There is a common misconception that the use of fear and terror against one's enemies is a cowardly, evil method of fighting
. Not to these characters
. To them, targeting a foe's psyche is every bit as valid a tactic as more direct methods. To do this, they prey upon a villain's fears, attempting to break them, thus making them easy prey. Often times, said character is either an Anti-Hero
or someone who's a more clear cut hero but isn't particularly nice
, who uses these tactics as a way of turning fear on those who prey upon the fearful
. Can be a very effective weapon for those with a no-kill code
. Alternatively, a hero could just as easily exploit their frightening reputation as a means of scaring someone into submission. The terror hero (except The Dreaded) typically tries to avoid direct combat unless no other options are present. In order to count (except The Dreaded), the use of fear and morale breaking must be a standard tactic rather than something used once in a while.
There are five types of this kind of hero.
- The Cowl:
The type made famous by modern incarnations of Batman. Specializes in exploiting the primal fear of becoming prey. Uses a scary costume and ambush predator hunting tactics in the dark of night.
- The Mean Warrior Therapist:
This subtype is a hero that uses the dark side of the Warrior Therapist trope to break a villain by bringing up all of their insecurities and all their fears via a properly barbed "The Reason You Suck" Speech. Good Is Not Soft applies heavily with this sub type. Exploits fears of being helpless.
- The Intimidator:
Uses a display of force designed to intimidate a foe into submission. This is a very popular Real Life tactic designed to prevent escalation to actual violence. Typically preys upon the fear of death or injury.
- The Master of Illusion:
This sub-type uses spells (illusions mainly), psychic assaults, or other means of Mind Screwiness to reach into a villain's mind, pull out their fears, and turn them into whimpering, blubbering, terrified wrecks. More horrifying examples can be considered borderline low grade Mind Rape. Exploits the fear of the unknown and sometimes death.
- The Dreaded:
"Oh, Crap, he's here!" This scare tactic relies on the hero having such a frightening reputation that his mere presence in a battlefield is enough to make bad guys void their bowels, drop their weapons and flee, be paralyzed with fear, etc. Exploits the fears of death and being helpless.
In terms of gameplay, characters who use fear are typically rogues or spell casters with specialization in illusions. Warrior types are typically limited to the use Warrior Therapy, Intimidation, and Dread. Note also that any of the other types can eventually evolve into The Dreaded if given enough time and myth-making
It should be noted that the origins of the misconception stem from the many hideously evil acts committed upon innocent people in the name of terror tactics (think rampaging maruaders, terrorists, and the like) as opposed to the restrained, targeted tactics used by honest cops and soldiers. Alas, the evil cases are the ones that get all the press.
Associated with Bad Powers, Good People
. A common tactic when Dark Is Not Evil
. Related to In-Universe Nightmare Fuel
for obvious reasons. Often causes a Mook Horror Show
. Can lead to Moral Dissonance
if used poorly. Compare and contrast with the Horrifying Hero
, who's horrifying to look at as opposed to the Terror Hero who is typically normal looking but uses tactics designed to turn their foes into blubbering, terrified wrecks. Related to the Guile Hero
who uses trickery, cunning, and misdirection to defeat his foes. Heroic counterpart to The Dreaded
. The Cowl
is a sub trope dealing with a specific scare tactic.
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Anime and Manga
- Ikki from Saint Seiya, his Phoenix Genma-Ken technique, allows him to make their opponents to see an nightmarish illusion.
- Ban Midou from Get Backers can also make their opponents to have hallucinations, however he usually uses this more as a distraction technique than as an offensive attack.
- From Naruto, the Fourth Hokage, Minato Namikaze, was so powerful and feared that the shinobi of Iwagakure during the Third War were ordered to cut and run if he was so much as spotted anywhere near the battlefield.
- Itachi Uchiha uses both Intimidation and Illusion, since he generally starts any fight off by using illusions to take out his opponents, then uses as much force as necessary to end the fight without killing anyone.
- Vash the Stampede from Trigun is an Intimidator, acting like a gun crazed psycho to scare villains into submission. It fits given his policy of Thou Shall Not Kill. However, he only adopts this persona when his usual facade of idiocy fails.
