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Kill Tally

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Marking off kills (or other victories) to keep track of how many.

This work is a proposed Trope, Tropers can vote and offer feedback in the comments section below.
Proposed By:
Skylite on Feb 18th 2018 at 5:48:46 PM
Last Edited By:
Masquerade on Jul 4th 2018 at 11:22:28 AM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

This trope is common in media where there is someone who feels the need to keep track of multiple kills.

Pilots in war films usually slap a custom decal on the nose of their plane to denote how many enemies they've taken down. It's not just a boost to the pilot's ego, but a morale boost to the entire squad and a demoralizer to the enemies.

Serial killers also keep a kill tally as a Creepy Souvenir. Some even do the tally on their own bodies making themselves a Human Notepad.

In Lighter and Softer works, the tally may mark down victories at a sport or challenge. They will also use paint, markers, or rubber stamps to mark their tally rather than something visceral.

If you have two or more people doing this to compete at who's the best at taking down enemies, that's Body-Count Competition, which may or may not come with a physical kill tally.

Occurs in many World War II movies.

Super Trope to Kill Streak.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Comic Books 
  • Batman villain Victor Zsasz cuts a tally mark into his skin for each person he's killed. His torso is near entirely covered with tally marks, although Depending on the Artist, he may also have them on other parts of his body too, like his head.

     Film 
  • While treating gunslinger Quirt Evans for gunshot wounds at the start of Angel and the Badman, the doctor suggests looking at Quirt's gun to see how many notches are in the grip, i.e. how many men he's killed. (It's never said whether he actually has any such notches.)
  • Con Air: Serial rapist/murderer Johnny 23 had a tattoo added for every victim.
  • Pacific Rim: Striker Eureka had little Kaiju stamps on its chassis to mark its kills, especially because it had the highest number of kills.
  • One of the Universal Soldier movies had a titular soldier who wore his kill tally as a gruesome keepsake: a necklace with the ears of his kills strung like beads.
  • Black Panther: Erik Killmonger used ritual scarification to mark every life he took. His chest, arms and back are covered in these scars taking him from serial killer to mass murderer.
  • The character 'Monk' from the film Gangs of New York adds a notch to his shillelagh for every person he kills; another character is seen collecting victims' ears.
  • Hot Shots! Part Deux parodies this. With every rising kill, it compares it to films such as RoboCop and Total Recall, before labeling itself as the bloodiest movie ever.
  • The Blue Max has a chalkboard filled with the names of each pilot in the squadron along with an outline of each enemy plane they shot down next to their names; at one point, there's a lengthy montage cutting between Stachel's aerial combat victories and more chalk outlines being drawn on the board. Earlier in the film, when Fabian gets shot down, the base commander erases Fabian's name and kill tally.

     Literature 
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • The X-Wing Series references fighter pilots' practice of marking ship-to-ship kills many times. In Rogue Squadron, squadron leader Wedge Antilles has so many that the ground crew has taken to marking them in squadrons' worth, i.e. one mark for every twelve kills (plus two Death Stars).
    • In Vector Prime, Leia and Mara Jade Skywalker complain about Unwanted Assistance from a particularly egotistical Jedi. Leia complains about him intervening to get a couple more kill silhouettes on his X-Wing, when they were trying to out-fly and evade the ambush.
  • In the third Artemis Fowl novel, the Irish mobster Loafers gets a new symbolic tattoo every time he completes a hit. Most of his body is inked.

     Live Action Television 
  • In Arrow, Deadshot would tattoo the names of each of his victims onto himself upon completion of a job.

     Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40K
    • Kharn the Betrayer, Blood Knight extraordinaire, has a kill-counter in his helmet's HUD that lets him see how well he's doing in battle.
    • Lucius the Eternal is a duelist who seeks out great champions in single combat, and scars himself for each one defeated. Given he's been at this ten thousand years and has a curse/boon where whoever kills him turns into him, he's pretty much a mass of crisscrossing scars by now.
  • Things Mr. Welch Is No Longer Allowed to Do in an RPG: #617: The forehead is not an appropriate place for a killcount holo-tattoo.
  • In Red Markets members of the Black Math cult tattoo tally marks on themselves every time they kill a zombie. Their leaders have what's known as "the face full of fives".

     Video Games 
  • In the recent XCOM games, you can view each individual soldier's kill count.
  • In Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War, when examining your planes in the hangar, the total number of your kills with each one is displayed as a sequence of ticks under its name and stats. Justified in that the player character Cipher is a mercenary, so he naturally has to wear his cred on his sleeve like that.
  • Sabre Ace: Conflict Over Korea automatically marks air-to-air kills on the fuselage of your plane in the single-player campaigns.
  • If you're going for the Genocide route in Undertale, a tally will show up after you clear out the ruins, boss and all.

