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"Sorry I burned down your village. Here's some gold."
— Flavor text for the Magic: The Gathering card Reparations

An insincere Atoner attempts by his good deeds to stifle any guilt he feels, or buy off his victims so they will not seek Revenge when they learn he has wronged them. He often resorts to material assistance, because personal help prods his conscience and makes him feel worse.

Generally, he regards his evil deeds as not so much offset by his good deeds as obliterated by them — at least, he professes to believe it, though some hints may seep through that he knows that it was wrong. On the other hand, may slide into It's All About Me; the problem is not what he did, but what he feels about it, or the chance of Revenge.

Often his evil deeds are discovered long after the fact, to cast a respective light on his good deeds.

Phony Psychic uses this as a common ploy.

May be a form of Screw the Rules, I Have Money!, but the character does not have to be richer than others. Compare Every Man Has His Price for "bribery" in a more generic sense. See Must Make Amends or Apology Gift for when the efforts are sincere. See also "Begone" Bribe.


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    Anime and Manga 

    Fan Works 
  • One of the funnier scenes in A Scotsman in Egypt is watching Scotland's best diplomat enter the Vatican (having accidentally caused the death of the previous two a few days apart, with the Pope savoring the groveling he's about to see) and plonk down a huge-ass sack of florins on the Pope's desk, and declare "Your Holiness. You have no problem with the Scottish Empire."

  • In Batman Returns, Max Shreck starts pleading for his life with Catwoman, but she's quite determined to kill him.
  • Changing Lanes: One rich lawyer guy gets into an accident with a not-rich not-lawyer guy and attempts to buy him off. Not-rich guy refuses, wanting to do the right thing of filing an insurance claim, but lawyer guy is in a hurry and blows him off. This seemingly random event culminates in an all-out war that almost kills both of them. In addition, the lawyer finds out that his firm was and is stealing from a senile dead man, and that they are attempting to assuage their guilt by doing good works, claiming that they "do more harm than good". The lawyer guy doesn't like that.
  • In No Name on the Bullet, mine owners Earl Stricker and Thad Pierce assume that their partner, Ben Chaffee, has hired Gant to kill them to take sole ownership of the mine. When they find Gant in the saloon and propose a counter-offer; offering him double whatever he is being paid to leave town. However, Gant observes that no innocent man would be afraid, and turns them away.
  • In The Princess Bride, Inigo Montoya tells Rugen to offer him money, power, anything he wants; Rugen agrees to them all, and Inigo tells him he wants his father back and kills him.
  • Played for humor at the end of Small Soldiers. The CEO of the company that made the self-aware, murderous toys just shows up and hands out checks that convince everyone to happily keep quiet about the incident. When one family states that even he doesn't have enough money to cover this up, they take a look at the check they were handed and say "Maybe you do".
  • In Thank You for Smoking, Nick is sent to deliver a briefcase of cash to a former cigarette spokesman who now has terminal lung cancer and has begun speaking against his former employers. Nick explains that the money is a "gift" and has no conditional terms, so he is not legally required to stay silent if he accepts it, but Nick points out that ethically he can't denounce them publicly and keep any of the money. The only choices are to give it all away and denounce them, or take it and keep quiet. He later tells his son that only a crazy person would turn down that much money, so as soon as he saw that the guy was sane, he had nothing to worry about.
  • Averted at the end of The Wild Geese. Corrupt Corporate Executive Sir Edward Matheson abandons the mercenaries in hostile territory, but they are able to escape though not without heavy casualties. Their leader turns up in Matheson's home with a gun and demands he hand over the agreed payment of $500,000. Matheson does so, then offers more money if his life is spared. It's not.
    Faulkner: See, I don't mind taking money from you. But having you offer me money for your life with all those bodies littering Africa is actually... degrading. So I turn down your arrangement.
    Matherson: I see...well... [nervous laugh] I suppose you'd better kill me!
    Faulkner: You're a remarkable man too, Sir Edward. So I suppose I better had.
    Matherson: Now just wait a minute, I—[Killed Mid-Sentence]

