Follow TV Tropes


Gentleman Adventurer

Go To
Now that's some prime Dual Wielding, good man.
Fort: We were adventurers!
Robo: You guys don't look like adventurers.
Fort: Adventure was more a hobby. We're writers, really.

A Undead Horse Trope which used to be common in adventure, mystery, and espionage fiction where the hero was an independently wealthy (or at least doesn't do much work for a living) "gentleman of leisure" whose adventures were initially motivated by a lust for adventure and hatred of idleness, even if the character ultimately acted for heroic/patriotic motives.

He is typically (very) British and/or from the Victorian London era, not only because the mentioned kinds of fiction proliferated in that time, but also because the Victorian ideal of adventuring usually expected the funder, the expeditionary and the scientist to be the same person, who usually had to be a well-educated and even better-to-do eccentric in order to meet the three requirements.

May double as a Bold Explorer and have some overlap with the Adventurer Archaeologist, Great White Hunter and Egomaniac Hunter. Often ends up a Cool Old Guy and insists on wearing an overblown Adventurer Outfit. His Distaff Counterpart is the Lady of Adventure, and if he marries one you can expect a Battle Couple. Is a perfect adversary for the Gentleman Thief, unless of course he is the Gentleman Thief living a double life. A similar archetype in Spy Fiction is the Tuxedo and Martini-style gentleman spy.

Some contemporary examples are deconstructions, in which the character turns out to be bigoted, cowardly, and an utter Jerkass if not a full-blown Evil Colonialist. Most others are (more-or-less-affectionate) parodies, playing up the eccentricities of the character, putting them in a world as absurd as they are, and/or having other characters comment on the foolishness of the character, though they rarely reach full Butt-Monkey status.

Bears little or no relation to the original meaning, which was what might now be called "venture capitalist" — someone "venturing" their own money on a business venture

Example subpages:

Other examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Arsène Lupin III of Lupin III, gentleman thief. He's such a discerning burglar that he once broke into someone's house only to leave a note letting the owner know that he would return once the reproductions were replaced with something worth stealing. Obviously a Shout-Out to the original Arsène Lupin, who did the exact same thing.
  • Similarly, the Kaitou Kid of Magic Kaito returns each gem he steals, as he is looking for one in particular. He's also known to be quite charming and gentlemanly, even once cracking a safe for one of his enemies to save their trapped dog at no cost.

    Comic Books 
  • Green Arrow: Green Arrow started out this way. When he then lost his fortune, he suffered an identity crisis over whether he'd been superheroing out of a legitimate desire to do good, or just for fun. He thereafter became a much more passionate and socially-conscious do-gooder.
  • Polly and the Pirates: Polly has a father who definitely falls under this category. He even makes his entrance in top hat and tails, being lowered on the ladder of a hot-air balloon.
  • Richie Rich: Richie's butler Cadbury loves to reminisce about his escapades with his former employer Sir Ruddy Blighter, "adventurist and time-waster extraordinaire."
  • The Warlord (DC): The 2009 run features Ned Hankins, one of the richest men in the world, who spends his free time on safaris, deep-sea diving trips, and breaking land speed records. He is persuaded to lead and finance a journey to the Earth's core. Once they arrive, he reveals some long-hidden fantasies about brutally conquering civilizations and setting himself up as a god now that he doesn't think anyone can stop him.

    Fan Works 
  • The Infinite Loops: One of the MLP Loops has Rainbow Dash, during a Girl Genius loop, placed into the role of Rainbow Tryggvassen, Aviatrix Adventurer!, complete with introductory musical number.
  • Skyhold Academy Yearbook: Mahanon Lavellan is a private consultant for various law enforcement agencies all over Thedas, but his actual skills range from codebreaking to breaking and entering. He's very tight-lipped about the true nature of what he does, and he delights in turning up at the eponymous school without any prior warning.

