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Action Survivor

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"Shaun! How are you doing?" "Surviving."

"Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em."
Malvolio, Twelfth Night

The Action Survivor is an Innocent Bystander in dangerous circumstances. They won't so much get The Call as be pinned by a telephone pole, thus trapping them in an adventure that a more qualified Action Hero would have trouble sorting out.

The Action Survivor is the opposite of the Action Hero; They're pretty normal in just about every way. If the Action Hero is ostensibly a fantasy idealized self, the Action Survivor is more of a self-insertion for the viewer, someone the audience can easily relate to. However, Wish-Fulfillment figures into this character's development. While outrunning shadowy evildoers and keeping the MacGuffin out of reach, they'll discover they're far more cunning, resourceful and resilient than they gave themselves credit for. They'll likely learn more along the way.

Some movies will even give the protagonist a power upgrade via ancient prophecy/the one-ness, etc. Most films forgo this for Badass Normal. If the character gains superpowers this way, expect them to have to go from Super Loser to competent.

Traits include:

  • Average to toned body
  • Perma-Stubble at low setting
  • Light of foot rather than big and tough (think Deadly Dodging vs. Made of Iron)
  • Generally, they'll suck at fighting and need rescuing, choose flight, or win just by sheer luck and the skin of their teeth.
  • Gets very angry when someone they care about is threatened.
  • "What the fuck is this!" reaction to action, which doesn't stop them from...
  • Being amazingly good at improvising and just plain surviving the story's action, hence the trope name.

Note that they're not just good at "merely" surviving the adventure like a mangled heap of bones, but is quite capable of surviving mostly unharmed while somehow managing to delay or disrupt the Evil Plan enough to foil the bad guy. In fact, said villain will likely be blindsided by their involvement because they planned for everything except this Spanner in the Works.

One trait of these types is that they're uncommonly decent. They'll often get at least one chance to walk away (often given "in good faith" by the villain), but choose to keep fighting rather than run away because of altruism, love, upbringing, a sense of duty or they're bored with their small lives and choose to keep adventuring for the fun of it.

The Action Survivor is common not only in action movies but also horror movies and video games, where an unprofessional protagonist adds to the desperate horror feel.

By the adventure's end you can expect them to be incredibly happy to have things go back to normal, although their growth throughout the adventure means they'll be standing up to his Pointy-Haired Boss, dump their harpy girlfriend for their One True Love, or not go back to their normal life.

Related to the Final Girl — a specifically female, horror movie version. The Right Man in the Wrong Place is often this type of hero. On the Super Weight scale, they're primarily Muggle Weight, sometimes making the jump to Iron Weight upon taking a level in badass. See also Action Duo. Also compare Unfazed Everyman, Invincible Incompetent.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The main cast of 20th Century Boys. None of them, except Otcho, are particularly strong, fast, or badass, and they're all up against a Big Bad trying to take over the world with the help of a brainwashed cult. Admittedly, they do level up over the course of the story (especially Kenji).
  • Agni's Philosophy: While Agni is capable of utilizing electrical attacks, she only does so once in the initial strike on the compound and spends the rest of the demo evading her pursuers and attackers, briefly healing her wounds, and finishing the summoning for the dragon.
  • Rickert from Berserk. One of the younger and more naive members of the Band of the Hawk he survived 3 Apostles by sheer dumb luck and was rescued by the Skull Knight. While a decent swordsman in his own right he can't hold a candle to Guts and is woefully under-prepared to face the Apostles. When faced with the nightmarish monsters that have started appearing after reality gets bent he relies on his ingenuity and inventions to create weapons that can be used by the Everyman like him, including a rapid-firing crossbow and fixing up a hose that he later jury rigs into a flame-thrower. He's the only person ever to slap Reincarnated Griffith and get away with it.
  • The main group of Bio-Meat: Nectar, especially in part 1. Just some kids running away from The Swarm armed with ingenuity, guts, lighters, and hairspray. Slightly subverted in parts 2 and 3 when they come closer to being Action Heroes.
  • Rokuro "Rock" Okajima from Black Lagoon. Goes from everyday Salarymanhood to surviving multiple gunfights, kidnappings, car chases, boat chases, and the list just goes on.
  • Bleach — Being chased down by the Nigh Invulnerable Walking Wasteland Aizen has required Keigo, Tatsuki, Chizuru, Mizuiro and Don Kanonji to become this. Special mention to the last two.
  • Wataru Takagi from Case Closed is a mix of dorky Nice Guy next door and archetypical Hot-Blooded cop, and as such he's managed to survive several times to life-threatening situation. For example, when Takagi is in an horrible Death Trap, he manages to keep his wits with him and does his best to keep himself alive until his co-workers and friends can rescue him.
  • Subverted in Code Geass. Ordinary guy Lelouch gets mixed up in an insurgent attack and reactionary annihilation of the area when suddenly he is randomly handed his "geass". Then he reveals that he is NOT an ordinary guy and proceeds to not just survive the conflict but fight, commanding the insurgents like his own personal army (like they later become). We also later find out that his gaining his "geass" was anything but random.
  • Cross Ange: The Paramail pilots of Arzenal are this, as after being outed as Norma, they must fight the DRAGONs to not only survive, but make a living by procuring the money received from their job. Our main character, Ange, becomes one herself. Her introductory quote in the opening scene of Episode 1 explains her mentality as the pilot of the ancient Ragnamail, Villkiss...
    Ange: My name is Ange... and I will live. Even if I have to kill.
  • The surviving members of the Japanese taskforce and the SPK in Death Note.
  • While on Earth, humans are still one of the dominant life forms in Digimon V-Tamer 01 and Digimon are nothing but data. In the Digimon World, everything is data and humans are, at best, strategists who are useful enough at something to gain protection from monsters.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Bulma from the original series. She is nowhere near capable of fighting alongside her empowered friends and family, but she's still usually going right alongside them for adventures and is generally able to survive everything with minimal or no injuries. Until Dragon Ball Z where Majin Buu turned her into chocolate and ate her, along with all the other main characters, sending her and the rest to heaven.
    • Hercule/Mr. Satan (with Bee the dog) holds the distinction of being the only human in Dragon Ball to never die once. All the Z-fighters die at least twice, and Buu killed everyone on Earth sans him, Goku, Vegeta, and Dende (who all died earlier- Goku to Piccolo and Cell, Vegeta to Frieza and Buu, and Dende to Frieza). All this despite being a Badass Normal in a world of superhumans, and putting himself in the line of fire to help defeat Cell and befriend Buu (which pays off big time when even Buu's Superpowered Evil Side is too subconsciously fond of him to hurt him). His luck finally runs out after Frieza destroys the Earth, but Whis turns back time shortly afterward, so it technically never happened.
  • Yukiteru Amano in Future Diary is this trope mixed with a healthy dose of Cowardly Lion. Before the Battle Royale for Godhood started, he was just a loner who stood on the sidelines, and in most situations, he prefers running away or leaving most of the killing to Yuno, but despite this, he's actually killed just as many diary owners as she before he Took a Level in Badass.
  • Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics:
    • The Princess from "The Iron Stove" mixes this with some sprinkles of Action Girlfriend, going through lots of risk to save her Prince from the Witch despite not being an Action Girl.
    • Lisbeth from "The Old Woman in the Woods" is the Sole Survivor of the royal caravan she was traveling with and must fend off the attacks of the Wicked Witch to save her own skin, with help of a talking owl...
  • Almost all of Junji Ito's main characters are action survivors since they're just normal people thrust into abnormal circumstances by random chance. Of course, how long they survive can vary greatly from one story to another.
  • Judge has Okamoto Rina and her mother be the only surviving, innocent members of the titular game. The mastermind also survives with no repercussions.
  • Kaiji — The title character is an ordinary loser whose genius and bravery only awaken when thrust into life-threatening situations. The "uncommonly decent" aspect also applies very much.
  • Nijima of Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple has no martial arts training but manages to be the only one who escapes Berserker. He also has excellent information gathering skills.
  • Mako Mankanshoku from Kill la Kill is essentially the Cloud Cuckoolander from a slice-of-life high school comedy, who somehow found herself in a high-stakes shonen action show. She survives handily, in no small part by operating on Toon Physics instead of whatever set of rules everybody else is following.
  • Myung Fan Lone from Macross Plus. Here we have a person whose life has been almost 100% CRAP for years, completely helpless as Sharon Apple has staged everything to give Isamu the thrill of death... and suddenly something snaps inside of her. The next scenes have her escaping from her prison and using her smarts and quick thinking to stop Sharon.
  • In My Hero Academia, main protagonist Izuku Midoriya starts off as this, being one of the unlucky 20% of people who don't have superpowers. When All Might notices the boy's bravery and heroic spirit, he takes the boy under his wing and passes his Quirk upon him, with Izuku slowly but surely learning and training hard to control it.
  • Naruto has Shikamaru. Unlike the "born great" Sasuke or Kakashi, he has no motivation and is an average ninja (compared to the ridiculously overpowered main characters and bad guys). However, he has a genius-level intellect, and when duty calls, he can use that intellect to defeat much stronger opponents. Significantly, he was one of the first characters in the series to defeat an Akatsuki member and the first to defeat one in a one-on-one fight. With a hole in the ground and some string. Not to mention, this opponent was apparently immortal.
  • Usopp from One Piece is something of this. Usually, he has only his amazing ingenuity and spends half the battle running away. Vivi would count too, although she's usually more willing to fight than Usopp is.
  • Re:CREATORS: Sota Mizushino has no superpowers like the fictional characters that have come to the real world and he is not even a skilled artist like his fellow Creators, which means all he can do is run away from fights and hope his friends can solve the crisis at hand.
  • Tsukune Aono of Rosario + Vampire had a dangerous habit of Taking the Bullet for his (technically stronger) friends. He was surprisingly resilient even before he Took a Level in Badass via Emergency Transformation, though, and he's a decent strategist and the Only Sane Man, which makes him invaluable to the team.
  • Kyrie from Sands of Destruction spends most of his time running from fights and trying not to end up a Distressed Dude — which he often fails at. In the final episode, his powers as the Destruct Code finally activate and he's able to deliver a Curb-Stomp Battle to Aquilla Rex and his minions before Morte stops him from destroying the world, too.
  • Shamo has its protagonist Ryo Narushima in this category for give or take the first 3 volumes of the manga. After that, well...Let's just say he adapts to his surroundings a tad too well.
  • Saiga of Speed Grapher had become a credentialed Action Survivor by the beginning of the series, as a veteran war photographer. After he becomes an Empowered Badass Normal he still exhibits every other feature of the trope.
  • Okabe is the protagonist of Steins;Gate because he's the most dedicated to saving Mayuri and Kurisu from their impending inevitable deaths, not because he's the most capable. There are smarter, stronger, and nicer characters than him- and he needs their help at various points- but in the end, his insane determination and creativity were exactly what was needed to alter the timeline. Not that anyone knew this in the beginning.
  • Simon starts as this in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. He eventually gets upgraded to Action Hero after he gets over Kamina's death.
  • Suzu and Shoukei from The Twelve Kingdoms. The first is a Shrinking Violet who spends 100 years as the favorite Chew Toy of a Rich Bitch, then gains her freedom, but later simply doesn't know what to actually do with it and thus switches allegiances several times until she acknowledges that she has to take a side and stick to it. The second goes from a Royal Brat with zero knowledge of the outside world, and then a Princess in Rags without any real will to change her attitude, to a Plucky Girl who helps La Résistance as much as she can and realises that she should have wised up a long time ago.
  • YuYu Hakusho:
  • Plenty in Zone of the Enders: Dolores, as its premise is an ordinary family thrust into world-shaking events. James may or may not count as he is actually pretty big and has had military training, though he starts off pretty damn rusty and with none of the 'elite pilot/man of destiny' badges given to the other ZOE main characters. His son Leon, on the other hand, is a meek and pussywhipped computer programmer with an obvious Oedipus complex, yet manages to surprise even himself by facing up to vicious beatings, pushes his programming and mathematical skills to their absolute limit (he is the primary designer of a module for atmospheric entry at one point, despite having no training and only scrap to work with), and showing remarkably quick thinking in a crisis.

    He contrasts nicely with his sister Noel, who takes after her father by being tough, bluntly spoken, and powerfully built. She however often comes across as a Faux Action Girl, possibly because she's far too levelheaded to perform the moments of terrified bravery her brother manages. Perhaps he realises she's far more masculine and infinitely less whiny (though that's like being less hot than the sun...) than he will ever be and feels the need to compensate.