- The Aureolus story arc in A Certain Magical Index ends this way. Upon realizing that Aureolus' true power is to change reality to fit his imagination, Touma begins to laugh maniacally and slowly walk toward the alchemist, even after having his arm torn off. His terrifying mannerisms cause Aureolus to think of him as an invincible monster, effectively turning his reality-bending powers against him.
- In Bleach, there's Captain Retsu Unohana. We're not shown why, but discord tends to simply break off when she is near, and a team of Arrancar once retreated when she showed up, the only time they have ever done so. In the databooks, she's listed as the third most powerful captain, but for whatever reason people fear her more than the two above her.
- Said reasons have finally been revealed. She used to be a Blood Knight in her youth, as well as the first Kenpachi of Squad 11. Let's see what it brings.
- Ichigo would seem to be Dreaded by the Quincies. Unlike the other shinigami, the Quincy can't steal his bankai, and his speed and power makes it so they can't properly use their abilities against him. In fact, as soon as their leader finds out that Ichigo has come to their base in Hueco Mundo, he decides that that's the best time to invade the Soul Society.
- Subverted. The Quincies do respect his power, but their leader wants to recruit Ichigo into their ranks because of his Quincy heritage.
- In his backstory, Raoh intended to be a Dreaded Intimidator. The rest of the series portrays him as a plain villain and a tyrant, however.
- Kenshiro is no stranger to this trope either. During the Jackal arc, Kenshiro, infuriated by Jackal's horrible atrocities (including the murders of Bat's adoptive brother Taki and adoptive mother Toyo), puts the fear into him by hunting him down like a mad dog, throwing his men into a Mook Horror Show that showcases just how utterly horrifying Hokuto Shinken can be.
- Monkey D. Luffy of One Piece is slowly turning more and more into The Dreaded as his infamy and bounty increases over the course of the series.
- Zoro has a combination of Intimidator and The Dreaded going for him. He can unleash a killing intent so potent that he can almost use it like Luffy's Haki.
- Hayate Yagami of the Lyrical Nanoha franchise has become Dreaded after Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Striker S. It's bad enough that she's the "Living Lost Logia" who had fused with an infamous Artifact of Doom, but she's also the one who stopped the Saint's Cradle, which had threatened the very existence of the Administration Bureau. Demonstrated in Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force when a group of Big Bad Wannabes with Anti-Magic planning to escape their captors immediately dropped all plans of doing so when they discovered that she was the commanding officer.
- Subverted mostly, and also played straight with Alucard from Hellsing. He would be The Dreaded if he bothered showing off what he can do before his opponent started attacking him, but he much rather enjoys giving them a false sense of security before completely crushing them. That said, most of his opponents are still aware he's no pushover. It was played straight with Rip Van Winkle however, who went from cheery sadistic glee to shitting bricks the moment she spotted him on his way to deal with her. This is mainly because it is heavily implied that she has encountered him and already had a taste of what he can do in the past, unlike most of his other opponents.
- In Rosario + Vampire, Inner Moka is decidedly this; when she steps onto the playing field, her opponents soon learn why they should fear her as she terrorizes them into knowing their place.
- Most versions of Batman since roughly the 80's can be considered the Trope Codifier for The Cowl and The Dreaded variations, especially given his quote about superstitious criminals. He is also very much an Intimidator—his favorite interrogation tactic is holding someone over the edge of a roof while he asks them questions, and he'll drop them if he has to prove his point (though he'll always catch them).
- Moon Knight is often considered Marvel's Alternate Company Equivalent of Batman, and while there are differences, he does take the "strikes fear in the hearts of criminals" aspect and run with it.
- Trauma from Avengers: The Initiative is a Supernatural Illusionist.
- Ghost Rider. His powers are supernatural in nature and specifically meant to horrify and traumatize evil doers. His Penance Stare makes a criminal experience all the pain and suffering he's inflicted on the innocent: the worse you are, the more you are left a drooling vegetable by it. He is also horrifying to behold.
- Spider-Man is one of The Dreaded as well. Just seeing him can be enough to get a generic robber or mugger to surrender; in one instance several criminals were in a shootout with police but instantly surrendered when he swung over the street, even though he was on his way somewhere else and wasn't trying to intervene.