    Films — Animation 
  • Sir Lionel Frost from Missing Link.
  • Charles Muntz from Up. Who later turns out to be the main villain.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • George (Jane's boss) in 27 Dresses is actually a very well-done modern version of this character.
  • The hero of The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.
  • Back to the Future seems to suggest that "Doc" Brown is a subversion. He was rich enough to own a huge mansion in 1955, but by 1985 he's a recluse living in a garage (the mansion burned down, according to a newspaper article seen in the opening) and says he spent his entire family fortune to pay for his Time Travel experiments. By the second film, he's acquired a briefcase full of cash from different eras. Considering his objection to Marty using future knowledge to bet on sports, how he acquired this money is unexplained (a tie-in comic revealed he had been buying extremely rare comic books on the day of their publication).
    • Forgery, after purchasing originals from collector's fairs and auctions?
  • Gorilla, Interrupted: One of the four main characters is Jacob Spaulding, an effete British hunter who wears khaki.
  • James Bond is in this tradition but in a darker direction — there is a comment in either Casino Royale (2006) or From Russia with Love that he is done playing "Cowboys and Indians", which lampshades this type of character's outlook. Of course, his determination to get out of the spy business never sticks.
  • The Lost City: Abigail Fairfax is the son of a media mogul and is obsessed with lost civilizations' treasures and monuments (albeit for entirely selfish reasons). He also made an attempt to raise the Titanic in the past. His efforts have never been successful, and it's implied people see him as a joke.
  • In My Favorite Year, the still-famous but washed up actor Alan Swann was known for either playing a dashing, suave adventurer when he wasn't a straight-up Swashbuckler.
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou?: At one point, Emmet describes himself and Delmar as adventurers. They are not, however, gentlemen. Just gentle men.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who
    • The Doctor. The Third Doctor specifically evokes the trope. He doesn't worry about money, and although he worked as UNIT's scientific advisor for several years, he considered it a way to pass the time and save people instead of a job. The Eleventh Doctor implied that taking over Craig Owens' job while he lay ill was one of his first, if not the first, regular jobs in his 900 years.
    • Captain Cook of "The Greatest Show in the Galaxy" is the evil underside of this trope. He talks big and has a great personal style, but he's a Dirty Coward who's always willing to let others die in his place and exploit his werewolf companion.
  • Farhan Al-Asmari in the Elementary episode "Dead Man's Tale." Al-Asmari is a wealthy Saudi prince note  who dives for treasure due to Rich Boredom. Rather than splitting up and selling the artifacts he finds, Al-Asmari keeps them in his personal museum, while happily granting access to academics and researchers. When the previous possessor of the map to his latest discovery is found dead, Al-Asmari is honest and helpful to the investigating detectives.
  • Higgins from Magnum, P.I., in his younger days. In fact, he seemed to fit an extraordinary amount of adventuring into a comparatively short time.... In point of fact his stories when compared to each other sometimes give the impression that he was on opposite sides of the world at the same time. Despite the slight implausibility of this, Higgins is very much a Retired Badass.
  • Dixon Bainbridge of The Mighty Boosh.
  • Our Miss Brooks: Safari O'Toole, in the episode of the same name. He is Mrs. Davis' faithful pen pal, and is noted for his travels through the wilds of Darkest Africa. He's also a fake.
  • Sir Malcolm Murray from Penny Dreadful is a Victorian aristocrat and hardened explorer of ventures into Africa. Also a Deconstructed Character Archetype, since it's made evident that his "adventures" basically consisted of raping and slaughtering his way across Africa in the name of colonialism, wealth and glory.
  • The TV series of The Saint and The Persuaders! (both starring Roger Moore).
  • Lord John Roxton from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World.
  • Mr. Fuddle of Turkey Television was one of these in the same sense as Commander McBragg below.


  • Dick Barton, Special Agent would also qualify as an uppercrust gentleman adventurer.
  • The BBC's gentleman-novelist-turned-detective Paul Temple was probably the last gasp of this character in the 1950's as a contemporary icon.
  • Black Jack Justice episode 62 sees Justice & Dixon Investigations hired by one of these, where Jack is almost but not quite Genre Savvy enough:
    Simon: Good day. I am Lord Simon Purseworthy.
    Jack: ... the famous explorer?
    Simon: The same!
    Jack: Really? Because I was kinda kidding.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Being a game set in the style of pulp serials, White Wolf's Adventure! allows you to play as this as a type of Heroic build.
  • In Rocket Age many of the characters you meet fall neatly into this category, being the ones with the disposable income to afford travelling across the solar system. Some even walk around totting sword canes, or become traditional big game hunters.
  • In the Beyond the Mountains of Madness campaign in Call of Cthulhu, James Starkweather is a former one of these, having retired after his last adventures turned out quite badly. His agreeing to co-lead the expedition to the Antarctic that the players join is his final attempt to rebuild his reputation and fortunes.