    Comic Books 
  • The Jaime Reyes incarnation of the Blue Beetle did not so much answer The Call as accidentally pick up what caused it, take it home, and put it on his dresser. He didn't want to be a hero in the beginning; instead, he got told "Hey kid, we need you to help save the world." (And wound up vomiting in the Batcave.) He gradually eased into being a hero after realizing his own resourcefulness, and while he does have an alien bug suit, he's not a fighter by nature (and actually got told by Robin that he kinda sucked at fighting) and tends to get by on cleverness and his brilliant brain, simply using the suit as a tool and flying by the skin of his teeth. All the more so when he's been thrown into a do-or-the-world-dies situation without his super-powered bug suit. A rare case of a superhero NOT actually being an Action Hero, perhaps even less so than his predecessor, Ted Kord.
  • Given that the main characters of Bone are mostly normal people thrust into a Hero's Journey, there are a few of these.
    • Fone Bone is by far the most notable example of this. He's very, very far from a being fighter (the most he ever does in combat is bean a couple of Rat Creatures on the head with rocks), but he can handle himself in dangerous situations, managed to survive in the wilderness throughout a really bad winter, and is pretty much solely responsible for defeating the Big Bad once and for all.
    • Thorn is a farm girl who's never seen a legitimate battle in her life, but has good reflexes and can use a sword with decent skill. However, after Character Development, time, and a dab of Xenafication, she becomes more competent.
    • Smiley Bone is an innocent goofball most of the time who clearly should not be in the middle of the war the protagonists find themselves in, but still manages to scrape by the series' more dangerous encounters through a combination of dumb luck and surprisingly good survival instincts.
  • Julie Martin from Echo is just an amateur photographer who had the misfortune of witnessing, and getting caught up in, the murder of Dr. Allison Porter of the Phi Project. Now she is stuck in the Beta Suit and trying to figure out what is going on, who is doing it, and how she can get out of the entire situation. Fortunately, she has Ivy Raven to help her out.
  • Halo: Uprising: While Master Chief plows through hordes of aliens, the civilian Ruwan can only run from them. At least he's got his girlfriend to help him out.
  • Jonesy (2018): Ripley much like in the film, though many of her scenes from the movie are not present since the focus is Jones.
  • Judge Dredd: Roscoe manages to survive the Dark Judges' rampages throughout Earth's outer colonies for an extraordinary length of time despite not having Judge training (being just a normal cop), setting traps for them and learning to hide in the ice moon's cave system while avoiding the dangerous wildlife.
  • Scooby Apocalypse: All of the main cast qualifies as they try to survive in a world full of violent mutants.
  • Pendragon from Vampirella is just a stage magician with no fighting ability, but he keeps managing to get by.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: Virginia True is by far the least combat capable of the Holliday Girls, but she's still able to survive being abducted and enslaved and help in the slave rebellion against the Saturnian Empire.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): In this Godzilla MonsterVerse fanfiction, Ren Serizawa and his non-Monarch boat crew go from sailing on the sea next to Yonaguni to running and hiding for their lives amid Rodan and Monster X's battle against the Many in Chapter 13.
  • Aurora Falls: Selkirk, continuing the proud tradition established by Isaac, is just a simple ship's engineer with no weapons, trapped in a horrific situation with only his tools and knowledge to help him survive.
  • Clouded Sky: Tobias Talltree is just an ordinary kid who happens to have the great misfortune of having received a Murkrow as his starter Pokémon, the consequences being that not only is he mistrusted and held in contempt by everyone, but is also constantly being forced into one life-threatening situation after the other through no fault of his own, and continuing to come out of them all unscathed through sheer dumb luck.
  • An Extraordinary Journey: Apart from the SG-1 canon example of Cassandra, there are others.
    • Joyce and her two kids are the only survivors of the Ori plague on their home planet of Edina.
    • Camille survives the Cylons destroying her home planet because she hid until they passed her by, then ran for the stargate.
  • Fallout: Equestria: Littlepip was nothing but a sheltered Stable-dweller who worked as a repair technician for the omnipresent Pipbucks. She didn't even have a unique magic spell, just the basic telekinesis all unicorns have. Her biggest claim to fame was probably that she was really good at picking locks. When she first entered the Equestrian Wasteland she didn't even know what guns were. She learned fast. Within a few days, she had slaughtered a raider camp, rescued some prisoners, basically saved an entire town, became friends with some of the most dangerous people in the Wasteland, and killed an insane pseudo-goddess. Her achievements only became more impressive from there. In fact, her achievements were so impressive that the Steel Rangers couldn't believe she was really an innocent Stable-dweller and thought she was a highly-trained commando from some hidden Ministry of Awesome black site.
  • Forum of Thrones:
    • Jenna Harking is nothing but a simple servicemaid in the castle of Raylansfair. She herself suffers from a terrible lack of self-esteem and starts the story with no actual skill in anything related to action. She goes on to become one of the story's most prominent survivors, after managing to hold her own against Wolfius for a while and slowly becoming a more capable and active person. She ultimately plays a key role in taking down Septon Corbin and also provides a problem for Sherryl.
    • Ellena Terys, the youngest of the Point-of-View characters, is barely a teenager and accordingly not equipped to take care of herself. She goes through great hardships, being resourceful, cunning, and sometimes plain lucky. All the while, her main goal is to actually find a peaceful place to stay and live.
  • In Foxfire while Jin is a nonbending noncombatant, she survives getting captured by the Dai Li, breaks out of a mindwashing trance, and gets away from the Kuchisake-Onna's rampage. She also successfully talks Qiang out of danger by revealing Honqi's true nature.
  • Hands: Andrew is a normal guy dumped into Equestria, but can be surprisingly dangerous if pushed, especially if he has his weapons on him. As the demon found out...
  • The Night Unfurls: Grace from the original version is a mere Fan Service With A Smile who works in a Fantasy Tavern. She finds herself to be one of the many Innocent Bystanders that gets caught up in the invasion of Ansur by the Black Dogs. After being escorted by Sir Kyril along with her friends to safety, she decides to sneak her way through the chaos in the streets to find him, because she knows of a secret entrance that Kyril can use to enter the mercenary compound and reach Maia. At first, this is deconstructed: Grace, Chastity Dagger in hand, is obviously no match for a single mook, and as skilled as she is in sneaking around places, it can only take her so far, and she founds herself cornered by two mercs. On the other hand, she correctly figures out that Kyril, being a One-Man Army, would leave a trail of corpses behind, so she manages to end up in a place near him unharmed. Kyril, after dispatching said two mercs, would later coldly berate Grace for putting herself in deep, something that Grace herself lampshades, but thanks to her information, he is able to successfully enter the compound, find Michelle Pantielle, and rescue Maia, though not without some difficulty. All in all, Grace's contribution in the Liberation of Ansur Arc allows this trope to be reconstructed, resulting in a Decon-Recon Switch.
  • Pony POV Series: Shining Armor While he is a trained guard, he ends up facing off with an insane Hooviet Super Soldier who devotes a small army to try to kill him. He manages to survive the battle and handle himself pretty well. This is fortunate for him, considering he's also a Weirdness Magnet who attracts situations where one needs to be this.
  • The RWBY Loops turns Kali Belladonna into this during the Tale of Two Sisters. All the other featured non-loopers at least have some huntsmen and huntress training, making them Badass Normal by looper standards. Kali, however, is explicitly stated to be a civilian, only joining in the fight because she couldn't stand not knowing what happened to the rest of her family. By the end of the whole thing, she's destroyed a factory, helped kill a vampire, befriended a bandit queen, and become an icon for her people — all within what's implied to be a few hours.
    Kali: I have no idea what I'm doing.
    Zwei: And nobody has noticed. That means you're doing excellently.
  • In "Shaking the Cycle", Dawn Thrace appears to be this from a public perspective, as she was "just" the sister of Kara Thrace who was lucky enough to survive the bombing of Caprica (Battlestar Galactica (2003)), but all parties are unaware that Dawn has memories of her past as Dawn Summers (Buffy The Vampire Slayer) and was assisted by Leoben for a particular stretch of her journey.
  • Superwomen of Eva: Legacies: True Blue: Hikari definitely becomes an example of this trope early on after she ventures outside the shelter along with Toji and Kensuke in search of Toji's sister. As a result, she ends up getting too close for comfort to both the battle with the Angel and a fight between Supergirl and a supervillain, then nearly having to travel through the city sewers to get to safety.
  • Swordsmen: Atsuko, a photojournalist by profession, has learned enough necessary skills to be able to take care of herself. In fact, during her very first assignment as a war correspondent, she'd been taken captive by enemy forces, necessitating Kenshin to save her; however, she wound up saving him despite having taken a bayonet to the leg, by grabbing a soldier's shotgun and killing three combatants.
  • The Ultimate Evil: Valerie Payne is an ordinary university student who becomes involved in the Chan Clan's adventures when she's hired as a shop assistant at Uncle's Rare Finds. She's a bookworm who's not action type as much as the Chans, but she turns out to be surprisingly resourceful and able to assist her extended family, and she gets better with action over time.
  • This Bites!: Cross, the self-insert protagonist is this, full stop. In comparison to his crewmates, he isn't really a fighter. All of the battles he fights that aren't against Mooks generally devolve into running from his enemy until he finds a way to either lose them or knock them out safely. Even then, he gets pretty injured, as attested by his many scars. The true reason why he qualifies for this is the fact that he doesn't really need to put himself in danger–as attested by Smoker–but he does so anyway for the sake of his friends and beliefs. Of course, he manages to transcend this as time goes by.
  • What Lies Beyond the Walls: Tegast is just a normal teenage rat who lost his entire family and wanders around Mossflower with little protection. Pure luck and the sense to run when he knew he was outnumbered are the only things that keep him alive. By Book II, however, he finds other animals to aid him, and he's slowly evolving into a more competent fighter.

    Films — Animation 
  • Home (2015): Tip manages to survive an alien invasion and other harrowing predicaments on her own (unless you count her cat, Pig), until she meets Oh, who isn't much help anyway. And she's a young teen, too.
  • Megamind: Roxanne Ritchi is an intrepid reporter who, through repeated kidnappings and familiarity with Evil Lairs, has become resourceful.
  • Peter Pan: Jane Darling from Return To Neverland is this to an extent. She uses survival skills on a fantasy world like Neverland so it works against her and is Played for Laughs as a result.
    • However, it's Played Straight whenever she interacts with the Neverland Pirates. She gets kidnapped and nearly fed to the Octopus in the first few minutes she's in Neverland, and in the Climactic Battle against the pirates, she doesn't actively fight them but outsmarts them, with some help from the Lost Boys. When Hook's in his bloodthirsty rage, all she could really do was run from him. Even when she gets cornered by him, she manages to escape in the nick of time because of Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust; something that took her a long while to get.
  • Strange Magic: Sunny is a normal elf note  who is forced to break into the Bog King's palace twice in the name of love. With some outside help and a good dose of The Power of Love, he pulls it off both times.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The civilian survivors of a Zombie Apocalypse in 28 Days Later.
  • Ellen Ripley in the Alien series. But as her character is increasingly subjected to this in the series, she becomes more of an orthodox Action Hero trope. Throughout, she manages to retain most of her sensitivity and humanity but learns how to be badass when necessary along the way.
  • Apocalypto has a similar feel to it. The main character is running scared through much of the movie, although by the end, he makes a stand.
  • Bait features Jamie Foxx as a petty thief fresh out of jail who finds himself a pawn in a game played between federal agents and a thief they try to catch. In this case, Foxx's character has a fair bit of Combat Pragmatist in him.
  • Owen Wilson also plays one in Behind Enemy Lines. His character is a naval flight officer with military training, but no experience in direct combat. He spends the entire titular ordeal behind the 8-ball, fleeing whenever he can and only engaging the enemy when retreat isn't an option.
  • Beyond Loch Ness: Zoe is the only major character aside from Brody (who's wounded early on and is the film's resident annoying douchebag) to never really fight any monsters (although she and Brody throws rocks at some to distract them from attacking someone in two different scenes). Still, she has several close calls with the monsters (sometimes exposing herself to danger deliberately to help her friends) and survives due to a combination of luck, being able to climb trees, and absorbing Josh's warnings to stay absolutely still so that the creatures won't notice her when she doesn't have cover.
  • President Moore in Big Game can't fight anyhow, seems to be on the verge of panic for a bigger part of the movie, and somehow blunders his way through the Finnish wilderness and the bad guys into safety.
  • Jack Burton from Big Trouble in Little China. Though he's the main protagonist, he's essentially a bumbling sidekick to the real heroes: both he and the viewers are left to puzzle over the details of the long-running conflict the rest of the heroes had already been fighting with the villain.
  • Cellular has this type of protagonist. He was aided during the shootouts by William Macy as an about-to-retire cop who survives!
  • Theo in Children of Men is a depressed white-collar worker who spends most of the movie getting shot at and never picks up a gun or any kind of weapon at all except a discarded car battery, which he drops immediately after smashing someone across the face and flees. He manages to get Kee all the way to the Human Project while constantly running from people who are trying to kill him. Of course, he doesn't actually survive the film.
  • Color Out of Space (2020): Ward escapes several attacks from the Color operating through its various proxies and ultimately survives, despite not having any particular kind of edge or advantage that would help. However, he's pretty traumatized by the utter horror of the Color he witnessed, so he isn't entirely unscathed.
  • Cursed (2005): Jenny eludes the werewolf for a while by hiding under a car and then on a running board while hanging on to the door handle and rearview mirror once it starts looking under the cars. She ditches her high heels and uses her remote key to set off a car alarm to distract the monster, allowing her to flee to an elevator. Once the werewolf tries to get into the elevator, she immediately goes for the emergency phone, then tries to climb to the opening in the elevator roof.
  • The Descent Part 2: When Sarah sees Dan and Rios being stalked unawares by a Crawler, she doesn't attack the Crawler or try to shout out a warning. Rather, she tackles Rios and keeps her from making a sound while the Crawler attacks and kills Dan, then stealthily grabs Greg's supplies off of his body while the Crawler drags his corpse away.
  • John McClane, from Die Hard, was initially an Action Survivor Action Hero. In fact, the movie became an instant classic largely because of the contrast between McClane and the ubermensch Action Hero characters of Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and a million B-movie "stars". Not to say that McClane isn't a certifiable badass, but in the first movie, he's pretty much an ordinary cop thrust into extraordinary circumstances, and he spends much of the film bleeding and swearing at his ill fortune in having been caught up in the plot.