     Visual Novel 
  • Genocider Syo from Dangan Ronpa applies for this trope in the Human Notepad variant. She is a Serial Killer, who carves another tally into her thigh with each life taken. This is why her Split Personality, Touko Fukawa, wears a longer skirt than the rest of the cast; to cover up her tally scars.

     Western Animation 
  • Walt Disney: In the Goofy short Motor Mania, a reckless driver hits Goofy and stamps a marker to a tally on the side of his car. Later, a kid on a scooter knocks him over and adds a marker to his tally.
  • Looney Tunes
    • In "Scalp Trouble" (and its remake "Slightly Daffy"), a cavalry soldier shoots at Indians attacking the fort, marking his tally to the tune of "Ten Little Indians". The gag was repeated by Bugs Bunny in "Horse Hare", only he erases part of one tally because "that one was a half-breed".
    • In "I Taw a Putty Tat", Sylvester keeps a tally of all the canaries he's eaten with a bird-shaped stamp. After Tweety gets through with him, he adds a cat-shaped stamp mark to the tally.
  • T-Bone and Razor, the SWAT Kats, have a stamp and ink pad for this purpose, and append their latest villain defeat, Morbulus, to a wall near the Turbokat's service bay. Morbulus appears to be their eighteenth downed adversary.

     Real Life 
  • Real Life vehicle crew members ( i.e., fighter planes and tanks) and artillery gunners will often paint the national markings of the enemy they've destroyed onto their vehicle or howitzer.
  • In real life, kill tallies got quite elaborate for air and submarine crews in order to differentiate the types of kills they made. For aircraft, these included (but were not limited to):
    • Bomb silhouettes for successful bombing missions.
    • Locomotives, for those that had been strafed or destroyed.
    • Swastikas/Rising sun flags, for enemy aircraft shot down in air-to-air combat (planes destroyed on the ground were either not counted, or counted separately).
    • Brooms, symbolizing a "fighter sweep".
    • Top hats and canes, for successful escort missions.
    • British submarines included:
      • Bars, for ships torpedoed (with several variations, such as white for merchant ships and red for warships).
      • Liferings, for at-sea rescues.
      • Daggers, for cloak-and-dagger missions (usually dropping off and/or picking up commandos or spies).
      • Crossed cannons or stars, for ships sunk with the deck gun.
    • Other variants:
      • German tank, antitank, and antiaircraft crews would paint white "kill rings" around the barrel of their weapons.
      • A shared kill or damaged but not destroyed aircraft would be represented with half a symbol.

Feedback: 47 replies

Feb 18th 2018 at 6:17:07 PM

  • In the Goofy short Motor Mania, a reckless driver hits Goofy and stamps a marker to a tally on the side of his car. Later, a kid on a scooter knocks him over and adds a marker to his tally.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • In Scalp Trouble (and its remake Slightly Daffy), a cavalry soldier shoots at Indians attacking the fort, marking his tally to the tune of "Ten Little Indians".
      • That gag was repeated by Bugs Bunny in Horse Hare, only he erases part of one tally because "that one was a half-breed".
    • In I Taw a Putty Tat, Sylvester keeps a tally of all the canaries he's eaten with a bird-shaped stamp. After Tweety gets through with him, he adds a cat-shaped stamp mark to the tally.

Feb 18th 2018 at 6:25:48 PM

Comic Books

  • Batman villain Victor Zsasz cuts a tally mark into his skin for each person he's killed. His torso is near entirely covered with tally marks, although Depending On The Artist, he may also have them on other parts of his body too, like his head.

Feb 18th 2018 at 8:44:36 PM

Feb 19th 2018 at 4:34:22 AM

  • Batman villain, Victor Zsasz, carves tallies onto himself for each of his victims.

  • In Arrow, Deadshot would tattoo the names of each of his victims onto himself upon completion of a job.

Feb 19th 2018 at 6:41:58 AM

  • In Ace Combat Zero The Belkan War, when examining your planes in the hangar, the total number of your kills with each one is displayed as a sequence of ticks under its name and stats. Justified in that the player character Cipher is a mercenary, so he naturally has to wear his cred on his sleeve like that.

Feb 19th 2018 at 7:09:58 AM

Comic Books

  • Batman baddie Mr. Zsasz cuts a tally-mark into his skin for every kill.

Film - Live Action

  • In Black Panther Killmonger received his nickname because he would add a mark to his skin for every added kill on a mission. By the time of the film, the marks cover his entire torso.

Feb 19th 2018 at 10:18:25 AM

^^ I guess it could be a super trope, but a competition is not required to be this trope.

Feb 19th 2018 at 12:52:34 PM

Malady, Skylite - exactly. Take the "competition" out of Body Count Competition and you get this concept.

