in Emerald as well.
- In the anime, a character known only as "Magikarp Salesman" who pops up every now and again.
- Subverted with Officer Jennies and Nurse Joys. With the same personality, looks, and accent (with some exceptions) on each runaround, we soon realize that they are all a family of women who look strikingly similar.
- Prof. Oak's aide, in the early games at least. They could all be different people who simply dress the same but, come on, how many aides does one guy need? And why station them all over the country like that?
- Cameron in Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver would pop up at nearly any location in Kanto and Johto (determined by the day of the week) so he can take a picture of you. He will freely invade private properties and hang out in hard-to-reach areas. He even introduces himself as appearing when one least expects him.
- Dr. Edward in Pokemon Ranger: Guardian Signs is encountered several times throughout the game as he makes his rounds. He's actually The Man Behind the Man.
- Shannon from Quest 64. It's no coincidence - she's following you.
- In Rogue Galaxy, the party often encounters a woman and her young daughter (actually the wife and daughter of party member Simon) in such unlikely places as a sealed temple and a desert in the middle of a sandstorm. Neither of the two are armed or armored, and are usually encountered in a place crawling with enemies capable of easily killing your (heavily armed) party members.
- Rogue Galaxy also contains a diminutive archaeologist named Burton who also shows up in all manner of bizarre places, and is also a total non-combatant. Unlike the previous example, though, this does come back to bite him in the ass: at one point, his ghost shows up and informs the party that he got himself killed (and he's remarkably chipper about this, as it now means he can explore the galaxy without being constrained by mortal flesh). Then, after getting resurrected and going on his merry way again, another cutscene ends with the strong implication that he's crushed by a murderous robot. (He gets better that time, too.)
- There's a traveler in Sailor Moon: Another Story that keeps turning up in random places—first outside of Usagi's house, then he somehow pops up in the place inside of the Silver Crystal, then he pops up in the Black Moon Kingdom's UFO, then he pops up again in Crystal Tokyo. He's apparently very very lost.
- The Magimel brothers in Shadow Hearts: Covenant.
- The same game gives us the Ring Soul, a ball of light (though it's hinted this isn't its true form) that gives the party Attack Boosts and is hidden in most of the major locations you visit. If encountered enough, it becomes friendly with Yuri, and eventually reveals that it has a wife and daughter wherever it lives. It even impersonates them... and scares the hell out of Yuri by doing so.
- It continues in sequel From The New World, where it's implied that being the voice behind the Ring Soul is some kind of profession. This time around, the voice of the Ring Soul seems to be a young girl who has just started her new job. As you encounter her, she grows more confident with her role as the Ring Soul and eventually gets a crush on Johnny... cue her angry, protective father, the Ring Soul from Covenant.
- Somewhat justified in that the Ring Soul is supposed to be an extra-dimensional being who can appear anywhere he/she wants in our reality. And apparently draws a salary for doing so.
- Neko the cat and Watts the blacksmith in Secret of Mana.
- Raddle the Traveler and his sometime companion Rumina appear in the first three Star Ocean games, always hopelessly lost, and in fact giving them correct directions will get you prizes of some sort.
- In Super Mario RPG, you follow around a shmuck who's looking for the mythical Grate Guy Casino, while Toad follows you around.
- The Wonder Chef in Tales of Symphonia disguised himself as a random object in every town (even though they were in two different worlds almost no one knows about or can travel to). He even had a dark counterpart.
- An unnamed Travelling Salesman always shows up at each new city you need to go to in Valkyrie Profile 2, including destroyed castles only accessible through deadly caverns full of monsters... even going so far as to show up in Asgard ahead of you. Though, admittedly, this turns out to be the dead spirit of the merchant's ancestor, he still carries the exact same inventory as the living version.
- Wild ARMs 3 has both a traveling Merchant and a young girl that is part of a lengthy sidequest.
- Big Joe is all over the place in Xenogears.
- The G-man in Half-Life starts out this way, but eventually becomes part of the story.