    His sidekicks in each movie, none of whom wanted to get involved, are more traditional Action Survivors. Officer Al Powell was picking up Twinkies, Zeus Carver was just looking after his electronics shop, and the Justin Long guy was a dweeby hacker.
  • Wikus from District 9, who starts out as an office worker before his Viral Transformation into an alien makes him a Living MacGuffin.
  • Doomsday: Cally isn't an Action Girl at the level of people like Eden, Viper, and Read, but she survives until the end of the film and does manages to help out in some fights, like by reaching through the bars of her cell to restrain Viper during her duel with Eden.
  • Anthony Hopkins plays a millionaire magazine publisher in The Edge who finds himself in a survival situation involving a crashed plane, mother nature's wrath, a hungry bear and a murder plot. He comes out of it all pretty well.
  • Evil Dead — Ash. One of the more enjoyable aspects of the films is him gradually becoming smart enough to the point where he does the stuff you normally yell at people on the screen for not doing:
    Ash: It's a trick. Get an Axe.
  • Jason Tripitikas in The Forbidden Kingdom (although he does take a level in badass before it's over).
  • Quite a few Harrison Ford roles are of this type of protagonist:
  • Chris in Get Out (2017) is a photographer with no experience or combat training, but nonetheless becomes a Determinator when pushed far enough.
  • Godzilla (2014):
    • Joe Brody survives the first incident in the nuclear plant. But he's Killed Off for Real when the male Muto awakens.
    • Ford Brody. With the Mutos and Godzilla, the best you can do is stay out of the way and hope for the best.
  • In Green Room, the band is way out of their depth dealing with the neo-Nazis, and realistically make many mistakes throughout the film, which gets three of the four killed.
  • Laura, in He's Out There, has no training in fighting or survival, and is obviously extremely scared by the situation, but she repeatedly comes up with plans to get herself and her daughters away from the masked killer, and eventually strikes a seemingly fatal blow against him with his own axe while still suffering from her own axe wound.
  • Even with a magic shotgun to help evne the odds in Highway to Hell, Charlie and Rachel are average teenagers who spend much of the movie just surviving the fantastical encounters.
  • Early in A History of Violence, when Indiana restaurant owner Tom Stall manages to kill a pair of murderous robbers who were intent on robbing his restaurant and killing his staff and clientele, it appears that he's this. However, shortly afterward Philadelphia mobster Carl Foggerty comes to town and claims that Tom is actually Joey Cusack, a former enforcer for the Irish mob who has been hiding from the mob for years under an assumed identity. The film then questions whether anyone could be as effectively and lethally violent as Tom was in foiling the robbers without having spent a lot of time learning and practicing how to do so.
  • How I Unleashed World War II has this Played for Laughs — Franek survives through few different campaigns of World War II by nothing else than blind luck and his own gull. And if not for accidentally decking an English captain, he would do so without harming a single person. His book counterpart was even more extreme case, being a bookworm art historian.
  • The Hunger Games: Unlike most of his fellow tributes, Peeta lacks training and experience and has absolutely no experience in the wilderness.
  • Jack Ryan in The Hunt for Red October. Though he was once a Marine his main job before saving the world was as a Desk Jockey for the CIA. "Next time, Jack, write a goddamn memo."
  • Innerspace — Mild-mannered hypochondriac Jack Putter (Martin Short) finds himself mixed up in a war between the evil corporation and the US government. Mind you, the original reason he took matters into his own hands was the prospect of having a tiny little corpse rotting inside of his body. At the end of the movie, though, when he realizes that a life of adventure is more fun than what he originally had, he grabs onto it with both hands.
  • Ed Okin (played by Jeff Goldblum) in Into the Night. He's an insomniac office drudge whose wife is cheating on him who gets pulled into a criminal conspiracy involving three different flavors of organized crime, the Iranian secret police, CIA and FBI agents, and even Elvis impersonators. At first, it's all he can do to merely keep his head above water. But by the end, he can face down an Iranian gunman with no hesitation at all.
    Ed Okin: This is ridiculous. You... You're a big shot, huh? You got a gun. Now what, shithead? You. Huh? Maniac... [pauses and takes a deep breath] Let me ask you something. Maybe you can help me. What's wrong with my life? Why is my wife sleeping with someone else? Why can't I sleep?
  • Terri Doolittle (Whoopi Goldberg) from Jumpin' Jack Flash. She's a bank worker who finds herself on the run from international spies after she accidentally intercepts a message from a British secret agent using the eponymous alias.
  • In Jupiter Ascending, Jupiter spends most of the film needing to have things explained to her and be rescued. She starts learning cunning when Titus kidnaps her, but it's not a honed skill until Balem tries to force her to abdicate.
  • Jurassic Park:
    • Jurassic Park (1993): For being children, Tim and Lex conduct themselves well in the climax. They manage to distract the raptors that came to hunt them in the kitchen, with Tim managing to lock one in the freezer and Lex luring several away from eating her brother. When the raptors corner them in the control room, Lex successfully reboots the systems and the locks, getting the parks back online.
    • Jurassic World: Almost all of the main characters, and by extension, the guests who weren't killed after the evacuation.
  • Living Dead Series:
    • Ben in Night of the Living Dead (1968) is driven by the zombie outbreak to the farmhouse and has to prepare the place and himself to survive. Barbara in the film's 1990 remake is given a similar treatment.
    • In the original Dawn of the Dead (1978), Steve (a TV station's helicopter pilot) and Fran (a floor director). Peter and Roger, being SWAT cops, don't really count.
    • Michael in Dawn of the Dead (2004). The guy becomes a de facto leader and moral center for a group of survivors that includes one cop and three armed security guards. His job before the Zombie Apocalypse? Selling TVs at Best Buy.
  • The Lord of the Rings. Frodo and Sam repeatedly rely on their wits and relentlessly good luck to get them to Mordor intact, such as in Balin's Tomb and escaping Osgiliath, and Frodo repeatedly states how he wishes he had never gotten the Ring in the first place. In the behind-the-scenes features of The Fellowship of the Ring, Sean Astin talks about how much effort he put into learning swordsmanship for the films' fight scenes. In the first of these filmed — the Nazgûl attack on Weathertop — he was specifically asked after a few takes to tone it down, so as not to make Sam appear to be too competent.
  • Lois in Man of Steel, who with an unfamiliar weapon and the help of Jor-El's Virtual Ghost, manages to fight her way off Zod's ship. She clearly has no fighting experience and visibly fumbles with the Kryptonian gun, but she is definitely no Damsel in Distress.
  • Babe in Marathon Man is the definition of this trope. He spends the majority of the film just barely escaping the bad guys through sheer luck. His only special ability is running away. However, by the time the movie is over he has Taken a Level in Badass.
  • The Matrix: As Thomas Anderson, the protagonist basically stumbles through the events of the film, relying on luck and the help of others to get him out of situations. As Neo, however...
    • In the sequels, a number of the residents of Zion are this. Of particular note is the character Michael Karl Popper aka the Kid. He's not a combatant or even technically gifted like the Operators, but his bravery and determination help at key momentsnote .
  • Evie's brother Jonathan in The Mummy (1999). When we first meet him in 1926, he does things like hop into a sarcophagus and muse out loud that he'd rather like to join the dead. When Rick is faced with an awful situation, he says "I've had worse [odds]", and Jonathan adds "Yes, me too." His age, improbable aiming skills, and ability to think quickly on his feet even though he gets scared of firefights are all part of the reason he is able to survive. He's also the exact age to have fought in World War I, though this is never addressed in-story.
  • In Nerve, our hero is Vee, a shy, perfectly average high school senior who manages to survive increasingly dangerous dares and fake her own death as part of a scheme to shut the titular game down for good, all through her determination, resourcefulness, and brains alone.
  • In the Australian horror film Next of Kin (1982), Linda is just an average young woman forced to endure a terrible ordeal after inheriting an old retirement home from her late mother.
  • A number of Hitchcock's heroes fall into this, but especially Roger Thornhill in North by Northwest, a New York advertising exec. One poorly-timed summon at a restaurant and he's thrust into a life-threatening conspiracy involving Cold War espionage.
  • Wit in Preservation. She is a city girl anaesthetist who accompanies her husband and brother-in-law on a hunting trip in the hope of reviving her flagging relationship with her husband. She doesn't even like hunting and finds herself unable to shoot a deer. However, when the group finds itself being stalked by a trio of masked hunters, and the men are taken down, she finds herself fighting a desperate battle against her stalkers.
  • Lisa from Red Eye is a mild-mannered hotel manager that managed to kick some terrorist ass when she found out innocent children (and her father) were in danger.
  • The rescued schoolgirls Asilia and Tessa have become this by the end of Rogue (2020). They come out of hiding to lure the jihadists into the open, and Asilia even kills one—stabbing him to death with a rhino horn—although she goes into shock afterwards.
  • Joan Wilder in Romancing the Stone is a classic case. Starting out as a romance novelist who barely leaves her dowdy apartment, she ventures off to aid her sister and becomes . . . a romance novelist who lives her plotlines.
  • Save Yourselves!: Despite being an ordinary millennial couple with practically zero experience when it comes to surviving on their own, Su and Jack manage to endure an Alien Invasion surprisingly well.
  • The Roy O'Bannon character in Shanghai Noon. According to Owen Wilson, the character was originally intended as a more straightforward Action Hero, but he and the producers re-tooled the character into a cross between Action Survivor and Honest John.
  • The titular character of Shaun of the Dead. He works at an electronics store, enjoys getting drunk, listening to records loudly, and playing video games. His whole plan consisted of picking up his mother and girlfriend and going to his favorite bar to enjoy a cold beer. In fact, the only reason he survives is the timely arrival of the military.
  • Mary Jane during the final battle of Spider-Man 3 actually manages to hold on for a long time on her own before absolutely needing to be rescued.
  • In Super Mario Bros. (1993), Mario and Luigi are a pair of average joes who spend the first half of the movie completely unprepared for the adventure they're thrust into, surviving on determination and luck.
  • In Taken 2, Kim goes from being the Damsel in Distress from the original to this. She helps her father break out of confinement, and later drives both to the embassy following instructions from Papa Wolf.
  • Terminator:
  • The Third Man: Holly Martins is just a writer, and manages to survive several attempted murders due to the fact that he looked too much into the death of a close friend. In the end, he even manages to work with the police and chase a child-killing, sociopathic drug lord into the sewers and kill him.
  • Till Death has Emma (played by Megan Fox) navigate through her dead husband's Thanatos Gambit, and a good chunk of the film has her do this while handcuffed to his dead body. And later on she gets creative while trying to get around her old stalker, who her husband bailed out of prison.
  • Train to Busan:
    • Seok-woo to a point, since he manages to survive several close encounters with zombies despite being only a scrawny fund manager. His last encounter with an infected Young-suk leaves him infected, and he is the last seen character to succumb to the infection.
    • Seong-kyeong, who survives the entire journey to Busan while visibly pregnant.
  • Sam Witwicky in Transformers (2007), and to a lesser degree Mikaela. They're both civilians without any combat abilities and struggle to survive against the Decepticons that pursue them.
  • Sam Flynn in TRON: Legacy. He's not wicked agile like Rinzler. He's not nearly invincible like Clu. He's not a demiurge like his father.
    Sam Flynn: I'm a User... I'll improvise.
    • His dad started as this in the first film. He just happened to be very good at video games and Sark was under direct orders to keep Kevin in the games until he died playing (much for the same reason Tron himself wasn't killed; Master Control wanted the User-Believers broken. Killing the User-Believer champion and an actual User would demoralize any who opposed). From there, it was one crazy Indy Ploy to the next because he didn't know what he was doing with his User abilities.
  • Wanted: Wesley starts as this, but then grinds to level 99.
  • In War of the Worlds (2005), the protagonist is (like in the novel, listed below) a dockworker trying to survive the alien invasion with his two children.
  • Several Jackie Chan movies, with Who Am I? being the most notable.
  • Zero Dark Thirty: Maya is an analyst, not an officer who works in the field. When a terrorist cell in Pakistan identifies her as a key target and attempts to assassinate her, she barely survives by backing up her car behind a bulletproof gate and some support from the guard on duty. The assassins get away.
  • Columbus of Zombieland, a World of Warcraft-playing nerd who manages to survive a Zombie Apocalypse mostly through being Taught by Experience. His previously debilitating anxiety and phobias actually becoming more rational and practical once said Zombie Apocalypse happens.
    • Also Wichita, and especially Little Rock, who is only twelve. Tallahassee is exempt because he was a badass to begin with.


