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Terror Hero

"I seek the means to fight injustice; to turn fear against those who prey on the fearful."
Bruce Wayne, Batman Begins

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.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    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 StrikerS. 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.

    Comicbooks 
  • 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.
  • Despite being The Cape, Superman often inspires dread in his foes with his mere presence. In one instance, when Lois Lane was unintentionally wounded in a battle she was covering between the US military and a foreign nation, he arrived to get her to safety. His mere presence caused the other side to begin surrendering, as they assumed he was there to fight them.
  • 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.
  • Silver Surfer: In a 90's crossover with Superman, he made–-without a word or even a movement–-a Skrull fleet retreat and give up their plans to invade a planet. Just seeing the Surfer was enough to make them flee. This is justified for more reasons than just the Surfer's (immense) power; he's also a Herald of Galactus, the guy who ate the Skrull homeworld.
  • 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.

    Literature 
  • Alaric Morgan finds himself as a known Deryni from childhood, since his mother was also a courtier of King Donal Haldane's and known to have used her powers publicly at Donal's express command. Since he lacks the protection of the Masquerade, he cultivates a fearsome reputation as a Deryni mage as well as honing his fighting skills to a high level. Thus, he has psychological tools: a scary reputation for self-protection, a penchant for dressing in black as a visual cue and the occasional yet credible Blasé Boast to convince people to cooperate with him instead of attacking him. It doesn't always work, and he has less need to use this reputation as Kelson becomes more securely established on his throne.
  • On the Discworld, there is Lu-Tze, who usually avoids conflict by reminding people of "Rule One", to wit: "Never act incautiously when facing a small wrinkly bald smiling old man!" This causes some chagrin when he ventures to those parts of the Disc where Rule One is not known, but he is well capable of backing it up.
    • Then there is Granny Weatherwax, who the Trolls call "She Who Must Be Avoided". The Dwarfs have a similar name for her: "Go Around the Other Side of the Mountain." When her reputation fails, she resorts to hoodoo, or "headology" as she calls it, and if that's not enough, she is perfectly capable of clearing the field by magical means.
    • Meanwhile in the Watch books, Ankh-Morpork criminals consider Sergeant Detritus to be this. Justified since he carries as a hand weapon a ballista that would put a bazooka to shame and has chronic trouble with Mister Safety Catch, and on top of this he has been known to nail drug dealers to the wall by their ears. Apparently small riots can be cleared by shouting that Detritus is on his way.
    • Also, Commander Sam Vimes. The criminal underworld is so afraid of him that when he leaves town on a diplomatic mission, the crime rate goes down. Why? Because if things fall apart while he's gone, when he gets back, he will not be pleased. "And when Sam Vimes is unhappy, he tends to spread it around with a big shovel." In Monstrous Regiment, the Borogravian troops talk about him in hushed tones, sharing wildly inflated rumours that make him out to be a superhuman monster.
      • His reputation is even more powerful among the Dwarfs, since in Thud he became host to a supernatural being of pure vengeance from Dwarf mythology. It left him when his Heroic Willpower allowed him to resist it's influence, but some small part of it remains, and its symbol is visible as a scar on his wrist. The sight of it will make an uncooperative dwarf become helpful real fast.
  • The Princess Bride: The whole concept of "The Dread Pirate Roberts" relies on this trope. The current Dread Pirate Roberts is usually quite nice and may not have killed anyone at all.
  • Vorkosigan Saga: Aral Vorkosigan didn't earn his title as The Butcher of Komarr but he— and occasionally Miles— play with the sinister public perception to get things to go their way.
  • Harry Potter: Friend and Mentor to Harry Potter, Dumbledore seems to be this to Voldemort and his followers, and with good reason. It is outright stated that Dumbledore is the only wizard that Voldemort ever feared, and during their duel Voldemort ultimately fled rather than try to fight him any longer. Prior to this, when Dumbledore arrived in the Department of Mysteries, none of the Death Eaters even bothered to try and stop him. They just ran.
  • The Dresden Files: Harry Dresden never meant to be one of these, but because he's an extremely powerful wizard, is extremely protective of his city, and has a tendency toward chronic heroism, especially when a woman is involved, most of the small-time supernatural threats steer clear of Chicago as a matter of course. This is especially clear in Ghost Story when, due to Harry's apparent death, the city is suddenly swarmed with competing beasties of varying strengths. Molly then invokes this trope, taking on the persona of the Rag Lady in order to try and scare the city straight, using Illusionist tactics mostly, though to particularly lethal ends whenever the Leanansidhe is helping by taking a shift as the Rag Lady.