  • In Alex Bledsoe's Burn Me Deadly, when surrounded by Black River Hill people and one recognizes him as having punched him, Eddie offers money. Doesn't work, not surprising Eddie.
  • In The Dresden Files, the magical beings frequently pay weregild. Mentioned many times in passing.
    • At the end of White Night, Harry demands it from Lara for the dead women.
    • At the end of Turn Coat, when the money put in a bank account under Morgan's name is traced back to the White Court, Lara sends the White Council the heads of the culprits, and tells them they can keep the money. Harry comments on how the money assuages everything. Additionally, unlike most examples, this is actually codified in law, with the amount of the bribe dependent on what happened and to who. Once someone is paid an appropriate weregild, they no longer have the standing to enact retribution, and would be considered in the wrong should they attempt to exact revenge.
    • In Skin Game, HARRY pays a weregild, as he caused the death of a security guard. (He tried to prevent it, but failed.) The gild is paid to Marcone, in a bag full of diamonds.
    • Subverted in Peace Talks: Harry suggests a weregild as a resolution for a rather sticky situation involving a killing, only to be told, in the tone normally used to explain things to particularly stupid children, that a weregild is what you trot out when both sides want to avoid a blood feud but neither side can afford to lose face. This time, the other side doesn't care about losing face, is all but baying for blood, and their side has no leverage to obligate or compel the other side to accept a weregild.
  • In the Farsala Trilogy, an arrogant deghan scars Kavi's hand so badly that he can no longer practice his trade. About a year later, he returns and pays Kavi "for his trouble." It doesn't help.
  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel First & Only, Gaunt learns, in the end, that his "Uncle Dercius", who had helped him so much as an orphan, was responsible for his father's death.
  • The In Death series: Haunted in Death reveals that Hopkins bought off the police investigating his wife or lover's death. Eve Dallas makes it clear in that story that no one buys her off. Seduction in Death and Kindred in Death had the people responsible for murder try to buy off Eve. She makes them wish they didn't try that.
  • In Michael Flynn's The January Dancer, after a civil war, the losing side accepts werguild.
  • In Rick Cook's Limbo System, Captain Jenkins is told that if he exchanges Dr. Tukiuji for the captive humans, a weregild could be paid to his lineage.
  • In Missing Magic, the main character's uncle/cousin dotes on him and even pays for the main character to go to a fancy magic school, despite the fact that he has no magic. It's later revealed that the uncle/cousin was the one responsible for removing the main character's magic by using him as a guinea pig for a new spell when he was just a toddler.
  • In Robert E. Howard's "The Scarlet Citadel"
    • Conan the Barbarian is offered compensation for the loss of his kingdom.
      "Compensation!" It was a gust of deep laughter from Conan's mighty chest. "The price of infamy and treachery! I am a barbarian, so I shall sell my kingdom and its people for life and your filthy gold?"
    • Later, a man comes with the keys and asks Conan what he would pay for him. Then he revealed that Conan had killed his brother and asks his price again. Then he says the price is Conan's head.
  • The main characters try this in The Secret History, to prevent Bunny from telling the police about their accidental murder. It works for a while, but he starts talking regardless, telling Richard (who knew anyway) with the implication that he would tell others. The other four plus Richard kill him almost immediately.
  • The Silmarillion: After the defeat of Morgoth, his lieutenant Sauron begs clemency from the emissary of the Valar and offers his services in fixing the damage done by his master. The narration states that he was not entirely insincere in such offers (even if only driven by fear), and certain other writings imply that Sauron ultimately contrived his decision to remain in Middle-Earth against the instructions to return to Valinor for judgment as an opportunity to do good works (even if jealousy of the Elves and Númenórëans helped his true nature reassert itself).
  • In Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, in the beginning, a rich man's carriage hits and kills a small child. The man in the carriage tosses a coin at the father, who just stares at it.
  • In The Truth we have Mr. Pin, though he doesn't so much try to pay off the victims of his crimes, but tries to pay off Death himself. With a Potato. Further Details 
  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Ultramarines novel The Killing Ground, several characters attempt, through good works, to atone for their conniving at a massacre. Some even admit to having done wrong before they are killed.
  • In Madeleine L'Engle's The Young Unicorns, they learn at the end that the doctor who had done so much to help Emily after she had been blinded — had been the person to blind her. (Albeit accidentally.)

