Square Race, Round Class
aka: Rogue Elephant
A character in an otherwise typical fantasy game/story whose profession seems at odds with their nature or appearance as assumed by tradition or the audience, like a dwarven ranger or an ogre engineer. Sometimes this is for sheer game balance and variety, while other times it's Lampshaded
as being appropriate if seen in the right light
. After all, even if Hobbits
don't make the best warriors, that doesn't mean Hobbit warriors don't exist. After all, somebody's
gotta protect the Hobbit village, right? Likewise, with the forests you find above and around the Dwarves' mountain halls, it makes sense to have a few guys who know their way around them.
Occasionally this is the reason the Plucky Comic Relief
seems so inept; it's just misplaced interest into something inappropriate for them.
Compare Stereotype Flip
. May stem from Klingon Scientists Get No Respect
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Anime & Manga
- ˝ Prince: There is a reason they are called "Odd Squad".
An elven warrior... a troublemaker thief... a monstrous beast as a priest... a little necromancer
girl who is scared of skeletons and steals my meatbun...
- Cyandog in the Medabots anime has a robot body designed for shooting attacks, but his A.I. is derived from a Monkey medal that is intended to use melee attacks.
- Magic: The Gathering has a lot of these...
- Including Rhino Monks and a slightly more probable Ogre Samurai.
- They also features an Ogre Savant, with the flavor text, "He's an oxymoron."
- Goblin soldiers, in a setting where goblins are generally characterized by total lack of cooperation.
- A surprisingly large number of Zombie Clerics. Similarly a couple zombie Druids.
- Death Charmer and Pit Raptor, the improbable worm and bird mercenaries. Not humanoid worm and bird people, just inexplicably for-hire animals. One pays the trainer, possibly?
- The Time Spiral block is full of these, by design.
- The Pokémon Trading Card Game has a year's worth of these in the Delta Species, Holon Phantoms, and Dragon Frontier expansions. These sets featured "Delta" Pokémon, creatures with mutated types (e.g., a Charizard would become Metal and Lightning instead of Fire and Flying).
- In Munchkin, your class and race are drawn randomly, so might get combinations that don't make much sense, like Orc Wizard.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: the original concept owes a lot to this trope. Turtles aren't exactly renowned either for their speed or agility. So what should we do, obviously? Turn four of them into Ninja Martial Artists! Trained by an intensely honorable and noble rat of all things.
Films — Animation
- The Lord of the Rings:
- The average hobbit is generally not fond of adventuring, burglary, or heroic renown even though their latent abilities imply they'd be especially good at it. Most derivations are based upon the Bagginses (who prefer sneaking and cleverness) or Pippin Took (a more moderate warrior type). Wandering "wild" hobbits are still mentioned in the narration, along with a comment that they may be more common than their civilized Shire cousins might think, but none are actually met throughout the story. They seem to be more like survivalist vagabonds than adventure-seekers, however.
- The very plotline of The Hobbit is a bunch of dwarves, apparently not much good at anything except fighting or running away, who got in a group to do nothing other than sneakily steal treasure from an effectively unfightable dragon. (In the book, they're not even good fighters — they don't even have weapons until after they recover the troll treasure, and they certainly don't win a lot of fights.)
- Horton from Horton Hears a Who!. The title elephant character must exercise a great deal of delicacy and gracefulness in order to protect a micro universe which he discovers.
- It may be easier to list the cases where race matches profession on the Discworld. Through the series we see vampire photographers, troll musicians, orc footballers (and bookworms), goblin savants, policemen of every race under the sun and hiding from it, and even a girl wizard.
- While Discworld plays with Our Dwarves Are All the Same a lot, they still tend to fall into a lot of the common stereotypes — hard-working, greedy, serious-minded, dangerous when drunk, etc. Casanunda (a Casanova expy) is a dwarven con artist and dashing swordsman who channels his race's single gender into a seducer with hints of Anything That Moves.
- Dwarfs are almost always miners and smiths, even in Ankh-Morpork, but (aside from the aforementioned Casanunda) there's a dwarf alchemist, a dwarf fashion designer, and a dwarf playwright.
- There are notably no male Witches. They have a word for such a thing (Warlock) but no-one has ever met one or knows what they look like or even what sound they make.