    • Harry's got a some Dread going on as well, particularly in later books. The reader doesn't see it as much because many of the beings he's seen dealing with by the time his reputation grows enough are either powerful enough to be considered minor gods (in which case he's a serious threat but not terror-inducing) or just haven't realized who they're dealing with until he starts blowing things up. He's come across the stuff of nightmares a few times, and seen them scream and run away just upon realizing who he was. Even the people on his side who don't know him personally tend give him a wide berth (though this has something to do with the fact that it deserves a special mention whenever something is on fire and he didn't cause it).
      Harry Dresden: And then it hit me. They were dealing with something far more dangerous than me, Harry Dresden, whose battered old Volkswagen was currently in the city impound. They were dealing with the potential demonic dark lord nightmare warlock they'd been busy fearing since I turned sixteen. They were dealing with the wizard who had faced the Heirs of Kemmler riding a zombie dinosaur, and emerged victorious from a fight that had flattened Morgan and Captain Luccio before they had even reached it. They were dealing with a man who had dropped a challenge to the entire Senior Council, and who had then actually showed, apparently willing to fight - on the shores of an entirely too creepy island in the middle of a freshwater sea.
      • At one point he comes face-to-face with a blood-sucking, demonically-strong vampire... which screams in terror and runs away.
      • Word of God says Harry is one of the few, if not only, non-Knights Nicodemus, leader of those possessing fallen angels, has been around for roughly 2000 years, nigh-immortal human, fears. All because Harry realized that noose he wears, the noose that killed Judas and gives Nick his healing powers, is the only thing that can kill him by being strangled with it.
    • In just the last two books, Harry took out the entire Red Court of Vampires, including several beings like low level gods in one go, came back from the dead, and became the Winter Knight. That's a lot of Dread.
  • Inheritance Cycle: Elva talked several enemy soldiers into insanity and suicide. Simultaneously. Despite the fact that she looks like she's 6 and actually much younger.
  • The Keldara from Paladin of Shadows are all Dreaded. In Unto the Breach, a Chechen leader notes that even the Spetznaz were only hated, not feared... but the Keldara are feared, and now even more so due to being trained by American special forces who are a double trouble of fear to the muj.
  • This is one of Polgara's favorite tactics in The Belgariad. In one of the prequels she explains that she reaches into her target's mind and shows them their biggest fears, and is quite amused when one of her targets turns out to fear her father, Belgarath.
    • Rather justified, as Belgarath is likened unto Satan by the Angaraks and has been for several thousand years, making him a firm member of The Dreaded.
  • In Another Fine Myth, Aahz claims to be Dreaded when masquerading as a fellow demon hunter to the knight Quigley.
  • In the backstory of The Lord of the Rings there is Helm Hammerhand, the Rohirrim king after whom Helm's Deep is named. When said fortress was besieged, he would ride out at night and kill foes with his bare hands, and they were too terrified to gang up on him. One night he did not return, and was found the next morning dead on his feet, frozen to death, surrounded by enemies still too scared to touch him.
  • From the Nightside, there's Suzie Shooter aka Shotgun Suzie aka "Oh Christ, it's her! Run!" John Taylor also has this reputation, as befits a man with the power to find your greatest weakness and use it with extreme prejudice. There are also Jessica the Unbeliever (a girl that can simply wipe out everybody out of existence by focusing her unbelief in reality that became part of new benevolent authorities), Razor Eddie aka the Punk God of the Straight Razor who fights for the side of good and his friends and say at some point that have to kill to maintain reputation and the Lord of Thorns, a supposed guardian of Nightside who lives in most terrifying part of the Nightside undergrounds. Seriously, every major figure at the Nightside becomes terrifying even if for avoidance of unnecessary fights.
  • Mack Bolan of The Executioner, back when he fought his one-man war against the Mafia used several of these techniques; his infamous blacksuit, using wiles to turn various factions against each other, overwhelming firepower, and his reputation.
  • Bashar Miles Teg.( Dune )had such a Terror Hero reputatation by the time of Heretics of Dune, that in at least one military situation all he had to do was arrive at the site of the potential battle. The opposing forces immediately sued for terms. -> Reputation is a beautiful weapon. It often spills less blood. -Miles Teg

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.

    Radio 
  • The Shadow. The title crime fighter deliberately terrified criminals before he (or someone else) caused their deaths.

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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.
    • 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.

    Videogames 
  • 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.
  • 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!

    Web Original 
  • 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.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.

    Real Life 
  • 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.


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