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel: Throughout the episode "Disharmony," Angel, having returned to Angel Investigations after an extended Knight Templar, spends most of the episode trying to get on Cordelia's good side through other means. By the end, he's able to win back her friendship by simply buying her an entirely new wardrobe as an Apology Gift; ironically, this is after Wesley told him he couldn't just buy back Cordelia's affection. Of course, Cordelia herself admits that the primary reason she was so upset with Angel is that he sold all her old clothes:
    Cordy: And you know, you didn't just betray me, Angel. You didn't just hurt me. You gave away my clothes.
    Angel: To the needy.
    Cordy: I am the needy!
  • On Boardwalk Empire this is Nucky Thompson's standard way of trying to make up for the mistakes he made or bad blood he caused. In season 4 he ends a Mob War with Joe Masseria by giving him a Briefcase Full of Money to make amends for the killing of dozens of Masseria's men during a supposed truce. While Masseria took the money and left on supposedly good terms, later his lieutenant Lucky Luciano reveals that on the whole ride back to New York from Atlantic City, all Masseria would talk about was how he was still going to take revenge on Nucky. This supports a general theme in the show that Nucky's attempts to buy people off seldom actually solve any problems, especially in his personal relationships.
  • In The Boys (2019), after Hughie's girlfriend is accidentally killed by A-Train (a member of The Seven) when he smashed into her at Super-Speed, he reluctantly agrees to have a talk with some lawyers of the Vought Corporation, the company that funds The Seven, about what they claim was a tragic accident. Billy Butcher, who's on a mission to take down The Seven, tracks Hughie down and tells him that in reality, The Seven and all other superheroes actually kill a lot more people than anyone knows about because the Vought Corporation is very good at covering up all the horrible acts that superheroes commit but will allow the occasional misdeed to be made public, and happily compensate the victims or their loved ones as a way to keep up appearances.
  • The second pilot of Columbo involves this as its resolution, with a girl correctly accusing her stepmother of the murder of her father and blackmailing her into paying for her silence. Subverted and Deconstructed when the stepmother agrees and shows up at the airport with the money only to find Columbo himself waiting for her, who points out that her Lack of Empathy made her fail to consider the obvious— most loving daughters would never accept a payout after you killed their father, and the stepmother just implicated herself in the murder simply by agreeing to it and showing up with the cash, rather than realising both the daughter and Columbo were working together all along.
  • In Community episode Basic Genealogy, Pierce's solution to getting a family involves mass e-mails to his former step-children and writing checks.
  • Daredevil (2015): Wilson Fisk's go-to response when it comes to dealing with problems. Sometimes it works. Sometimes not.
    • The first season opens with Karen Page exposing a numbers racket that Fisk had been running at Union Allied Construction, after escaping an attempt to frame her for murder and two attempts on her life. With the information exposed, Fisk decides that all they need to do with Karen is bribe her into silence - the equivalent of six months pay at her former job. The payoff fails, instead motivating Karen to do her own digging to expose those who wronged her.
    • The third season sees Fisk throwing everything but the kitchen sink at an elderly Polish immigrant trying to buy back "Rabbit in a Snowstorm" from her, but she refuses to budge no matter how many incentives or monetary offers Fisk makes, as the painting belonged to her parents and was taken from them by Nazis during the invasion of Poland.
  • Dead Man's Gun: In "Death Warrant" Pike twice offers money to other bounty hunters who've come to kill him if they'll give up on it. Griff and Brody plan to take his money and kill him anyway (which ends badly for them), while Joe Rule agrees to this deal (albeit partially because Pike is holding him at gunpoint, and is only holding back from killing him because it would cause a legitimate bounty to be placed on his head if he did shoot the unarmed Rule).
  • Game of Thrones:
  • Grace and Frankie: In "The Horrible Family", the Hansons realize they fired their old housekeeper unfairly, briefly agonize over how to make amends, and settle for "a big fat check".
    Robert: What's the amount that says "we're not asking for redemption, but we're open to receiving it"?
  • A last-season episode of Highlander played with this. Immortal Willie Kingsley would allow himself to be hit by a car (usually a very expensive model with a rich person driving). His mortal wife, Molly, would then come running in playing the grieving widow, the expectation being that the car owner would buy her off for a large sum of money.
  • Major Crimes: The finale reveals that Gwendolyn, the mother of recurring Serial Killer Phillip Stroh, started out doing this to people affected by his evil tendencies, then eventually evolved to outright bribing witnesses to let Phillip get away with murder.
    • When Phillip threw Hollywood Acid at his sixth-grade teacher, Gwendolyn paid the teacher's medical bills and gave him a lot of money as an apology, leaving him disinclined to press charges.
    • When Elizabeth Wellington, the sister of Phillip's first murder victim Mary (whose body was hidden under a construction site), kept searching for her sister, Gwendolyn paid her college tuition on the condition that Elizabeth give up her supposedly unhealthy fixation. There may have been some genuine consideration behind that act, but mainly she wanted to divert Elizabeth's investigation. She also paid for Elizabeth and her kids to go on European vacations over the years to keep diverting their attention from Mary.
  • M*A*S*H had an early episode where the US Army shelled a South Korean village. They plan to rebuild the village just as good if not better, but will not publicly admit that they are at fault. The episode centers around Hawkeye and Trapper trying to get the Army to accept responsibility.
  • Medici: People think Cosimo is this after Reynaldo dies but it's unclear if he was involved. For added irony, Cosimo is wracked with guilt over it, and various things he definitely did do.
  • At one point in My Name Is Earl, Earl tries to teach someone else to do their own list. They end up just sending fruit baskets to everyone.
  • Dan Scott in One Tree Hill following his stint in prison for the murder of his brother Keith, up until his Heel Realization.
  • Revenge (2011): This appears to be the standard Grayson family reaction. Conrad and Victoria Grayson endow a charity to help victims of terrorist attacks in order to soothe their own guilty consciences about laundering money for terrorists, Conrad buys Victoria a car to make up for cheating on her, and Victoria gives Charlotte the same car to apologize for wishing she'd never been born.
  • Said word for word in the The West Wing episode "Lord John Marbury", where the titular character (in his debut appearance) convinces President Bartlet to avert a possible war between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir region by bribing India into withdrawing its troops, providing them with the technical specs that they need to start their own computer industry. As historical precedent, Marbury tells Bartlet that the British regularly used this strategy to keep the British Raj in line, pacifying potentially rebellious Indians by offering to make them Maharajas, complete with an annual tribute from the Crown.
  • In Xena: Warrior Princess, Autolycus the thief (played by Bruce Campbell) is about to kill the man who murdered his older brother years ago. When the man tries to buy him off by offering money, Autolycus gives him a Hope Spot by asking him how much he's willing to offer. When the man responds "All I've got!", Autolycus says that's not enough and prepares to kill him. Xena stops Autolycus from crossing the line between thief and killer by asking him if this is really what his brother would have wanted.