  • The Arts of Dark and Light has plenty of regular warriors, but also some who fit this type better:
    • Marcus. He's a theology student originally, and even after joining the military, he's more of a staff officer than a Frontline General. He finds fighting for his life most disagreeable when he is forced to do it — though he also makes a creditable showing at it, at least so far.
    • Fjotra. She isn't a stereotypical fantasy warrior girl, but more of a "realistic" young Dark Ages noblewoman. Even so, she has some experience of violence and makes it through a number of dangerous situations through wits and instinct.
  • Kitty of The Bartimaeus Trilogy counts as this, once saying that her only real skill is surviving. Bartimaeus says something to the effect of surviving being one of the better skills out there.
  • In A Brother's Price, Jerin is thrown into an adventure he had no intention of being part of, and survives, using skills that up to then had just been hobbies, to outwit the villains. More precisely, he is kidnapped, and has to escape, for which his lock-picking skills (yes, his family does that as a hobby, and to honour family tradition) come in handy.
  • Caliphate: Petra is just a Christian girl raised in a Taliban-like state that wasn't even taught the most basic skills — she just barely knows how to read and write, and that is because she was taught in secret — The closest thing to a "skill" she gets is being an horribly abused Sex Slave. But then she is caught up in a secret operation to stop a biological weapon from being unleashed and gets thrust into action.
  • Robin Goodfellow from the Cal Leandros series. Though loyal to Cal and Niko, he would rather not go into battle if not required. And centuries of running from the angry fathers of his girlfriends... and boyfriends... has made him very fleet of foot.
  • In Chrysalis (Beaver Fur), Daokat manages to survive the Terran's attack on the Xunvir Republic's capital planet and hides himself away with a palace servant, only surviving the Terran's post-destruction reconnaissance because they, on a whim, showed Daokat and the servant mercy.
  • Date A Live: Shido Itsuka is just a normal guy living in extraordinary times and only becomes badass because circumstances force him to. Though certain revelations later make him unfit for this trope, namely that he's a half-spirit hybrid reincarnation of the Spirit of Origin's dead lover, not to mention he's able to manifest the sealed spirit powers inside him..
  • Deception Point — Rachel Sexton, Michael Tolland, and Corky Marlinson, a data analyst and two civilian scientists find themselves on the run from military black-ops assassins.
  • Discworld:
    • Rincewind the "Wizzard". The man is a champion runner, great at improvising, and never willingly goes along with insane plans. Not that that stops it from happening. Of course, since he is literally The Lady's plaything, the extraordinary coincidences are no accident. At this point, due to some of his companions and their publications, so many people know about him and his penchant for surviving anything the universe can throw at him that they genuinely believe he is amazingly good at what he does.
      Ridcully: I think you're all missing the key point here. Chap survives. Talented.
    • In The Last Hero, Rincewind announces that he does not wish to volunteer for a particular mission. When the Patrician points out no-one has asked him to, he says that he's volunteering even though he doesn't wish to because he's smart enough to know he's going to wind up on the mission regardless, so he figures he might as well get out in front of it. His personal philosophy is "It doesn't matter where you're running, it only matters where you're running from." Seems like a good mantra for any Action Survivor.
    • Nobby might qualify as well. After all, he's "survived countless massacres by not being there".
      • Most members of the Night Watch (barring Carrot Detritus and Angua) have this sort of approach to most situations, choosing to get away from trouble until the odds are heavily in their favour. Sam Vimes in particular manages to beat a clan of werewolves by running like hell until he can figure out a way to get the conflict onto his terms (though as a bloody-minded cooper, he does tend to seek out trouble an awful lot).
  • The title character in Eden Green has no survival training, other than her self-taught, limited shotgun knowledge, and a painful needle symbiote she barely understands. When facing down alien needle monsters, she has to rely on ingenuity and luck. Lucas in the sequel New Night is a former cop with martial arts training, but other characters are forced to ad-lib in dangerous situations.
  • Decumus Scotti, the protagonist of A Dance in Fire and The Argonian Account. He's just a clerk from the Imperial City who finds himself stuck in Valenwood during a war. Over the course of several weeks, he's nearly eaten by a giant tick, narrowly avoids being burned alive by Khajiit several times, is almost eaten by The Wild Hunt and is pestered by a poet. He comes out of the whole ordeal in surprisingly good shape.
  • Emily Monroe Is Not The Chosen One: As the title implies, protagonist Emily Monroe is not the superheroine known as the Chosen One... but she looks exactly like her. She is therefore constantly attacked by supervillains who want to test themselves against the most powerful hero in the city. Since Emily's own power is less than a joke (she can change her hair and eye color, and that's it), she is forced to use the environment to fight back and neutralize dangerous superhumans.
  • The core characters of the Everworld series are fitting. They're four average teenagers from a suburb outside of late 1990s/early 2000s Chicago that get caught up in a web of events surrounding a witch. After being unceremoniously dumped into another universe — one where the heroes, gods, and monsters of mythology (not to mention aliens) exist — they get by through a combination of 20th-century knowledge, luck, improvisation, and a bit of help from the locals.
  • The Fragility of Bodies: Verónica is just a normal middle-aged woman, yet she manages to survive several attempts on her life by trained cartel killers, such as saving Rafa from assassins via some crazy maneuvers with her car, and in the end when she outsmarts Rivero when he comes to her apartment to kill her.
  • Kaname from Full Metal Panic! is a normal high school student who just happens to get involved in an elite military unit. Subverted (Double Subverted?) in that she isn't an ordinary person, but her particular abilities aren't likely to help her in a situation requiring near-superhuman strength and agility, though she is fairly athletic for a girl her age.
  • Ron Weasley in Harry Potter, a self-deprecating everydude who ends up in battle usually out of loyalty to Harry. Initially, common sense and loyalty are his biggest assets, but by the end of the series, he's hardened enough to hold his own in serious battle.
  • Starr, the main character of The Hate U Give, is an example that's played for tragedy. She's a very ordinary sixteen-year-old who's forced to be strong because of her unusual circumstances — namely, being the sole witness to a cop murdering her friend, and then being caught in the middle of the media coverage, protest, and political uproar that follows. A lot of the narrative focuses on how the experience has left Starr with awful PTSD, and how she'll never be quite the same because of this.
  • The Hobbit: Bilbo Baggins, the title protagonist is pushed out of his front door on an adventure he doesn't want to go on, playing a role he has no idea how to play (he's recruited as a "burglar"). He is rather inept at first, but finding The One Ring helps him a great deal and in Mirkwood especially he comes up with some clever rescues for the Dwarves. He also notably spends the entire climactic battle unconscious, invisible because of the Ring, and hit in the head by a stray rock. Other hobbits in related works have similar roles.
  • Tom Holt's main characters, usually:
    • Paul Carpenter from the J.W. Wells & Co. trilogy — halfway through book two, he turns out to be The Chosen One, but it doesn't really help at all.
    • David Perkins from Falling Sideways is a hapless nebbish who was not prepared to deal with super-intelligent alien frogs.
  • Katniss in The Hunger Games, to an extent. Most of the plot comes together because of her spontaneous decisions, as well as outside characters forcing her into situations. She even mentions at the end of the first book that she'd rather just live a normal life.
  • Raul Endymion, of the later half of the Hyperion books, is a not-wholly-remarkable human who ends up having to run away from some absurdly powerful super-beings, usually thanks to some very lucky flukes... until he ends up killing one of them one-on-one, anyway.
  • Infinite Stratos: Ichika Orimura has subpar training and his Powered Armor is a Flawed Prototype, so you can expect him to lose in nearly all his fights. In the rare case he wins, it will be either through sheer luck, outside help, or by the skin of his teeth. Even after Taking A Level In Badass, he still needs help from more experienced fighters.
  • David Wong from John Dies at the End. David is completely unremarkable in almost every way, which makes him an unlikely hero when monster comes knocking at the door of the universe. The eponymous John fits too, as, despite the fact that he's a little more competent than Dave, he's totally nuts. In fact, if anyone in the story can fit the archetype of the Action Hero, it's Molly... the Golden Retriever.
  • Journey to Chaos: Vaya is basically a school girl trapped in an Evil Sorcerer's lair. She has survived on her own by learning how to hide and maneuver through obstacles and locks.
  • Kill Decision: Linda may be a professor, not a hardened soldier, but she didn't survive years of fieldwork in the African bush by being a wimp, and it shows.
  • Pi Patel from Life of Pi is a scrawny, bookish ordinary teenager with no special knowledge beyond having been raised by a zookeeper...who manages to not only survive a shipwreck and 277 days alone in the Pacific with a zebra, an orangutan, a hyena, and a tiger, but also a crazy cannibal and an island that eats people.
  • The Longing of Shiina Ryo: Poor Shin-tsu. All he really wants is a normal life, but the Universe isn't quite done yet with its Cosmic Plaything.
  • In Dean Ing's Man-Kzin Wars stories "Cathouse" and "Briar Patch", Carroll Locklear is a skinny civilian ethologist captured by the Kzinti when they attack the ship he was traveling on; he toughens up fast. (Notably, by the end of the first story the only one of his original captors still living is the one who's come over to his side.)
  • Mark Watney of The Martian, to some extent. Sure, getting through NASA's Astronaut Candidate Programme makes him far from ordinary, but he's got no particularly exceptional survival skills by the standards of the agency he works for and is the junior member of the Ares 3 team by some margin. And yet he manages to survive alone on Mars for over a year with nothing but his Agricultural Science doctorate, lots of ingenious jury-rigging, and his apparently limitless reserves of sheer bloody-minded willpower and snark.
  • Mass Effect Annihilation: Senna'Nir vas Keelah Si'yah was present when Sovereign trashed the Citadel, not doing anything particularly badass — he was just sitting around on the Presidium minding his own business. Next thing he knows, his parents are dead and everything's on fire, and there are geth everywhere. Senna's a quarian, who're usually pretty fragile at the best of times, but he got through.
  • Everyone in Nation, including a wizened priest, a toothless old woman, a pregnant woman, a woman so broken in the brain-pan she is incapable of caring for her own child, and the two teenaged Main Characters.
  • Richard Mayhew in Neverwhere. Survivor really is the word here, as the sole fact that he lived to see the ending is an ample feat of badassery.
    "If you can survive for the next day or two," he confided, "you might even make it through a whole month."
  • Night Watcher — Despite already being a Cowboy Cop, Captain Kotov during his first encounter with a vampire, being taken completely unaware at first, then freaking out and going into a survive-above-all mode. He came out of it okay physically but not mentally.
  • The Pendragon Adventure: Bobby Pendragon fits this trope to a T until he takes a level in Badass.
  • The Postman — Gordon Krantz, the titular postman in David Brin's novel.
  • Richard from The Power of Five. Small-town journalist drawn into saving the world because Matt once called out telepathically for help. But he has followed Matt all over the world and done his best to protect him, without the benefit of training or powers, and is still alive as of the Bittersweet Ending of Oblivion.
  • In President's Vampire, Zach Barrows is an aspiring White House bureaucrat with political ambitions who's assigned to be a liaison officer to a vampire. Usually, Cade is skilled enough to keep both of them alive, but when he's incapacitated or not present, Zach proves to be good at surviving various supernatural and man-eating menaces.
  • In The Priory of the Orange Tree, Arteloth Beck's first point-of-view section is him being shipped off to as an "amabassador" to a Mordor-like nation and a discussion between him and his friend about how, as courtiers, they don't have any useful skills that will allow this to be anything but a Suicide Mission. Loth nevertheless tries to do a useful job, ends up on a secret mission to take an important artifact to a secret order, helps his friend The Ace get back to their queen, and ends up with pirates again on a real embassy that is no less dangerous. Through it all, Loth's only real skill is horseback riding and being able to flail at enemies with a sword or a stick long enough for a real fighter to finish the job, but he never backs down regardless.note 
  • Professor Jerry Lukacs of Pyramid Scheme isn't the only person to have gotten sucked into his particular adventure (stranded in a primitive world where all of Earth's myths are real) but other than that he's a pretty classic example of this trope.
  • Holtz in Return of the Reaper. Almost killed while fleeing his Doomed Home Town, he gets rescued and trained by one of the deadliest creatures in the world. This lasts until he drinks Beast's blood, after which it's a case of Took a Level in Badass
  • Five of the seven Beta clones in 7th Son are civilians with no combat or self-defense training who have to learn how to fight and shoot on the fly. They have the "running away" part down to a fine art, though.
  • In Sherlock Holmes, Watson tries to give this trope a go when Holmes is presumed dead. He doesn't get very far, though.