- Most of this is because, although Spidey isn't Marvel's most powerful or intimidating hero, he's much stronger than petty thugs and yet still spends a lot of his time dealing with them, as well as being the only major superhero who deals with the criminal underworld, plus having the reputation of going toe-to-toe with various crime lords such as Silvermane and the Kingpin, probably helped.
- Eddie Brock as Anti-Venom thinks he's Dreaded, but is both a Cowl and an Intimidator, with his Lovecraftian Superpowers, monstrous appearance, and tendency to show up seemingly out of nowhere.
- Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen was deployed to Vietnam and quickly ended the war, with North Vietnamese and Vietcong troops surrendering to him personally the moment he appeared on the battlefield.
- Two examples from Disney, of all publishers:
- The first is Paperinik, a superhero alter ego of Donald Duck created in Italian stories. He achieves this due a mix of being The Cowl, The Intimidator and The Dreaded (so feared that hearing the sound of springs has made criminals run for their life: when you hear springs at night, it means Paperinik is patrolling on his spring-heeled boots and is in the mood for doing something funny), and is particularly justified by the fact he's not actually a hero but an avenger of himself who preys on criminals because they piss him off with a sadistic sense of humour and a penchant for inflicting humiliations (the first thing he does as Paperinik is to break into Scrooge's manor and steal his money-filled bed from under him to humiliate him), to the point that in the first stories, where he still didn't attack actual criminals, his mere appearance caused a city-wide panic;
- An example of what Paperinik routinely does. In one occasion the Beagle Boys decided to empty Duckburg to sack it, and choose to organize a marathon with Paperinik's secret identity as the prize. Ticked off at the scare he got before finding out what was happening and that the BB didn't actually know his identity, he decided to forgo beating them up on the spot and rerouted the marathon, getting them caught in the act and beat up by the whole population of Duckburg.
- Paperinik New Adventures, an Italian (see a pattern?) series with Paperinik in a sci-fi setting, has Xadhoom, who achieves status as The Dreaded toward the Evronians due to the combination of having become a Physical Goddess in an experiment and wishing to kill them all in revenge for what they did to her homeworld.
- The Anla'Shok of Babylon 5 fame were known to train their warriors to exploit Intimidation and Dread.
- Buffy is this to the forces of evil in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. It helps that she's a Legacy Hero whose mantle has existed since around the Bronze Age. It also helps that she has a lot more staying power than the average Slayer, and personally takes down many big-name demons. Then she becomes the leader of an entire army of Slayers, and in the Series Finale she thwarts the Anthropomorphic Personification of evil.
- In Doctor Who, the Doctor (at least in the new series) frequently exploits his reputation as The Dreaded as one of his typical Guile Hero tricks, although many of the bad guys are genuinely terrified of him.
Elliot: Are you scared of [monsters]?
The Doctor: No. They're scared of me!
- The Eleventh Doctor in particular is Dreaded, as best shown in "The Eleventh Hour";
The Doctor: Hello, I'm the Doctor. Basically... run!
- The Eleventh Doctor and Rory pull off a mixture of Intimidation and Dread in "A Good Man Goes To War". Knowing that the Cybermen would ignore Rory's offer to leave in peace if they simply told him where the Silence are keeping Amy, the Doctor makes it clear that asking for his message was the wrong answer;
Cyber-Controller: What is the Doctor's message?
*The entire Cyberfleet explodes*
Rory: Shall I repeat the question?
- In the Big Finish Audio Play series, the Sixth Doctor deliberately created a reputation to stifle a violent race's development into warmongers. He decimates an army by offsetting charges in a cavern system underneath it, and labels himself the Sandman. Centuries later whenever he decides to drop by and check on them, he still namechecks himself as the Sandman, and the 7 foot tall near-cyborg lizard like aliens cower in fear.
- Nick Burkhardt didn't mean to be Dreaded, but all but the most dangerous Wesen (creatures) are terrified of Grimms, who historically hunted them. Nick isn't that happy that people keep responding to him like he's a serial killer, but eventually he starts to expect and sometimes exploit their panicked reactions. And then there's the the time he responded to two Reapers trying to kill him by mailing back their severed heads.