Feb 19th 2018 at 7:18:38 PM

  • Maddie Fenton briefly does this in Danny Phantom with an ectoplasmic bazooka and lipstick. She puts down two marks after taking out a pair of Walker's goons... and then sets her sights on Danny himself.

Feb 19th 2018 at 7:41:07 PM

Body Count Competition isn't wicked in the description.

Can't you rip all physical kill counters from there anyway? Or is this tally marks only?

Feb 19th 2018 at 11:05:22 PM

Western Animation

  • T-Bone and Razor, the Swat Kats, have a stamp and ink pad for this purpose, and append their latest villain defeat, Morbulus, to a wall near the Turbokat's service bay. Morbulus appears to be their eighteenth downed adversary.

Feb 20th 2018 at 5:12:25 AM

Film:

  • While treating gunslinger Quirt Evans for gunshot wounds at the start of Angel And The Badman, the doctor suggests looking at Quirt's gun to see how many notches are in the grip, i.e. how many men he's killed. (It's never said whether he actually has any such notches.)

Feb 20th 2018 at 5:42:09 AM

Literature:

  • Star Wars Legends:
    • The X Wing Series references fighter pilots' practice of marking ship-to-ship kills many times. In Rogue Squadron, squadron leader Wedge Antilles has so many that the ground crew has taken to marking them in squadrons' worth, i.e. one mark for every twelve kills (plus two Death Stars).
    • In Vector Prime, Leia and Mara Jade Skywalker complain about Unwanted Assistance from a particularly egotistical Jedi. Leia complains about him intervening to get a couple more kill silhouettes on his X-Wing, when they were trying to out-fly and evade the ambush.

Video Games:

Feb 20th 2018 at 8:07:59 AM

  • In the third Artemis Fowl novel, the Irish mobster Loafers gets a new symbolic tattoo every time he completes a hit. Most of his body is inked.

edit: fixed typo

Apr 20th 2018 at 4:19:43 PM

  • In Red Markets members of the Black Math cult tattoo tally marks on themselves every time they kill a zombie. Their leaders have what's known as "the face full of fives".

Apr 20th 2018 at 6:04:17 PM

In another Warhammer 40,000 example and like Zsaz, Lucius the Eternal is a duelist who seeks out great champions in single combat, and scars himself for each one defeated. Given he's been at this ten thousand years and has a curse/boon where whoever kills him turns into him, he's pretty much a mass of crisscrossing scars by now.

In the recent XCOM games, you can view each individual soldier's kill count.

Apr 20th 2018 at 7:00:08 PM

Visual Novel

  • Genocider Syo from Dangan Ronpa applies for this trope in the Human Notepad variant. She is a Serial Killer, who carves another tally into her thigh with each life taken. This is why her Split Personality, Touko Fukawa, wears a longer skirt than the rest of the cast; to cover up her tally scars.

Jun 12th 2018 at 5:30:16 PM

Should be disambiged from Body Count.

And yes, do games just counting kills, count as this trope?

If so, then VideoGame.Iji, VideoGame.Fallout 3, VideoGame.Fallout New Vegas, and VideoGame.Fallout 4 would also count, among others.


This is up for grabs, but I PM-ed Skylite, about this. Waiting to see if they respond.

Jun 13th 2018 at 11:23:57 PM

^ You may have a long wait. As far as I can tell, the last time Skylite logged in to TV Tropes was May 31st, about two weeks ago, and that was their only post since May 19th.

Jun 13th 2018 at 4:38:23 AM

Image with a good story behind it: https://goo.gl/images/Pf41HJ

^^Only if the game marks kills on your character's model somehow. Just keeping track of kills in an OOC scoreboard doesn't count.

Jun 13th 2018 at 4:45:27 PM

^^ - Ah, nevermind then, I suppose.


Do we have a trope for OOC kill counters?

Jun 14th 2018 at 7:41:43 AM

The character 'Monk' from the film Gangs of New York adds a notch to his shillelagh for every person he kills; another character is seen collecting victims' ears.

Jun 27th 2018 at 8:49:19 PM

Real Life vehicle crew members ( i.e., fighter planes and tanks) and artillery gunners will often paint the national markings of the enemy they've destroyed onto their vehicle or howitzer.

Jun 28th 2018 at 1:54:33 AM

  • Examples section
    • Moved the "World War II movies (not a genre I'm familiar with so titles would be needed)" example to the Description as per How To Write An Example - Examples Are Not General.

Jun 28th 2018 at 5:39:27 AM

Also known as Kill Count.

  • Hot Shots Part Deux parodies this. With every rising kill, it compares it to films such as Robo Cop and Total Recall, before labeling itself as the bloodiest movie ever.
  • If you're going for the Genocide route in ''Undertale, a tally will show up after you clear out the ruins, boss and all.