- The implications for employers have even been explored. If you're looking to hire someone for heavy labor you want a Troll or Golem, since both are much stronger and more resilient than the squishier races. On the other hand if you ARE a Troll or Golem you don't have any more reason to want that kind of job than someone of a different species would.
- Chrysoprase, a trollish mob boss is an unusually bright addition to the race.
- Mr. Thunderbolt is Discs, only troll lawyer and a very well-respected one.
- In Dragaera, Dragons are known as arrogant warriors who are ultra-ambitious and if angered, are direct (and brutal) about it. Kragar, who was booted out of group, has no ambition, preferring to be a Servile Snarker, and is the epitome of stealthy, being an assassin with a Stealth Hi/Bye ability so powerful that it's outside of his control.
- In an early Robert E. Howard Conan the Barbarian story "The Tower of the Elephant", a young Conan's search for a thief daring enough to risk burglarizing an evil sorcerer's tower results in the disdain of the local criminal underclass, his own contempt returned... and an alliance with a master thief whom all the other rogues hail as their superior. He's massively obese and looks like a candidate for quadruple bypass surgery, yet he can shimmy up a rope faster than Conan can (a rope woven from the tresses of dead women's hair, which he stole from their coffins at night, and steeped in wine to give it strength).
- In The War Gods, the Hradani are akin to Orcs. Even have a Tolkienish history of being a race of High-Men before wizardly twisted them into a race of berserkers. Bazhell, the main character is akin to an Orc Paladin chosen by the god of Justice. His best friend, Brandark, is a Bard and scholar.
- The Legend of Drizzt started as this. Oh, drow are well-suited to fast, stealthy fighting, but when Drizzt was created, rangers had to be good... and up till then you were as likely to find a good demon as a good drow.
- Moles in Redwall are stolid, salt-of-the-earth types, specializing in tunneling, cooking and building. As of Sable Quean, we have Axtel Sturnclaw, giant-hammer-wielding Bloodwrath-using mole Badass.
- Discussed and averted in Counselors and Kings. Akhlaur notes that "they" always said that elves don't make good necromancers... then snarkily observes that "they" obviously never met his very elvish, very necromancer Starscream, Kiva.
- In the Forgotten Realms novels there has been an Ogre Paladin (who's dying moment of awesome managed to impress Ao the Overgod enough to be the only mortal ever get to see It and have his dying prayer that a dead companion be revived answered) and a recurring dwarf created by R. A. Salvadore that was a Druid.
- Dungeons & Dragons, and most other fantasy roleplaying games, allow players to create all kinds of characters embodying this trope.
- An old joke regarding character creation involves an "orc bard", where the player admits he just wanted to be able to hit people with a guitar. The counter to this is that a member of a primitive or outright illiterate race is actually more likely to maintain a strong song and oral storytelling tradition. It's not called an axe for nothing...
- WOTC had fun with this one April: Humorous PC Portraits, including a Dwarf Ninja.
- One of the prepackaged miniature sets they released has a Halfling Barbarian... which works brilliantly with a couple of the settings that feature Halfling Barbarians as the central example of the race, just to flip common expectations. Dark Sun has them as cannibals and Eberron has tribes of dinosaur-riding halfling barbarians.
- Ogre Mages in nearly any setting embody this trope. There's no point in being big and brutish when you can turn most adventurers into human popsicles.
- Bugbears, despite being the biggest and toughest of the goblinoid races, are also quite stealthy.
- During one of their web events back in 3rd edition, one of the characters created was a succubus paladin. The backstory they gave her emphasized just how much her life sucked.
- An early 3rd Edition book set aside a section arguing for this trope, providing ideas on how to present odd race/class combinations to make more memorable characters rather than perfectly optimized murder-hobos. One example was the aforementioned (half-)orc bard, in this case one that specialized in funerary chants and mourning songs to honor the dead and fallen heroes of the tribe.
- Pre-3rd Edition, meanwhile, forcefully averted this trope. In the earliest games, for non-humans race was class (meaning all elves had the same basic abilities), while in later games like 2nd Edition you had certain classes forbidden from certain races. But for a tiny handful of exceptions that came later, for example, only humans could be paladins. Even some wizard specializations were limited by race, so that while elves could be mages, they couldn't be necromancers (gnomes took it so far that gnome mages could only be illusionists).