  • Tyrion Lannister of A Song of Ice and Fire is a dwarf, but is more than capable of surviving the occasional scuffle by his own wit and guile, and by holding some passable fighting skills in his own right. Like many, many tropes in the series, this gets deconstructed, as he's disfigured in one battle, and nobody ever believes his heroics because they do not believe that someone with his handicap can actually put up a fight.
  • J. Eugene Raxford in Donald E. Westlake's The Spy in the Ointment was a minor social activist before the FBI drafted him into infiltrating an umbrella organization that had mistaken his group for a similarly initialed group of minor terrorists.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Wedge Antilles, at least in his early-set appearances. Experience makes him more of an Action Hero eventually, and a Reasonable Authority Figure, but he's the designated survivor in his 'verse, the anti-Red Shirt who is the only one not blessed with the Force, unusual skills, or obvious Plot Armor to live through everything.
    • Zak Arranda in Galaxy of Fear. His sister Tash is Force-Sensitive and usually benefits from it when things get too harrowing, but he doesn't have that extra guidance. He's also twelve.
  • Superheroes Anonymous: Gail Godwin has been forced into this position as of the beginning of the first book. Nicknamed "Hostage Girl" by the press, she's the first target for any supervillain looking to get into the news and has had to nurture a number of skills to minimize collateral damage and to stay alive while being kidnapped by supervillains. Her ex-boyfriend Jeremy gets put in a similar spot by the heroes when they decide that his resemblance to the superhero Blaze makes him the perfect stalking horse.
  • Skeeter Jackson, in Time Scout, as a child finds himself accidentally in medieval Mongolia, where he has to struggle desperately to survive, with no more training than a neglected child of a wealthy, modern family might havenote .
  • Eliza and her husband George in Uncle Tom's Cabin. One scene is based on the real-life story of Eliza Harris (see Real Life below).
  • Jules Verne had a similar style to H. G. Wells, with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Journey to the Center of the Earth both featuring an Action Survivor narrator who does little other than recount the story while others engage in the actual action.
  • Vorkosigan Saga: Ivan Vorpatril, Miles Vorkosigan's cousin, becomes this in A Civil Campaign and Captain Vorpatril's Alliance. He's an ordinary mid-level officer very happy with his desk job at HQ, thank you very much, and he did not intend to get into any firefights ever. But when dropped into the middle of them, whether an attempted aggravated assault in a parking garage or a holdup at a... sort of archaeological dig, he thinks on his feet, holds his own, and could even be said to save the day—maintaining a thorough focus on getting everyone safely home, very much including himself. "I thought you said you were a desk jockey?" "Yes, but it's a Barrayaran desk."
  • Dagger, from Wander. At the start of the novel, he's narrowly managed to escape a group of smilers, and been separated from the rest of his group when escape is seen as impossible for most people. By the end of the book, he's a full-fledged badass with numerous kills under his belt, and one of only two people known to have escaped after being held prisoner by the smilers twice.
  • The War of the Worlds (1898): An example Older Than Radio, the protagonist pretty much does nothing to actually advance the plot; he's little more than an observer of the unfolding Martian invasion. Better still, he's just trying to stay alive long enough to reunite with his wife, whom he had left with relatives when the Martians first touched down.
  • H. G. Wells uses this trope in several of his stories — The First Men in the Moon, The Sleeper Awakes, and The Island of Doctor Moreau all have an everyman protagonist recounting events almost entirely out of their control (although by the end of Sleeper the protagonist takes more of an active part).
  • Weaveworld: protagonist Cal Mooney is an ordinary guy setting into an ordinary adult life until he learns that magic is real and storybook adventures are things he could actually go on. But he doesn't so much have adventures as adventures have him. He gets shot, narrowly avoids fatal constriction twice, and has close calls with both burning alive and hypothermia, just to name a few. His commitment to The Call keeps him in the game and only his friends and being in decent shape keep him alive.
  • Well World: Nathan Brazil and Mavra Chang go through some horrifying things, like the Holocaust or being temporarily deformed into bastardized farm animals, but they always return to normal in the end. It helps that surviving is their superpower, and everything BUT dying can happen to them.
  • The Wild Ones has Kit, who knows he's in no condition to fight, and instead relies on his trickery and words to get him out of danger. Even after he goes through loads of Character Development, he still wasn't strong enough to beat Sixclaw in a fight and would've died had it not been for Gayle.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Almost everyone on The 100. Of the characters initially sent down to Earth, Bellamy's the only one with any combat or weapons training, and none of them have any first-hand experience with surviving in the wild. Anyone who survives past the first season only did so by adapting to dangerous situations very quickly.
  • All of Us Are Dead: Comes with the territory when most of the survivors of a zombie apocalypse are made up of either Korean students or civilians. With only a few of them actually having had any experiences that could be transformed into fighting skill.
  • In Arrow three of the female characters qualify: Laurel whose drive for justice and involvement with the Vigilante sometimes mean she has to fight off an attack using self-defense lessons (as opposed to actual martial arts/or battle training); Thea clocks a thug with a bottle in 1x23 to protect Roy; and Moira shoots the Vigilante when he comes to question her. Even Oliver himself counts in the flashbacks, as he starts out as a whiny, spoiled rich boy who progressively turns into a hardened bow-toting killer from his experiences over his five-year absence.
  • Mitchell and George in Being Human (UK). They are underestimated so much that it's a shock when at the end of Series 1 George kills Herrick and gets Nina to become a werewolf too.
  • Xander on Buffy the Vampire Slayer walks the line between this trope and Badass Normal throughout the course of the series. Losing an eye will do that to you.
  • Crichton on Farscape, especially for the first two seasons. Most of his more badass moments are due to dumb luck and bluffing.
  • Firefly: Simon Tam. He does have some badassery but that is largely because he is such a Determinator Papa Wolf about River. He prefers to be just a reasonably nice Non-Action Guy.
  • Most everyone involved in action scenes in Fringe tend to fall in the badass category, but every now and then we have action survivors like Henry Higgins and Sam Weiss. William Bell somewhat falls in this category, but he can more than hold his own during a shootout.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Gilly's penchant for surviving calamity despite her non-action status is lampshaded by Dolorous Edd to comfort Sam after the attack on Mole's Town.
    • Though Arya received a few months of sword training and is good with a bow, she is still a child who is petite and not particularly strong. She becomes more of a fighter in Seasons 3 and Season 4. She's also notable for being one of the only non-Lannister people to get away with defying Joffrey without getting herself killed or seriously injured for it. (Unfortunately, Mycah takes Arya's place). Even Tyrion suffers from slapping Joffrey around in the long run.
    • Tyrion is not really trained for combat but nonetheless participated in a number of battles.
  • Juliette Silverton, D.V.M., in Grimm. Mild-mannered veterinarian who threw a pot of boiling water in the face of an ogre, punched out a weredragoness, and beat the stuffing out of a friend's abusive husband using ordinary household objects. However, this is no longer the case as of her becoming a hexenbiest.
  • Dave of Hell's Kitchen, Season 6. In one episode, he performs extraordinarily well despite his situation.
  • Keep Breathing: Liv is a fairly average urban professional woman who's stranded out in the wilderness, but survives due to skills she picked up long ago as a Girl Scout along with sheer force of will.
  • Most of the stranded characters of Lost were ordinary people who ended up doing extraordinary things in the name of self-preservation. A few became cold-blooded murderers while the rest shot, stabbed, and blew up whoever or whatever threatened their lives.
  • Oliver and Kaz from Mighty Med. They start the series as a pair of nobody comic book nerds, who accidentally discover Superheroes are real when they stumble upon a superhero hospital. It turns out due to years of reading, they both have memorized the best ways to treat the heroes of a variety of wounds, and hired to work there. As the series goes on, they manage to navigate the dangerous superhero world through wits, likewise, as they do they both get noticeable more competent and braver managing to stay alive and even fight back against genuine supervillains. The climaxes in the series finale when they both receive their own super powers.
  • Part of Me: Mónica's an average civilian, but gets into a lot of tough spots where she needs to use her wits to survive, such as fighting off Carlos' when he tries to rape, or outsmarting and avoiding his trained hitmen.
  • While the growth of Bulk and Skull of Power Rangers is mostly in terms of character, we do get occasional scenes of them fighting monsters when they absolutely have to, on a couple of occasions actually saving the Power Rangers, and standing up against Astronema to buy the Rangers more time, and leading the charge against the armies of evil.
  • Red Dwarf — The crew of the Red Dwarf is this. At least, Dave, Rimmer, and The Cat. They all start out at pretty much the bottom rung of human (or hyper-evolved cat) existence. After everyone dies and they are left to fend for themselves in a hostile universe they slowly become more and more competent. While hardly Gordon Freeman or Ellen Ripley, they do manage to fight off a fair amount of hostile GELFs and other nasties. Dave and Rimmer end up noticeably less pathetic, and The Cat... well... at least he's aware that there are people other than himself.
  • Roswell, New Mexico: Liz Ortecho. No combat skills, no alien superpowers, just Nerves of Steel. When Wyatt tries to kill her, she starts Counting Bullets, then ambushes him while reloading. Later when he tries to burn her alive in a wooden box soaked with fuel, she waits for the fire to weaken the box and kicks her way out.
  • Smallville gave their version of Lex Luthor this as an actual "superpower" caused by his exposure to kryptonite when he was younger.
  • Jake Sisko of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Unlike most Star Trek main characters he has neither military training nor any cool alien powers. And to be fair he's only a tween when the show starts. In the Mirror Universe, he helplessly watches his mother get killed a second time. Early in his career as an Intrepid Reporter, he flees from a battle he's covering. Still, little by little he gets braver and more savvy, and while he never becomes a commanding man of action he eventually can keep his head when trouble starts.
  • Stranger Things: Joyce willingly goes into the Upside-Down with Hopper to find her son. That's damned courageous for anyone, let alone a middle-aged mother with no self-defense training.
  • Supernatural: The show sees a few, including Sarah Blake, Kathleen, and initially Kevin Tran. Also somewhat Sam at the start of the first season, as he'd left his normal life behind and embraced the hunting world. In fact, several hunters fall into this, as many of them are normal people who started hunting demons and monsters after learning about their existence, often as a result of the tragic death of a loved one.
  • Stiles of Teen Wolf, who's an untrained human among werewolves and hunters.
  • John Connor lives and breathes this trope throughout Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. As the future savior of humankind, John is too important to be sent out on missions or otherwise put in the line of fire. Instead, Terminators actively seek him out, with his allies constantly fighting to keep him safe. The few times he has had to go up against a Terminator alone, he demonstrates remarkable cunning, ingenuity, insight, and downright sheer badassery.
  • The Vampire Diaries:
    • Elena is pretty competent while trying to defend herself. For example, when a strange vampire is trying to kill her, she stabs him with pencils — repeatedly — and then breaks a mop over her knee to try to stake him, and when a werewolf attacks her, she instantly sticks a knife into his gut. She's also adept at using her surroundings while trying to run away if pursued by a supernatural. This is magnified in Season 4 after she transitions. She goes so far as to kill Connor to protect her brother.
    • Matt is one of the few characters who is human (after Elena becomes a vampire) and has no superhuman abilities.
  • The titular character of Veronica Mars is this in the few times she has to fight back. One shining example is her clawing one of the villains across the face with her fingernails, followed by stabbing him in the leg.
  • The Walking Dead (2010) has Beth Greene. Almost everyone in the show Took a Level in Badass and evolved from this except Beth. For most of the show, she only has basic survival skills in terms of killing walkers and minimal gun training — most of the time, other characters are busy assisting her or outright protecting her. She even gives an Audience Monologue about how Daryl sees her as nothing but another dead girl because she's not as strong as the other, more badass women. Season 5 shows that despite her limited skills, she's capable of defending herself and even killing hostiles in her way using nothing but improvised weapons and fast thinking.
  • Harrison Blackwood and Suzanne McCullough in War of the Worlds (1988). Blackwood is a kooky scientist who refuses to wield a gun through most of the series and carries a tuning fork to keep himself calm and collected. Many of the plots are motivated by him either getting trapped somewhere or staying one step ahead of the Morthren aliens (via the use of strange technology). Suzanne (as a fellow researcher and mother) also proves to be a capable fighter in several episodes and goes along with the rest of the team in several dangerous missions.
  • Phil and Sam from The Wrong Mans. Neither have much of a fighting background, but get thrust into a world of murder, espionage, and conspiracy. They get by on sheer luck at first, before getting more experienced and starting to kick more arse.