  • One story of Norse Mythology tells of Odin, Loki, and Thor visiting Midgard. Loki threw a rock that killed an otter, boasting he'd killed both the otter and the fish it had caught with one throw. Unfortunately for him, that otter turned out to be a shapeshifted Otr, son of the dwarf king Hreidmar. Hreidmar demanded enough gold to fill the otter's skin and cover it completely as compensation for his son's death; Loki decided to pay it off by stealing the gold of the dwarf Andvari. Andvari was willing to part with his gold, but on his way out, Loki noticed the ring Andvari was wearing and demanded that as well, over Andvari's desperate protests. Once Loki had taken the ring, Andvari cursed it so that anyone who possessed it other than him would suffer death and destruction; Loki didn't care, as he wasn't going to be keeping it - and indeed, it would amuse him to see Hreidmar be tormented by his wergild.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Magic: The Gathering flavor text for Reparations above was written by current Head Designer Mark Rosewater, who considered it his masterpiece. It was popular enough that in "Unglued", the first joke set, the card Clambassadors, has the flavor text, "Sorry we shelled your village - here's some gold."
  • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Tome of Corruption, the Norscans (being daemon-worshipping vikings) use a wergild similar to the cultures of northern Europe in older times. Everything runs on "an eye for an eye", and each class of person in society commands their own blood-price if they are killed, except for Thralls (who have no worth) and Seers or Vitki (who have no wergild because it is completely forbidden to do them harm - reprisals from the Gods settle all debts).