- Standard operating procedure of The Equalizer.
- In the first season of Arrow, the Green Arrow relies pretty heavily on this, but falls more and more into straight heroism during season 2.
- The Shadow. The title crime fighter deliberately terrified criminals before he (or someone else) caused their deaths.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- The Salamanders chapter is one of the nicest out there, but they're fond of exploiting their borderline demonic appearance (uber dark skin plus glowing red eyes) to terrify rebels into submission.
- All Space Marines are capable of terrorizing with their mere presence, but the Space Wolves get special mention for being a bunch of Space Vikings with slight werewolf tendencies when they get sufficiently furious. After their response to the Administratum's handling of the First War for Armageddon, even the Inquisition is wary of upsetting the Space Wolves.
- The Primarch Konrad Curze (better known as the Night Haunter) began his life as a completely ruthless and murderous vigilante who used terror and violence to cow his home world Nostramo into submission. He's said to have had left corpses as an unrecognizable pulp from his bare fists, left heavily mutilated bodies nailed outside their homes, and had a high enough body count to clog entire sewer systems. Then he and his legion went renegade... A fine example of Intimidation and Dread taken to their logical extreme.
- The Raven Guard are stealth and infiltration specialists able to sneak up on enemies despite being power-armored giants. A successful campaign leaves their enemies huddled around light sources, mortally afraid of the dark.
- The Scary Marines, who are in some ways the loyalist equivalent of the Night Lords, but they rely less on savagery and more on being eight foot tall experts in subtle psychological warfare.
- This is the hat of the Space Sharks, who are either an offshot of the Raven Guard or loyalist Night Lords (a faction that went traitor 10,000 years earlier). What sets them apart from the other users of this trope is that they are The Dreaded to the Imperium of Man, who they work for. In universe, little is known about them and they stay in deep space terrorizing threats as a form of forward defense- keeping things from getting to the Imperium in the first place. Death Watch notes that even other Space Marines find them creepy and aloof.
- The Imperial Guard Elite choice special character, jungle fighter and Memetic Badass Sly Marbo. As his name suggests, he's a walking Shout-Out to Rambo, with a dash of Solid Snake thrown in for flavour.
- Any spell caster who specializes in illusions in Dungeons & Dragons can play as a terror hero with the right spells. Some rogue and ranger builds can allow for similar fear tactics (type 1), as well as frequent usage of intimidate.
- This is the whole rationale of the Autumn Court from Changeling: The Lost. All types possible, but they tend to focus on supernatural methods primarily.
- d20 Modern has the Frightful Presence feat, a basic aid to becoming the Cowl or Intimidator variant. It's easiest to get with levels in the Charismatic Hero class (and requires a high enough Charisma that you're probably going for Charismatic anyway). You get a bonus if you also have the Renown feat, making you The Dreaded type, too.
- The nicer Abyssals and Infernals in Exalted tend to incline this way (the darker ones are still Terror, less Hero). Dark Messiah Style, the default Abyssal martial art, even has a Charm that lets you dismember someone to make their allies run away crying and vomiting, and Infernal Monster is if anything even messier and more destructive.
- Mass Effect:
- Some of Shepard's meaner paragon actions use intimidation to bring villains in line. The paragon path in general tries to avoid the use of violence unless there is no other choice so an effective paragon character (especially in the sequel) needs to be a Terror Hero by default.
- In the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC, Shepard threatens Tela Vasir by pointing out that they sacrificed hundreds of human lives in order to save the Destiny Ascension and even unleashed the Rachni on the Galaxy... so she seriously thinks she can threaten them by thinking they won't shoot a single hostage? What makes this declaration more worrying is that this actually comes from Paragon Shepard!
- The Renegade path also gives plenty of opportunities to intimidate the bad guys into giving up.
- Shepard (Renegade AND Paragon) moves into The Dreaded in the third game. The reaction of multiple Reapers upon discovering that Shepard is on the battlefield, is to immediately target their giant laser cannon that was designed to cut Dreadnought-class ships in half, on the single tiny human that is currently charging at them, completely hellbent on killing them. And it still barely slows Shepard down.