- The reincarnate spell brings a character back from the dead as a random race, so it's possible to die a half-orc barbarian and be reincarnated as an elf, gnome, halfling, or kobold.
- Hackmaster, mostly a parody of AD&D, is a bit of a send-up of fantasy roleplaying in general.
- One subrace for player characters is the gnome titan, a member of a group of gnomes who follow the Gnomish God of War, and are trained from birth to be incredibly bad-ass warriors and battle mages. They still cling to their Cute/Comic Relief origins but in a decidedly twisted sort of way... one racially-specific magic item is the rightly feared +3 Gnomish Boots of Groin Stomping.
- There's also the terrifyingly powerful Pixie Lich, of all the unlikely combinations.
- Warhammer 40,000 has Ork Kommandos. Orks are, as a rule, the loudest and least subtle species in the galaxy (their word for firepower comes from the sound it makes), so of course them having stealth units is regarded as a joke (in true 40K fashion, the Guardsman trying to tell his encounter with them is executed for making stuff up). Meaning, of course, that Kommandos are all the more effective at their jobs when no-one thinks they exist.... They're considered dangerously deviant even by their fellow Orks. The Kommandos wear camo uniforms, train and even have a conventional chain of command. Exceptionally un-Orky, and only their ability to slaughter their opponents has kept them safe from a preventive set of lobotomies (that said, they're still orks: many a raid has been cut short because one yelled "SURPRISE, 'UMIE!" or decided to blow stuff up before they got the target).
- Pathfinder all but revels in this. This is especially apparent in the "NPC Codex" Sourcebook, which gives examples of every class in just about every race.
- Their iconic Ranger is in fact a Dwarf.
- half-orcs no longer get a penalty to Charisma, and in fact can get a bonus to the stat, so half-orcs can actually make pretty good bards.
- Their thirteenth Adventure Path, Wrath of the Righteous, has no-doubt resulted in a lot of tiefling paladins and clerics of the setting's good-aligned deities. The coverart of part 1, The Worldwound Incursion, also features a half-orc paladin who is one of the Path's prominent NPCs.
- In BattleTech units are sorted by weight class and can generally be sorted into the Fragile Speedster light units, Jack of All Stats medium and (possibly Lightning Bruiser) heavy units, and Mighty Glacier Assault units. Most of the time, a light 'Mech is a scout or possibly harasser of some description, and an Assault 'Mech will more often than not carry a weight of weaponry and armor equivalent to the mass of an entire smaller 'Mech. Then there are oddballs like the Urbanmech, a slow-as-molasses light 'Mech with a BFG and as much armor as it can carry...which isn't much. More iconic is the Charger, which is an Assault-weight scout 'Mech. At 80 tons it should be able to carry more than just five tiny lasers and mount more armor than a medium 'Mech's protection, but it moves at the speed of a 'Mech 30 tons lighter and subsequently makes use of what it has.
- The Order of the Stick
- Belkar Bitterleaf of the Order of the Stick — a Chaotic Evil halfling ranger with a level or two of barbarian, making him the deadliest three-foot-tall dagger-wielding Sexy Shoeless God of War in the world. He also has fairly poor stats as a ranger, not even having enough Wisdom to cast spells.
- A lesser example would be the half-orc ninja Therkla.
- Yamara Tooke became a barbarian before Belkar. Also, the strip contains Too Much Information on halflings:
Arcalula Tooke, cyborg halfling:
And of course, who hasn't heard of the legendary Chibi
— the halfling Jester/Samurai of Japan?
- Hereville: The Webcomic. Mirka is yet another troll-fighting 11-year-old orthodox Jewish schoolgirl.
- The furry fantasy comic Fight, Cast, or Evade has Stillwell, a surprisingly light-on-his-feet elephant thief. Also, the trunk comes in handy with pick-pocketing.
- anti-HEROES features a female bugbear with a Maid Prestige Class (and some levels of rogue, too). As in, a big, hairy goblinoid in a French Maid Outfit.
- Goblins is about a squad of non-evil goblin adventurers. Dellyn Goblinslayer, when realizing Thaco has an adventurer class, clearly didn't expect the race known for being "Usually Chaotic Evil" to be a lawful Monk, to say nothing of Big Ears the Lawful Good Paladin.