  • Cyrano de Bergerac:
    • Used by Cyrano after he refuses to apologize to the Burgundy Theater's audience for interrupting The Clorise because "The Clorise" was a bad play and all the assistants are wrong because they wanted to see it, He pays Bellerose for all the entrance fees so they can give it back to the public. He also uses it to bribe the Duenna to invoke Leave the Two Lovebirds Alone with Roxane.
    • At Act II Scene VII, De Guiche plans to buy Cyrano off with an offering of patronage from his uncle, Cardenal Richelieu. The play notes indicate that Cyrano is tempted to accept.
      De Guiche: Last night
      Your fancy pleased my uncle Richelieu.
      I'll gladly say a word to him for you.
      LE BRET: [overjoyed] Great Heavens!
      De Guiche: I imagine you have rhymed
      Five acts, or so?
      LE BRET: [in Cyrano's ear] Your play! — your 'Agrippine!'
      You'll see it staged at last!
      De Guiche: Take them to him.
      Cyrano: [beginning to be tempted and attracted] In sooth, — I would...
  • Policeman Olim in Kurt Weill's music theatre Der Silbersee (The Silver Lake) has a hell of a guilt trip from shooting store robber Severin. Olim wins the lottery, buys a castle, invites Severin to stay, and generally takes good care of him. However, things still get ugly once Severin discovers that Olim is the shooter.