Jun 28th 2018 at 8:25:45 AM

  • The Blue Max has a chalkboard filled with the names of each pilot in the squadron along with an outline of each enemy plane they shot down next to their names; at one point, there's a lengthy montage cutting between Stachel's aerial combat victories and more chalk outlines being drawn on the board. Earlier in the film, when Fabian gets shot down, the base commander erases Fabian's name and kill tally.

Jun 28th 2018 at 3:40:22 PM

In real life, kill tallies got quite elaborate for air and submarine crews in order to differentiate the types of kills they made. For aircraft, these included (but were not limited to):

  • Bomb silhouettes for successful bombing missions
  • Locomotives, for those that had been strafed or destroyed
  • Swastikas/Rising sun flags, for enemy aircraft shot down in air-to-air combat (planes destroyed on the ground were either not counted, or counted separately)
  • Brooms, symbolizing a "fighter sweep"
  • Top hats and canes, for successful escort missions

British submarines included:

  • Bars, for ships torpedoed (with several variations, such as white for merchant ships and red for warships)
  • Liferings, for at-sea rescues
  • Daggers, for cloak-and-dagger missions (usually dropping off and/or picking up commandos or spies)
  • Crossed cannons or stars, for ships sunk with the deck gun

Jun 28th 2018 at 12:51:42 PM

Other variants:

  • German tank, antitank, and antiaircraft crews would paint white "kill rings" around the barrel of their weapons
  • A shared kill or damaged but not destroyed aircraft would be represented with half a symbol

Jun 30th 2018 at 3:54:19 PM

I'm here and working the rolling updates now. Sorry. Life gets in the way of troping sometimes.

I have caught up now but need some help with the redlining before launch is ready.

Jun 30th 2018 at 8:46:58 PM

Isn't the Real Life category supposed to go last?

Jul 1st 2018 at 1:48:31 AM

Jul 1st 2018 at 8:38:29 AM

Music

  • Marty Robbins Big Iron is about the duel between the outlaw Texas Red and an unnamed Arizona ranger. Texas' gun is mentioned to have 20 marks and he planns to add the ranger as the 21st.

Jul 1st 2018 at 1:48:40 PM

Thank you @ Arivne and @ Masquerade

@ Psi Paula 4 To my knowledge trope Categories are alphabetical. Is this a new rule I missed during one of the times life took me away from Troping?

Jul 1st 2018 at 2:49:10 PM

I'd like it if Body Count Competition was explicitly said to be a subtrope, if it is.

But, common sense leads to that conclusion anyway, so it's not that important to me.

Jul 1st 2018 at 6:31:36 PM

@Skylite Most are alphabetical, with the exception of Real Life/Truth in Television, which always comes last.

Jul 1st 2018 at 6:36:18 PM

Comedic variant: in Not The Nine O Clock News, the truck in the song I Like Trucking has a kill tally of cars, pedestrians, bicycles, and hedgehogs on the side of its cab.

Jul 2nd 2018 at 1:21:12 AM

^^^^ The rule that the Real Life section always goes last in the Examples section is in the Media Categories FAQ.

Jul 2nd 2018 at 6:50:08 AM

Literature:

  • Partway through Team Yankee, the tankers of the eponymous team adopt the practice of painting a white ring around the barrel of their tanks' main guns for each enemy tank destroyed. They are inspired to do so by a German World War II veteran, who mentions the real life practice noted below.

Jul 3rd 2018 at 7:20:22 AM

  • On Into The Badlands Clippers, soldiers sworn to one of the Barons, follow a tradition of tattooing their kill tally on their backs. Sunny has killed so many men that his entire back is covered in marks. Nathaniel stopped adding marks after 999 and is waiting for a Worthy Opponent who will either kill him or become the 1000th mark.

Jul 4th 2018 at 7:08:31 AM

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/bad_angel_kill_marks.jpg
Here's that image suggestion again.
Real Life:
  • The page image is of Bad Angel, a P-51D Mustang piloted in World War II by Lt. Louis Curdes of the US Army Air Forces. After becoming an ace in the Italian campaign, he was transferred to the Pacific theatre, and managed to become one of only three pilots to be credited with kills from all three major Axis powers. During the Battle of Batan he noticed a US cargo plane attempting to land at an airfield still controlled by Japanese ground troops. The pilot didn't respond to Curdes' attempts to warn him off, so Curdes shot the plane's engines out and forced the pilot to ditch. He was credited with a kill of a US plane for this.

Jul 4th 2018 at 11:22:28 AM

Web Original: Various video channels such as Carnage Counts (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCh93zox3V5R7Xb8O7tGpXag) do this for films, counting every onscreen death or kill for a particular work.

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