    Pro Wrestling 

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Gone To Hell, one of the Slayer archetypes is the aptly-named "Survivor", "a regular person who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time". Inspired by characters like Gordon Freeman or Isaac Hayes, the Survivor's actions and aesthetic are based on scrabbling for survival against seemingly impossible odds.
  • Most player characters in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, or at least the ones who roll up non-combat or magic starting Careers. You can be a squire, a highwayman, an apprentice wizard... or a cook, a charcoal burner or a university student. It's not like Dungeons & Dragons where you start as a fairly powerful hero even at the 1st character level — in this game, you may not even start with a proper weapon. You'll probably die unless you're really lucky and clever... but at least it will probably be funny.

  • Into the Woods has The Baker and Cinderella, neither of whom are particularly adept at fighting off all the craziness that comes their way in the musical. Nonetheless, they both prove to be extremely resourceful, determined, and surprisingly courageous. And along with two other characters, they successfully manage to overcome and defeat the Big Bad in the end, after everyone else dies.

    Video Games 
  • Amanda Ripley in Alien: Isolation is just an engineer who finds herself caught during a xenomorph infestation of the Sevastopol space station, while the androids go on a homicidal rampage and some survivors might target her out of distrust or panic. She can temporarily keep the first at bay with the flamethrower, and kill the droids and humans with conventional guns, but she is clearly unfit for the task. Her path must be stealthy as any attempt to be a gunslinger will ultimately lead to her death.
  • David and Simon from Team Psykskallar's Afraid of Monsters and Cry of Fear is just a depressed teenager and a troubled junkie, respectively, thrown into nightmarish, zombie-littered hellscapes resembling their hometowns.
  • Alan Wake's title character is a horror writer who spends most of the game dressed in a tweed jacket, possesses relatively unimpressive athletic abilities, and is better suited to running from his enemies than standing and fighting. That said, he manages to pull through thanks to his wits and his superior survival instincts.
  • One of the backgrounds in Alpha Protocol is "Recruit" — meaning Mike has essentially been recruited for the titular organization straight out of CIA training. Although becoming a CIA agent is no small feat, Mike is entirely unprepared for the challenges that he ends up facing (up to and including being betrayed and forced to go on the run.) It actually makes the most sense as a background, he was used due to the fact that he was expendable.
  • The titular heroine of ANNIE: Last Hope. Separated from her policeman fiancée Jack, caught in an upcoming Zombie Apocalypse, after a two-month Time Skip she automatically Took a Level in Badass and becomes a zombie-killing expert.
  • Bevel's Painting has the titular character Bevel, who survives the dangers of her painted world by running and hiding. She can also kill dangerous characters if she has the necessary item.
  • Borderlands:
    • Tales from the Borderlands:
      • Possibly Fiona and definitely Rhys. The game takes place on Pandora, a Crapsack Death World. Fiona is a Con Artist who at least was born and raised there. She Had to Be Sharp and can certainly handle herself in a fight, but compared to the Vault Hunters she's no One-Man Army. By the end of the game she becomes a proper Vault Hunter, even getting her own action skill. Rhys is an Office Drone who drops in on Pandora to do a deal to screw over his Bad Boss but ends up stuck there longer than planned when it goes seriously sour. Despite his cybernetic enhancements, he is woefully unprepared for the sheer insanity the planet throws on him. He also never thinks of using his superstrong robot arm to fight and only throws ineffective punches with his real arm. He's the one who wipes out the last remaining traces of Handsome Jack, painfully ripping out his own cybernetics to do so.
      • Rhys's accomplice and best buddy Vaughn is an accountant who is even less suited than Rhys to face the horrors of Pandora but ends up having the time of his life doing so. He eventually becomes a tribal leader with Manly Facial Hair.
    • Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! has Jack's Body Double, AKA Timothy Lawrence. Unlike other Vault Hunters who are either experienced mercenaries or freaks of nature, Timothy is just a desperate actor with a hologram projector who got wrangled into the mess on Elpis and in personal dialog is horrifically traumatized by both the chaos of everything he's dealing with as well as Jack's descent into villainy. Nonetheless, he proves to be just as capable of a Vault Hunter as his peers. In his appearance in 3, it turns out that he's been trapped in Jack's casino for the last seven years and has managed to outlive all other Jack Doubles, albeit not without coming out worse for wear.
    • Borderlands 3: Lor started as the owner of a small coffee shop, and his biggest claim to fame was stabbing a guy in the throat when he tried to rob her before she had her coffee. Rhys hired Lor as his secretary, and then during the war with Maliwan Lor ended up in charge of all Atlas forces under Rhys by virtue of being the most badass person with any authority surviving.
  • Jez, of Camp Sunshine is trapped in a sleepaway camp, with no weapons at his disposal, and no combat experience. He's just an "ordinary teenager" as the trailer says, yet he must survive against a bloodthirsty serial killer dressed as the camp's mascot "Sunshine Bear" by running, hiding, and solving the mystery behind everything going on.
  • Most professions in Cataclysm are regular jobs like fast food cook, home mechanic, pizza delivery boy, or elementary school student, who are thrown into a simultaneous Zombie Apocalypse, giant bug infestation, mushroom alien invasion, with a few Eldritch Abominations and riot-control robots gone haywire thrown in for good measure. You can also spend trait points to start as a better-suited job such as military recruit, various kinds of cyborgs, or black belt.
  • Clock Tower: The First Fear, wherein 14-year-old Jennifer Simpson is brought to the Barrows Mansion with her friends Ann, Lotte, and Laura on the pretense of a new family. When her friends and Ms Mary disappear, all she's got are her wits and (occasionally) a wooden plank to survive the ensuing horror. Her friends (particularly Lotte) get the action part at times, but not the survivor.
  • To say that Colin of Changed is this would actually be putting it mildly. He's been a Human Popsicle for so long that he has amnesia, in a building with latex creatures that are trying to either absorb him or transform him by touch, while being unbelievably skinny from malnourishment, he only has a surprisingly quick walking pace, ability to improvise using the surrounding environment, and help from one of the only non-hostile latex beasts in the building he's woken up in. Yet he survives it all.
  • The main protagonists of the Dead Rising games are all this to some extent. Frank West is a slightly chubby photojournalist looking for the scoop of a lifetime. Chuck Greene is a motocross biker trying to find a way to care for his infected daughter and Nick Ramos is a humble mechanic simply looking to get out of his heavily infested city. All of them go from Unlucky Everyman to expert zombie slaughterers by the end of their games.
  • Isaac Clarke from Dead Space, who is just a simple engineer tasked with what he thinks is little more than a repair job. Most of his weapons, in fact, are mining tools. Isaac could actually be argued as a deconstruction of one, as it's heavily implied throughout the first game, then said flat-out by Kendra near the end, that he's gone completely insane due to the incident.
    • He isn't much tougher by Dead Space 2, though justified in that he was mostly in stasis for the three years in between. The game mostly takes the concept further and details the kind of Sanity Slippage that would understandably occur to people in Isaac's situation.
    • Isaac also might not qualify in that he is specifically an Engineer trained to work in hostile, potentially fatal situations alone. He's had training on how to survive most things, and judging from the clearance to access some military weapons as well, probably general firearm training as well.
    • From the prequel game Dead Space: Extraction, there's Doctor Karen Howell. Just a botanist, but she is hardcore.
  • In Demon's Souls, Dark Souls, and many of the games they inspired, the Player Character is some variant of lowly faceless Mook. Sure, you might be able to start as a knight, but the game will explicitly say you aren't a very good one and are of low rank and status. Nevertheless, you still go on to accomplish great feats and slay powerful foes which can even include gods, all by using your Resurrective Immortality and sheer determination to essentially slam your face into brick wall after brick wall over and over again until they have all crumbled before you.
  • In Die Young, Daphne is just a thrill-seeking socialite who wakes up at the bottom of a well on a large island populated by feral dogs, wolves, vicious rats, boars, and crazed junkies and murderous militia. With no combat experience, but a clever mind for improvising tools from scraps, she needs to find her friends and a way off the island, while avoiding increasingly dangerous enemies and environments.
  • In Don't Starve, no matter the age, strength, or intelligence of each character, it has been proven they are more than able to survive alone in a world full of hostile creatures.
  • In most Doom titles, the protagonist is some combination of One-Man Army powered by Unstoppable Rage who jumps in feet-first at The Legions of Hell (with those feet probably crushing a demon's head into Ludicrous Gibs). However in Doom³ the protagonist is instead recast as an able-but-out-of-their-depth military footsoldier trapped on Mars as everything literally goes to Hell. The reboot series however shows that the original Doomguy eventually managed to go from a nameless marine with guns and anger management issues to an entity feared by all demon-kind.
  • Dragon Age:
    • The City Elf Warden in Dragon Age: Origins has limited weapons training, very little combat experience (fighting through Arl Howe's palace was probably their first actual battle), and has never seen a darkspawn before. They pick it up rather quickly.
    • Hawke in Dragon Age II was either a regular grunt in the Ferelden army or a barely-trained apostate mage. Once they get to Kirkwall, they start to take levels in badass very quickly.
  • Earth Defense Force 5 has the player's characters start off as civilians helping to work PR between the EDF and the citizenry after years of inactivity leading to people questioning why they continue paying for its existence, at least until the Alien Invasion starts. Specifically: the Ranger was working security, the Wing Diver was a stuntwoman, the Air Raider was a mechanic and traffic director, and the Fencer was a freight handler.
  • The Dragonborn in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim starts as this, barely escaping the chopping block and the subsequent destruction of Helgen, before making their way to Whiterun and helping to defend the city against another Dragon attack. It's only after absorbing the soul of the latter slain Dragon and demonstrating the Thu'um that they discover that they were a walking Divine Intervention all along.
  • Eight of the twelve main characters of Eternal Darkness are, in the words of one reviewer, "one blonde college student, a peasant dancer, a puppy-dog messenger ... a [doctor] wearing a powdered wig, a monk with no weapons ... a fat architect, a nearsighted old guy, and an anemic photographer". All of them are very much capable of standing up to the brunt of the forces and powers the Eldritch Abominations bent on invading our realm, with the "anemic photographer" taking down a fearsome guardian second in power only to its Ancient and living a long life afterwards. Often, it takes effort from Pious himself to dispose of them, and even then, the mighty lich who could bind Mantorok fails to kill both Lindsey and Alex.
  • Practically any civilian in the Fallout series, just by virtue of being alive in a post-apocalyptic wasteland with Everything Trying to Kill You.
    • Most of the Player Characters are this with two vault dwellers in the first and third games, a tribal kid in the second, and a law graduate with zero combat experience who nevertheless handles herself just as well as her war veteran husband in the fourth. Fallout: New Vegas is the only one where a Player Character has any semblance of Wasteland survival and that is what has kept them alive for all the time up to the game.
  • Jason Brody from Far Cry 3 fits the trope to a T, being an exceptional student, very sociable, taking a liking to extreme sports, and — no combat experience of any kind. As the game progresses, he transforms into an Action Hero, but to his friends, looks more like a Blood Knight.
  • Another survival-horror example... The protagonists from Fatal Frame are regular, everyday women who get caught up in haunted mansions and abandoned hospitals. Their only weapon? A camera.
  • Several of the characters in Fear & Hunger: Termina are civilians with no combat experience: Marina is an occultist, Olivia is a botany student, Henryk is a chef, and Tanaka is a salaryman. While there are those that are experienced with combat or served in the war, they weren't ready to see Prehevil overtaken, nor trained for such a situation.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy VII — Cloud Strife used to be this, Crisis Core and Before Crisis shows him as a plain old infantryman, only distinguishable by his motion sickness and his ability to make it through missions when all the other Mooks get killed off. When his hometown gets it, however, he cracks down and becomes a Badass Normal, doing what none of the Turks and SOLDIERs that safeguarded him until now were able to do: kill Sephiroth. After which Hojo jumped at the opportunity to make him an Empowered Badass Normal.