    Video Games 
  • Alpha Protocol: In some endings, Leland tries. Thorton / Scarlet shoot him in the face.
    Leland: Thorton, please, I can pay you! [Boom, Headshot!]
  • In Baldur's Gate 1 and 2, you can donate money to any church and raise your reputation. So if you do something evil and your reputation suffered as a result, you can simply head to the nearest church and drop a couple thousand in individual donations of two or three hundred gold transactions and presto, you're the most heroic person anyone can imagine again.
  • Divinity: Original Sin II: Players can improve an NPC's attitude with gifts of money and items through the trading system. If they've offended the NPC badly enough, such as through attacking them or an ally, the NPC will refuse to speak at all until they're sufficiently paid off.
  • The Elder Scrolls: Some games give you the option to pay a fine rather than go to jail for some crimes.
    • Morrowind: You can even get away with murder by paying the 1000-gold fine, though once your total bounty exceeds 5000 gold, City Guards start attacking you on sight instead. However, the game also features the Morag Tong, a state-sanctioned Murder, Inc. group that executes criminals whose victims think got off too scot-free, even if they paid their fine. Tellingly, the reward for successfully executing someone is one half of the fine for murder.
    • Oblivion: The fine for murder is a fixed 1000 gold (plus the paltry 400 to 600 gold for assault). This is a game where it's common to have 10 to 20 times that amount by the late game, allowing you to murder someone in plain daylight, yield to the guards, pay off the fine and be on your merry way without spending more than a minute in jail.
    • Skyrim lowers the assault fine to 40 gold. Nords... fight a lot. Especially against the Thalmor; you will NEVER get a murder fine from the cities if you murder a Thalmor in public. Everyone hates those fascists that much. In fact, the holds that are aligned with the Stormcloak faction will help you murder them, and then try to buy YOU off by bribing you with a "Let's sweep this assault fine under the rug, and you keep butchering Thalmor" deal. If you're in good standing with the Thieves' Guild, you can bribe away murder for a tenth of the cost, though subsequent bribes cost more.
  • Similar to the wergild example below, Fallout 3's Karma Meter is designed in a way that human life is worth less than an assault rifle. So, want to kill someone without losing your good reputation? Just go down to the church in Megaton, and donate 100 caps! All is forgiven.
  • After accomplishing a mission in Hitman: Blood Money, not getting the Silent Assassin rank means shelling out some of your hard-earned reward money to pay off any witnesses that saw the hit you committed.
  • Wergild is a mechanic in King of Dragon Pass. As per the game's economics, the price is in cows: five for a commoner, ten for a carl, twenty for a noble or thane. One event has the Ducks demand wergild in silver, because they live in the marshes and as such have no use for cows.
  • Rebel Inc. has a Random Event if your armies are fighting Insurgents in Rural areas where the Insurgents launch ambushes from tall crops. You can burn the crops to gain a combat advantage by removing the Insurgents' ability to hide, angering the farmers who just lost their livelihood, fight on through and hope you win the fight, or, relevant to this trope, burn the crops 'BUT compensating said farmers for the damage to their farms, which only reduce the hostility caused by slashing and burning.

    Web Comics 
  • A heroic example can be found in Errant Story. Sarine desperately needs to get a warp gate connected up to the elven network, so instead of threatening the two mages she's kidnapped, she shows them a priceless Lost Technology artifact, which they can have if they'll help.

    Web Original 
  • The Undersiders do this in Worm using their impressive funds when Skitter, the leader, is cornered by the hero Flechette and her ally Parian and pays Parian off with two hundred thousand dollars so that Parian can get surgery for her horribly mutilated friends and family. Unlike most examples, this is a sincere offer intended to help the recipient that also happened to serve the Undersiders' interests.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Critic episode "Eye on the Prize", Duke ends up firing Jay in a very humiliating fashion: Jay was naked in his office at the time (long story), and Duke took his clothes and threw them out the window. Later when Jay wins a second Pulitzer Prize, Duke decides to swallow his pride and take him back... but decides to go the half-assed route and write him a check.
    Jay: You think you can just put a price on my humiliation... [looks at the check] Wow! That's it to the penny!
    Duke: I've done this for a long time.

    Real Life 
  • The concept of wergild or "blood-price" was once common among European cultures. It involved paying the afflicted party a sum of money in accordance with the severity of the crime. This was effective in avoiding the Cycle of Revenge, which could last generations. The Lex Frisionum (Law of the Frisian tribe) shows how complex and detailed the wergild could be.
  • The Qajar Persian government "apologised" for the destruction of the Russian embassy and the death of the ambassador at the hands of an angry mob in 1829 by sending the Shah Diamond to St. Petersburg as a gift.
  • The Roman Republic enshrined this principle in its basic law, the Twelve Tables, which imposed a fixed fine for common assault, payable to the person who was assaulted. (The fine was a large one, but regrettably, the Romans never quite got around to adjusting it for inflation. By the time of Julius Caesar, repeated debasements of the currency had rendered the fine almost worthless, and rich sociopaths used to walk down the streets punching people in the face and immediately handing over the small bag of copper coins that, by law, was all the compensation their victims were entitled to.)
  • Genghis Khan implemented a system in which any families widowed or orphaned by a Mongol raid (Mongol or otherwise) would receive some of the profit from the raid.