- During the end game, Harbinger himself leaves the space battle with all of the galaxy's fleets and plants himself next to the beam to ensure Shepard doesn't get there.
- Samara also counts. She tells Shepard it's primarily why finding transportation isn't a problem for her. When potential threats find out she's on board, they give up immediately and avoid her ride altogether.
- The end of the main storyline in the Citadel DLC actually has Paragon Shepard terrifying the piss out of the Big Bad after she's been captured. The Big Bad in question mocks Shepard's plea for her to cooperate, at which point Shepard points out that s/he's not trying to save him/herself. S/he is trying to save the Big Bad from what will happen if she tries to kill Shepard again. She gets the message loud and clear.
- In a Hero Antagonist example in Mega Man Zero, Harpuia's mere presence in battle is enough to paralyze Resistance forces with fear or break their morale. Then again, given that they're a Red Shirt Army, that's not especially hard to do.
- Most Ghost-type Pokémon, when owned by a good guy of course.
- As well as any Pokemon with the ability Intimidate (Gyarados, Arcanine, Arbok, etc), which lowers the Attack stat of any opposing Pokemon that sees it enter battle.
- The player characters of Ace Combat are Dreaded, due to the aversion of certain tropes; by the end of the game your allies and enemies know that you are the one who determines the outcome of the battle, and your enemies are properly terrified. There's also a bit of Intimidation going on, since you get that reputation by blowing up just about anything that gets in front of you, including other (formerly) notorious aces.
- Sometime after Disgaea 2, Adell became so terrifying that he ran nearly every demon out of Veldime.
- Valvatorez from Disgaea 4 had a mighty reputation as a Tyrant back in the day, and even though he's a lowly Prinny Instructor now, a number of enemies react with terror when they learn who he is. At first the implication seemed to be that he was a holy terror in the past, only becoming his more affable self in recent centuries, but a DLC reveals the truth; he was always like this, he just got away with it because "I'm strong."
- Although they still try (in vain) to kill her, Samus Aran from the Metroid series is this to the Space Pirates. And for good reason: she makes it a point to wipe them out wherever she goes, to point of leading an almost one woman assault on their homeworld.
- The psionic soldiers of the X-COM series have an ability to decrease the alien invaders' morale which would ultimately cause them panic.
- Duo Lon from The Kingof Fighters is a Tall, Dark and Handsome Nice Guy with a heavy dose of Dark Is Not Evil, but due to his very creepy fighting style, his scary Battle Aura and general gloomy presence, he qualifies as an Illusionist. It's not helped by him coming from a Big Screwed-Up Family (the Hizoku clan) as well.
- His half-sister Xiao Lon and fellow Hizoku Lin seem to qualify as this too.
- The Pyro in Team Fortress 2 is revealed to be one in the "Meet the Pyro" promo video. Everyone, even his/her/its own team is terrified of the Pyro, and for good reason - the Pyro is an absolute lunatic perpetually surrounded by fire and death. In game, the Pyro specializes in shock assaults that disrupt the enemy with fire and knock-back airblasts, sowing confusion and panic.
- The Spy is a class literally fueled by paranoia. A substantial chunk of the metagame is based purely around the idea of a spy might be lurking nearby, and one good Spy can make the enemy spend more time watching their backs than attempting to fight.
- The Courier in Fallout: New Vegas can become The Dreaded through reputation with the various factions. However, the people who quickly become the most terrified of them are Benny and his henchmen, who last saw the Courier being shot twice in the head and buried in a shallow grave.
Jessup: What the hell?! You're that courier Benny wasted back in Goodsprings?! You're supposed to be dead!
The Courier: I got better.
- The Terrifying Presence perk makes this even easier by giving additional dialog options for certain encounters which can send the enemy running or paralyze them with fear.
Legion Assassin: Karl sends his regards.
The Courier: Oh good, I could use a new head for my trophy spike.
Legion Assassin: Aiiiiieee!!
- One of the best options for the Courier if they go to meet Caesar himself, after sabotaging every one of his operations in the Mojave.
Caesar: (lists everything you've done to undermine him) But you, of all people, dare to come here and stand before me, the mighty Caesar. What were you thinking?
Courier: That I'd decorate this tent with your guts.