    • Final Fantasy X: Tidus prior to coming to Spira never wielded a sword in his life, but he picks up on it very quickly and is able to cultivate a highly effective fighting style based on the high speed he has from his career of as a professional Blitzball player. It's inferred that he might have received training from his father beforehand since it was a 'gift from Jecht.'
    • Final Fantasy XIII: Has both Sazh and Hope. The former was a civilian pilot whose weapons were only given to him as a survival toolbut his behavior in the early cutscenes implies that this is the first time he's actually put it to use in extended danger and survival situations. The latter... is 14 and his life before this Neverending Terror was fairly upper-class. The first half of his character arc is the transformation from helpless to being able to hold his own.
  • Shas'la Kais in Fire Warrior was a raw recruit thrown into a particularly hellish warzone, and pitted against Imperial Guardsmen, Space Marines, and not one but two Daemon Princes. He comes out of the fight victorious, but missing several limbs and in a coma.
  • All Five Nights at Freddy's protagonists, Mike Schmidt, Jeremy Fitzgerald, Fritz Smith, the nameless Night Guard of the third game, and the Child are all completely normal people, hunted down by Hostile Animatronics.
  • Gordon Freeman from Half-Life. Over the course of the games, however, he has turned into an Action Hero, by the time of Half-Life 2 he has become a leader of the Resistance. Breen even berates his troops for being unable to slow down, let alone stop, a theoretical physicist with a crowbar.
    • This trope is played up at various points in Freeman's Mind with regards to Gordon's inner thoughts.
    • Barney Calhoun in Blue Shift. He's just an average security guard but in spite of this he still manages to survive the Resonance Cascade, the ensuing chaos as aliens and HECU Marines kill anyone still alive, the destruction of Black Mesa, and the eventual fall of Earth in the Seven Hour War. He manages to live long enough to prove himself as a competent double agent and leader of the Resistance against the Combine in Half-Life 2.
  • Fiona in Haunting Ground, an 18-year old art student who wakes up in a castle after a car accident that claimed both her parents. Despite having Hewie and Lorenzo to aid her in her escape and numerous weapons scattered throughout, there are times when she has to use her wits to get out of sticky situations (pushing a bookshelf atop of Debilitas and crushing him with a chandelier, and tossing a jar of sulfuric acid at either Daniella or Riccardo.
  • Ethan Mars from Heavy Rain, without a doubt. He started out with the American Dream, only to have it all stripped away when his first son dies, he goes into a coma for months, his wife leaves him, and his second son is kidnapped. Despite his lack of experience (He even states he has no idea how to use a gun), he can still save the life of his son from a serial killer.
  • Ib: The main characters could all be called this; all they have throughout the game are their roses, minds and (in Mary's case) a palette knife to counter the malevolent monsters in the Gallery World.
    • Mary is actually an aversion, as she's later revealed to be the antagonist, but even she earns this title during the Together Forever ending. Just her methods are slightly... underhanded.
  • All of the main characters of Incredible Crisis are all just family members (consisting of the Salaryman father, the housewife, the pudgy son and the teenage daughter) trying to get home for Grandmother's birthday, only for each to be caught up in their own series of bizarre situations.
  • Leandra from Joe Dever's Lone Wolf is a female example of this, having spent several days in her village, overrun with Giaks.
  • Ellie in The Last of Us fits the trope. She's just 14 and has never known the world before the cordyceps infection. She starts off green, but gradually learns to survive by watching Joel, to the point that she takes care of him after he's badly injured. Joel fits in some ways, and definitely was an action survivor at one point, but 20 years of living in the ruins of society have changed him. Despite his age, he's tough and strong and is willing to kill and torture to survive and protect Ellie.
  • The protagonists of Left 4 Dead. Bill (a retired soldier) and Francis (a well-built biker) aren't as "normal" as Zoey (college student) and Louis (office worker), however.
  • The four characters of Left 4 Dead 2. Coach (an overweight high school football coach), Ellis (a mechanic), Rochelle (a young journalist), and Nick (a con man). Well, Nick isn't that normal, but he's no Action Hero.
  • The most extreme example of this trope would be from the SNES game Lester the Unlikely, which stars a nerd who Screams Like a Little Girl and can barely defend himself. He has to Save the Princess... if he can stop running away screaming from even minor enemies, like tortoises. Thankfully, he gets much more confident before the end of the game.
  • Six, from Little Nightmares is a small girl in a raincoat trapped in a giant ship called the Maw, which is filled with giant monsters. Only equipped with a lighter, Six relies on her size, wits, and surroundings to overcome her giant pursuers.
  • In Mass Effect, players can customize Commander Shepard's military background. While the other two backgrounds make Shepard famous for something badass, Sole Survivor Shepard qualifies as one of these. They are famous for being the sole survivor when a group of Thresher Maws attacked their squad. They didn't even kill the creatures in response, they merely survived. As the game shows, surviving one of these is no joke.
  • The tourist class in NetHack plays like this. In the beginning, a tourist starts with some gold, a lot of food, an expensive camera, a Hawaiian shirt, some scrolls of magic mapping...and not much else that would help them survive a dungeon full of angry monsters and deadly traps. What is more, their physical and mental stats tend to be mediocre at best, and to add insult to injury, shopkeepers will see the tourist as an easy mark and raise their prices. All that being said, if the tourist does manage to make it into the second half of the game, the combination of a jack-of-all-trades status and a powerful artifact will make the class one of the strongest for facing the final battles. Of course, that's a big if.
  • The player characters of the Outlast series, Miles Upshur, Waylon Park, and Blake Langermann, are all very relatable everymen thrown into awful situations.
  • Chell of Portal has only a set of long-fall boots and a portal gun to help her against the city-sized industrial complex run by GLaDOS, and yet by the end of the second game said AI has come to the decision it's better to just let her go than try to kill her.
  • Propagation: Paradise Hotel have you playing as a chambermaid named Emily trapped in the titular hotel during a Zombie Apocalypse. You went from scared damsel in the opening stages to becoming determined to find your missing sister, where you obtain a pistol and start kicking all kinds of ass.
  • Resident Evil occasionally dips into this trope. The most obvious examples come from the Outbreak subseries, which star perfectly average citizens of Raccoon City. Claire Redfield during the events of 2 counts, since she's merely a college student with some general self-defense training from her brother Chris at that point. Leon from the same game counts to a lesser extent, being a rookie cop with zero experience on the job, though his formal police training presumably makes him more qualified than Claire. Discussed in Resident Evil: Degeneration, where Leon comments that she is a rescuer rather than a fighter.
    • Compared to Claire, Ethan Winters has no combat training; he's just an average Joe looking for his missing wife.
    • Resident Evil: Resistance, the pack-in Asymmetric Multiplayer Gaiden Game of Resident Evil 3 (Remake), casts average folks in the role of survivors, including a medically-retired boxer, an Umbrella intern, a hacktivist, a firefighter, a park ranger, and a mechanic. Jill Valentine was later included as a survivor, although she has prior dealings with Umbrella's undead legions and is a S.T.A.R.S. officer besides.
  • The Secret Files series has this in both of its protagonists. Neither Nina nor Max are action heroes, and spend most of the game putting random tools together and trying to outwit the bad guys. The only real subversion is that Max is pretty much Made of Iron, but he gets put in situations where it usually doesn't do him a damn bit of good.
  • The main character of Shadow of the Colossus, who, despite not being particularly athletic or skilled with his equipment, takes on sixteen beasts that are hundreds if not thousands of times larger than he is (even if he is Made of Iron).
  • The various separate protagonists of Silent Hill games, except Alex from Homecoming, who is a special forces soldier. ...or is he?
  • Rare female example and highly unusual for a fighting game, but Pyrrha from Soul Calibur 5. Pyrrha's awkward stance, clumsy throws, strong aversion to killing and even wounding, and timid disposition indicate that she has little in the way of skill or experience. She clearly gets through her battles through fighting with the desperation of a cornered rat than any skill, strength, or courage. Although anyone who has seen Sophitia's main throw knows that this runs in the family.
  • The Hacker in the original System Shock, where the only thing didn't make him quite normal was the Military-Grade Neural Interface.
  • In the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot, Lara Croft begins as a terrified twenty-something archaeology grad just trying to survive after being shipwrecked. She already has some wilderness survival training in her background, but is so green she apologizes to a deer she has to kill for food and has absolutely no combat experience or training. Her first human kill is a horribly traumatizing experience that leaves her in tears, and it's only because the world she finds herself in is kill-or-die that she's able to do it again. By the end of the game, she's battered, bloody, torn up and probably suffering PTSD, but she just keeps on going.
  • Red of Transistor is another female example of this, starting the game as nothing more than a popular and well-known singer in Cloudbank and ending the game as the uncontested master of the Transistor.
  • Like the Flynns above, Jethro "Jet" Bradley from TRON 2.0 was just a game designer and got "drafted" by Ma3a to combat a nasty virus from inside Cyberspace. By the end-game, he's fighting off hordes of digitized mercenaries sent by the rival company. It's given a deconstruction in the spin-comic, though, as the fellow winds up in bad shape mentally.
  • Twelve Minutes: The husband is very much not an action hero; any attempt to physically confront the assailant will end in failure. He must use his guile and wits to outthink and outplay.
  • Nathan Drake from the Uncharted series. Although he is a treasure hunter who is quite athletic and skilled with firearms, he looks and acts very much like an average Joe, panicking more than a few times throughout his adventure. His catchphrase is practically "Oh, Crap!!". He's even more so in the sequel: when things get way too big for him, he's initially happy to walk away, but when it comes down to the wire, he jumps into the action with both feet. Of course, even when he does so, he knows he's in well over his head, and he barely makes it out alive. Lucky doesn't even begin to describe it; Sully even bows out of the adventure early because he "doesn't have [Nate's] luck."
    • In Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Nate points out they're up against professional killers. Sully says, "Well, we're professional survivors! They got nothing on us."
  • In Until Dawn, almost every character qualifies as this as they are all your average teenagers/young adults with no combat training trapped on a mountain. Sam and Mike can be responsible for the deaths of almost every Wendigo by the end of the game. Chris manages to hold off the Wendigo who killed the Stranger long enough to return to safety with an injured ankle. Emily escapes from the mines on her own while being chased by something that wants to kill her.
  • Pretty much everyone from The Walking Dead. It's a Zombie Apocalypse setting, the natural habitat of the Action Survivor. What do you expect? Special mention goes to Clementine for managing to actually kick a fair amount of ass despite only being nine years old.
  • XCOM 2: The VIPs in VIP Rescue missions may not be armed, but they're just as capable of climbing pipes and dropping off buildings as your troops, so you don't have to go out of your way and take a ground-only route to accommodate them.
  • While the Yakuza setting is relatively mundane compared to most, certain protagonists stand out for their plainness.
    • Tatsuo Shinada of Yakuza 5 is a former professional baseball player turned struggling masseus parlor reviewer who never had any dealings with the criminal underworld of the setting until the start of his story, where he's tasked with investigating the events that led to him being barred from his beloved sport. While he's still a capable fighter with an exceptional physique, his fighting style is easily the clumsiest and most awkward to use of the player characters and he's often completely out of his depth with all the danger he faces.
    • A fair number of the party members in Yakuza: Like a Dragon come from even more mundane backgrounds. Yu Nanba is a former nurse turned hobo, Saeko is a hostess and Eri is a questionably competent businesswoman. The latter two stands out since the series is not known for ass-kicking women, but they nonetheless get embroiled in a grand criminal conspiracy that leads them to take on crime syndicates, the Governor of Tokyo and even survive a fight against Kazuma Kiryu himself alongside absurdities such as tigers, bears and construction vehicles.
  • Zombie Army Trilogy features a variety of grizzled badasses, including the series' main protagonist Karl Fairburne, a stoic and no-nonsense Russian soldier, a tough Wehrmacht captain, a resourceful and sneaky French resistance fighter, and... Beth Coleman, an American painter who got caught up in the ongoing Zombie Apocalypse and turned out to be rather decent at braining the undead with a sniper rifle due to transferable skill.