- In No One Lives Forever, every bar the player character visits (and there's a bar in every mission setting that might plausibly have one, or not, as there's one at a space station) has the same drunk tourist as a patron. The twist is that he's actually secretly the leader of the evil organization H.A.R.M.
- Bob the Jagex Cat and Postie Pete in Runescape. The first is the mascot of the game owners, who wanders endlessly across the land and if you are lucky you can spot it sometimes, though it doesn't serve any purpose. He was originally added to test NPC pathfinding but latter became a character in several quests. The second is a walking (hopping...) skull with a hat and a mailman's bag, who goes around Gielinor delivering letters to every character the player writes to (outside of the game). He's actually in the game as a joke from the developers.
- in World of Warcraft there is Hemet Nesingwary, a travelling big game hunter who is found all over Azeroth (and beyond) with his buddies, killing things.
- The mole Mentor Bottles in Banjo-Kazooie shows up everywhere—though to be fair, he can tunnel just about anywhere. In Banjo-Tooie, Jamjars will even let you use his tunnels to get around the island.
- Wentos the Travelling Salesman from Sonic Unleashed. Every once and a while you'll see him in a town (the places he visits are random) where he will sell you goods at randomly-generated prices. Sometimes you can buy a product from him at less than the selling price. So basically, you can buy something from him and then sell it back immediately for a profit.
- The Plumber in the Ratchet & Clank series, who likes to softly tread around the fourth wall.
- There is also the Smuggler, Slim Cognito, and, to a lesser degree, the Shady Salesman.
- Little Timmy shows up several times in Warcraft III. At one point he's even selling powerful magic items, after he's been killed.
- Many kids who give you challenges in Backyard Skateboarding.
- The Merchant in Resident Evil 4. In a logical extension of the idea, it's possible to kill him, whereupon he no longer pops up in the location in which he was killed. He will, however, still appear in other locations.
- They're actually Inexplicably Identical Individuals, as they're actually different people. Some of them are actually infected with Las Plagas, and in different stages of the infection too, if you look at their eyes.
- How identical they actually are is debatable, since we never get to see their actual faces, they DO sound exactly the same.
- Shining Force contains a character named Boken who is apparently on a personal quest, which happens to take him to many of the same locations as you. He even has his own character sprite; oddly, though, he's never recruitable as a Force member, not even in the GBA remake.
- Elminster shows up many times throughout the Baldur's Gate series, though its not at all surprising given who he is.
- There's also an unexplained farmer called Lahl in the first game who keeps showing up (with the same dialogue) in different places from Nashkel to Beregost. He's even been spotted in two different copies in the same area, so apparently the game chooses to spawn him near you for some reason.
- This is the case for all named, recruitable NPCs you meet in taverns in Mount & Blade, in addition to a handful of human traffickers, slave traders, and booksellers. There are too many of these NPCs to keep up with, and so one of the dialogue options is, "What's your story again?"
- Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark avoids the improbable traveling merchant version. Rather than placing merchants in improbable locations in the Underdark and Outer Planes, the game gives you a shopkeeping genie in a bottle that you can summon at will.
- Neverwinter Nights 2 gave us Guyven of the Road, whom you can eventually convince to come and stay in your keep after meeting him three times in the wilderness.
Non-Video Games Examples
- Naturally, this is played for laughs with the shopkeeper in Press Start.
- Lu-Tze the History Monk in Discworld.
Live Action TV
- Phil Keoghan, Allan Wu, and all the other hosts of The Amazing Race, whose only interaction with the racers is to show up at the Pit Stops to officially check them in.
- The Cirque du Soleil Widget Series Solstrom had a well-dressed matron appear somewhere in each of the first 12 episodes, even though each story took place in a different city (and several different countries in all). At the very end of the 13th and final episode, she's revealed as the mother of Fogus Punch, the astronomer tracking the events of each story; though a careful viewer would start putting two and two together by paying close attention to the end credits of each episode, which refer to her as Madame Punch.
- Salmoneus and Falafel in Hercules The Legendary Journeys.
Hercules: (to Falafel): ... Don't you have a home?
- The cabbage merchant in Avatar: The Last Airbender.