- In Star Wars: The Old Republic, the Sith Warrior practically runs the entire list at some point. The Dark Side route with their love of Force Choke however place them as a firm Intimidator, while the Light Side route comes across as more Dreaded.
- This is a viable tactic in Mark Of The Ninja, since guards can enter a "panicked" state which makes them trigger happy, liable to fall off ledges and prevents them from raising alarms. Mostly via Intimidation (you can hang dead enemies from lamp-posts to frighten any of their colleagues who see them, for example), although some of the equipment falls into Illusion (semi-mystical hallucinogenic darts, for example). The "terror" themed outfit turns you into The Dreaded (all corpses terrify enemies instead of making the sound the alarm).
- This was promised as the lowest difficulty setting for vaporware parody fantasy FPS Hipesh-Grad. After seeing the hero enemies would drop the loot and run away.
- Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag : Edward "Blackbeard" Thatch invokes this trope. He doesn't actually want to hurt anyone, so he develops an Ax-Crazy persona to intimidate targets of his piracy, causing them to surrender prior to the battle, and avoiding any conflict or bloodshed. Due to the real Blackbeard's ambiguous past, this may or may not be Truth in Television.
Blackbeard: Caution's nothing without charisma! For if a man plays the Fool, then it's only Fools he'll persuade. But appear to be the Devil, and all men will submit.
Edward Kenway: And would you be the Devil?
Blackbeard: (puts on his hat with the lit fuses) For an audience... Aye. It's all a big show.
*Blackbeard then walks to Stede Bonnet*
Blackbeard: (while slowly looming over Bonnet) Give your quarry something to fear, some hellish thing from a fever'd dream, and men will drop to their knees, pleading for their Lord! Before aught else! Hrrrrhhh!!!!!
Stede Bonnet: (pissing himself in fear) Oh God!
- Skitter, of Worm, takes this as one of her main tactics, using calculated amounts of brutality to reinforce her reputation and avoid having to do further violence later. Her completely terrifying insect control powers play heavily into this strategy. When in the process of establishing her reputation, she uses the threat of Black Widow spider venom to terrify people into compliance.
- Glory Girl also qualifies, as her power generates fear in her foes and respect in her allies, which she can increase or decrease as she likes. Combined with her Nigh-Invulnerability and penchant for going a little too far when her Berserk Button is pressed, and she is one of the most fearsome younger capes in the city. Shadow Stalker plays a more classic Cowl approach, though she is actually a dangerous sociopath.
- Raven from Teen Titans is very skilled at breaking people with scare tactics with her dark powers.
- After exposing him to the unholy terrors of her home, Dr. Light was so traumatized that in future encounters he will surrender at the very sight of Raven, Making her Dreaded for one person alone.
- Darkwing Duck is an affectionate parody of The Cowl. His ego makes him a joke— that is, until he says his Catch Phrase: "Let's Get Dangerous!"
- Malu, airbending character from the Trading Card Game, used Illusionist strategy to keep Fire Nation soldiers away from her mountain. She constantly attacked them and then disappeared suddenly, finally leading firebenders to believe their attacker to be the "ghost witch of the mountain".
- Brock Samson from The Venture Bros. is a solid Dreaded Intimidator. This exchange from the first episode pretty much sums him up.
Number 24: Brock Samson got a hold of him, and—
The Monarch: Samson! Oh, jeez, say no more. Poor little guy. He was this close to getting his wings, too.
- As mentioned in the description, police will attempt to scare a suspect into submission as a way to eliminate a threat without resorting to force.
- The point of dropping leaflets is to break morale and bring about surrender. Well, that and telling the enemy how to surrender without getting mistakenly shot.
- Most military tactics are based on this to some degree, at least in land warfare (sea warfare is different as running is difficult).
- Many self-defense courses will try and aim for Intimidation, where merely showing the confidence that you can kick someone's ass is sufficient to get them to back down.
- One of Muhammad Ali's opponents had spent time in prison, so Ali exploited the fears he'd picked up in prison by pretending to be Ax-Crazy. It worked.
- An armed standoff in Britain was ended by a radio news show claiming the Special Air Service, a group of Britain's Special Forces, had been called to the scene, the suspect surrendered upon hearing it.