    Web Animation 
  • The main cast from Red vs. Blue with the possible exception of Sarge. Sure, they're technically soldiers, but half of them shouldn't be anywhere near a battle with their lousy excuse for combat skills, and they're regularly up against individuals who eat squads of real soldiers twice their size for breakfast. Yet, they keep surviving. Mostly.

  • Boyfriend of the Dead: Alex. A fashion-obsessed zombie slayer. Has the highest body count of any character ever introduced in the series. And it's implied that she has no combat experience, she is apparently very good at using almost everything as a weapon to kill zombies with.
  • Lizzie from the Dead Winter is a pretty nice example of this. In comparison to the rest of her companions (A nurse whom also was a former competitive riflewoman, a badass gunslingin' hitman toting lots of firepower and a fat crafty plumber). She's a pretty average civilian with the only things noteworthy about her is that she was a waitress, a former soccer player in her school days and an English major. The first two help give her some pretty decent skill that prepare her body for the Zombie Apocalypse. She's armed with a mop, running on Codein and Heroic Willpower.
  • El Goonish Shive: As of the end of Sister 3, Ashley has survived encounters with an angry griffin, several immortals, and a body-snatching aberration.
  • Moloch von Zinzer from Girl Genius. A former soldier who became a mechanic because "it makes you more valuable". Got away alive and with equipment to sell once Klaus crushed his boss. Survived when their "gunboat" was blown up by Bang. "Inherited" a brain-freezing device that killed his brother only to accidentally break it. Eventually was Put on a Bus to Hell... and when the protagonist walked into the biggest Death Trap of Europe, she found him there alive and well, and only slightly crankier than before.
    Moloch: Nobody "sent me." I don't have any "secret knowledge." I just don't want to die.
    Violetta: I don't believe you! That's cheating!
  • John Egbert of Homestuck is very much this, although less so for his friends who either start out pretty badass to begin with or have a Beware the Nice Ones streak. Some of the trolls (Tavros and Gamzee in particular) also spring to mind.
    • The rarely-seen "fedorafreak" is the comic's biggest example, being a completely ordinary if hat-obsessed man who might also be the last surviving human on Earth, drawing sustenance from his own urine. Then he died on what was implied to be a quest bed — which means he'll come back to life as god-tier.
  • Mina from Hungry City survives months alone in a Zombie Apocalypse, can build clever traps to take out zombies, and she manages to persuade a vampire to protect her instead of killing her.
  • As a proven Weirdness Magnet, Bob in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! never goes looking for the madness that comes into his life, but he fares surprisingly well through it all anyway.
  • Allison in Kill Six Billion Demonsshe levels up eventually, but to start with, she's just a college girl with terrible self-esteem who half-accidentally becomes The Chosen One and is thrown from the mundane planet Earth into the supernatural city of Throne at the centre of The Multiverse.
  • Jared from Manly Guys Doing Manly Things gets hired as a security guard at Freddy Fazbear's Pizzeria. When he realizes that the animatronics are all murderous he decides to do the logical thing and smashes them to peices with a baseball bat. He then gets fired for destruction of company property.
  • Former minion Maximilian Macallister of Metacarpolis received Mook training but is neither large nor aggressive by nature and has "the sprint of a man who has faced many perils...and has run from every one."
  • Despite being a body manipulator, it's implied that Emai from Nightmare Factory hasn't had much fighting experience, although she is very capable and survives due to a mix of smarts and strengths.
  • The teller Koark in Order of Tales is a textbook example: initially a pampered son of a scholarly sect, he finds himself forced to take up the role of a legendary hero by the end of the story.
  • In PS238, this is how Tyler Marlocke starts off. Because he's a Muggle Born of Mages at a Superhero School, he doesn't have anything beyond his own wits to protect him from the various things that happen on-campus, and when you include the fact that his parents are all intent on making sure he becomes a prominent superhero whether he wants it or not, things do happen in his vicinity regularly. He eventually gets so used to helping out despite his lack of powers that he starts heading towards danger, graduating into being a Badass Normal in training.
  • Teri in Rip And Teri is an English teacher in a spy thriller.
  • Sam of Sam & Fuzzy. A cabbie who got tangled up with the affairs of the ninja mafia, he is decidedly non-actiony.
  • Sluggy Freelance:
    • Zoë has to play this role a lot since she's the Unfazed Everyman of the team. Since becoming one of the strip's Weirdness Magnets, she's had to defend herself from vampires, demons, Eldritch Abominations, zombies, brainwashed assassins, and even rabbits. All with no special skills beyond occasionally turning into a camel. She mainly gets by on luck, cleverness, and the fact that almost everyone else in the Sluggy universe is an idiot.
    • Torg, to a lesser extent, until he Took a Level in Badass. Not only does he lack the skills that he should require to have survived all the bizarre and dangerous situations he's been thrust into, he's also in the habit of acting in a humorously dumb way even when in danger.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: Reynir has had a couple occasions upon which a Plague Zombie monster got close enough to potentially infect him despite the best efforts of his The Immune watchers, and has survived both.
  • Sweet Home (2017) has the protagonist Hyun and several other survivors being pitted against Nigh Invulnerable monsters with a good Healing Factor, all while lacking proper weapons. As a result, running is usually the best hope for survival.
  • Shibisu from Tower of God. Having the lowest fighting stats of all, he must rely purely on his smarts and running away abilities (though he can fight, it's just not that amazing when everyone else is terribly powerful). He mainly survived at first because he got teamed up with Hatz and Anaak, but then proved to be smarter than, well, The Smart Guy, Khun. He also does an embarrassingly good job of taking care of his companions.
    • Unlike other Action Survivors, he was however intentionally climbing the Tower.
  • Most of the eponymous salvage workers in The Zombie Hunters, particularly Jenny, as it comes with the territory of living through a Zombie Apocalypse.

    Web Original 
  • The titular character of Chapel counts because she's a drug dealer who rarely wins, but usually, of course, survives. So far.
  • The entire cast of The City of Never consists of regular, average human beings living in a small town and trying to survive as they're tormented by horrible, unorthodox abominations.
  • The Pelvanida scientists from the first Darwin's Soldiers RP proved themselves to be this trope just by surviving. After that, they turned more into action heroes.
  • While much of Dino Attack RPG's cast consists of soldiers and other Action Heroes, many characters are just civilians who were suddenly thrust into the action. Examples include characters such as David "Hotwire" O'Neal or Minerva Fabello.
  • Legatum: A majority of the heroes or side characters are just ordinary people with little or no skills in using weapons.
    • None of the protagonists from Smirvlak's Stone are fighters, and they spend most of their time relying on guerilla tactics or simply running away from danger as opposed to facing it. Even Stilyk, who is the most physically fit and the only one with a weapon, confesses that the only reason why he's not dead yet is that he's a Combat Pragmatist.
    • Help Not Wanted has the four main goblins, none of whom are skilled in using weapons. They usually rely on creating makeshift weapons on the fly or simply running and hiding from danger instead of confronting it.
  • The lead character in Quick Draw is a Harvard-educated sheriff in the Wild West who can shoot well but is usually overmatched and doesn't fight well. He willingly chose to be a sheriff but he probably didn't understand some of the finer points of the job. Much of the comedy stems from how he's not entirely a conventional action hero.
  • Reasoning has Beverly Nokken, a young reporter who has absolutely no skills in defending herself short of using a standard handgun. But she's smart enough to know when to run, hide, or fight, and thus manages to elude or temporarily subdue the monsters chasing after her.
  • Ruby and Tom of Ruby Quest. Although Tom has his strength and they handle their Improvised Weapons pretty well, they're mostly just trying to get by.
  • The protagonists of Sevenshot Kid fit this thanks to surviving multiple encounters with the supernatural.
  • Due to most of the characters being Ordinary High School Students, many, many characters in Survival of the Fittest qualify, that it's practically impossible to name them all. Being stuck on a Deserted Island and forced to kill your classmates does that to you.
  • Worm has Sierra, Charlotte, and Forrest, a trio of normal civilians who, through various circumstances, end up becoming lieutenants to Skitter after she takes charge of the boardwalk district in Brockton Bay. As a group, their net sum of superpowers, fighting skills, and any formal training at all is exactly zero, but they still manage to keep the crime-ridden boardwalk going even after Skitter leaves, and even manage to survive The End of the World as We Know It.

    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Animated Series: Charlie Collins from "Joker's Favor" starts out as an overweight, balding Everyman with a mundane life, and ends up becoming a lunatic who beats up and intimidates the Joker. Except he isn't a lunatic, it was all an act. The Joker is left humiliated and defeated by Charlie's scheme and Batman himself was just a spectator in the whole thing.
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog. Throughout the series, he has faced horrors that would make most people quake with fear. But he always gathers his wits and saves the day while screaming all the way.
  • Tucker of Danny Phantom. He occasionally helps with his knowledge of technology, but he isn't as physically fit as Sam nor has superpowers like Danny, making him the most normal of the Power Trio. Having the latter as his best friend, it's natural he gets to go on grand adventures against dangerous ghosts. It's a bloody miracle he survived all those battles.
  • C-3PO in Droids: The Adventures of R2-D2 and C-3PO blatantly dislikes danger, but he often resorts to duplicity to get things done and always emerges the better for it, contrasting somewhat with the more passive and bumbling character in the films. R2-D2, however, is much more of a dynamic Inspector Gadget-type.
  • Fry is occasionally one of these in Futurama, usually due to his lack of a delta brainwave as a result of becoming his own grandfather.
  • Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts: Benson tends to prefer running or trickery to outright fighting. Though as a surface dweller he's tougher than he looks.
  • Max, AKA "The Mighty One," chosen by destiny to destroy the evil Skullmaster, fits the trope to a T. Constantly thrust into the most unusual circumstances he repeatedly saves the world with only his wits and a magic cap.
  • Frida is constantly getting caught in the crosswires of any fight her best friend Manny/ El Tigre gets into. She does have her heroic moments, though, and helps him win in whatever he attempts, good or evil.

    Real Life 
  • George VI. While it seems odd making this role for a King, he didn't like being King and very much felt The Chains of Commanding but he did his duty and so helped inspire numerous British who did not want to have a "Finest hour" but somehow did so. He also fits the Trope by virtue of being a Spare to the Throne and thus lacking the training a king normally would receive before taking on the job.
  • One story on Cracked's The 5 Most Badass Ways People Escaped from Slavery details how Eliza Harris carried several children across a river while jumping from one moving ice platform to another as if it were a Mario game. This is the true story Uncle Tom's Cabin was based on.
  • Jean Borotra was a French tennis player during World War II until he was arrested by the Nazis and detained in Castle Itter in Austria alongside several political prisoners. In 1945, just five days after Hitler committed suicide, the American forces arrived alongside Wehrmacht defectors to relieve the castle and defend it from a Waffen-SS battalion trying to storm it and kill everyone. Not only did Borotra join the soldiers in the castle's defense, but he volunteered to vault the walls, slipping by the attackers and running to a nearby town to summon reinforcements before the defenders ran out of ammo. This gallant effort ended up helping save the battle.
  • The September 11 attacks turned a lot of white-collar office workers and emergency responders into action survivors.