    Video Games 
  • North Vandernot, Major Gunn and Edmund Dashalot in BeTrapped!.
  • Borderlands 2 has Sir Hammerlock, who claims to be exploring the planet to add entries to his ever-expanding almanac of Pandoran flora and fauna. Pandora still manages to occasionally frustrate him to the point of Sophisticated as Hell, though, and unlike the classic example of the trope, his adventures do catch up to him from time to time: he's got the necessary Artificial Limbs to prove it. His ex-boyfriend Taggart, however, is more of a Great White Hunter who fights the local creatures with his bare fists... ~for all the good it did him against a badass stalker.
  • Speaking of Borderlands and Hammerlocks, in Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!, Lady Aurelia Hammerlock ("The Baroness") is a purchasable Player Character. Aurelia is Sir Hammerlock's sister and nemesis — where he wants to capture and preserve the animals, she's determined to hunt and kill them. She came to Pandora on safari (and to annoy her brother), and she bought her action skill outright (occasionally trilling on about how much she paid for it). She's quite the entitled rich girl, and many of her voice lines make a big deal about how wealthy she is.
    (introducing herself to Janey Springs): I own a planet. It's no big deal.
    (performing a melee strike): I'm going to slap you into a higher tax bracket!
  • In Dragon Age II, even after reclaiming their noble status and becoming the Champion of Kirkwall, Hawke actively goes out of his/her way to shun any kind of position of authority they are offered.
  • Herbert Dashwood from Fallout 3.
  • Final Fantasy VI: Setzer Gabbiani, although in reality this is all a smokescreen to cover up the fact that he is a nihilistic Death Seeker who blames himself for the death of his fiancee, and would rather catch bullets instead of ladies' handkerchiefs until he meets the party.
  • Final Fantasy XIV: has a sidequest chain concerning Hildibrand Manderville, Gentleman Investigator.
  • The main character of Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure, pictured above, is a Quintessential British Gentleman example.
  • In Koudelka, Edward J. Plunkett is a British adventurer from a wealthy family, capable of quoting the works of Shakespeare and Lord Byron at length. However, he's also a Pragmatic Hero and Chivalrous Pervert whose motivation for seeking adventure is because he desires to find some kind of purpose in life.
  • Invoked in Mount & Blade, where the companion Rolf calls himself this in defence against accusations of being a common bandit. It's largely up to the player to determine whether or not his claims are legitimate.
  • Modern example in On the Rainslick Precipice of Darkness: Tycho and Gabe. Although they certainly run a detective agency (Startling Developments!), they certainly don't seem to have too many clients. Indeed, the entire plot of episode one begins with them following a very large robot out of curiosity.
  • The recurring Gentleman trainer class from the Pokémon games. They have a tendency to use Pokémon based on loyal pets, such as Growlithe.
  • Professor Layton: Hershel Layton spends his first game solving an inheritance issue (and lots and lots of puzzles) without any thought for reward or concern for expense. He certainly qualifies as a gentleman, although whether he's an adventurer depends on how dangerous you think matchstick puzzles are. Extremely, as it turns out. Aside from puzzles, he is a skilled fencer, and regularly makes his own way out of dangerous situations, such as using what's lying around to create a homemade glider and a machine gun.
  • The boxer Dudley has become this in the Street Fighter series, as a contrast to the thuggish M.Bison (Japan)/Balrog (North America).
  • In Super Mario Odyssey, the Bonneters are an entire race of these, being fancy hat spirits with British characterization whose only houses are mobile airships that are later seen flying around in the skies in various areas of the game. Mario and one Bonneter, Cappy, repair a grander airship to travel in, and it's clear that Cappy relishes the journey. You can even collect souvenirs from each area, and when Mario sits down inside the ship, Cappy will float around admiring the trinkets with pride.
  • Tomb Raider: Lady Lara Croft, Countess of Abbingdon

  • Girl Genius: Othar Tryggvassen, Gentleman Adventurer! On the flip side, he's also a Well-Intentioned Extremist Anti-Villain who intends to deal with the whole "sparks issue" in a rather pointed and non-discriminatory fashion. For those not familiar with the series, that means himself included. Himself last. Othar's twitter reveals that he's more than willing to make an exception to "himself last" in situations involving cloning, time travel or alternate universes. He's out to get the most dangerous sparks first, after all, and he's the most dangerous spark he knows.
  • Homestuck: Jade's grandfather is a parody of this trope; he's stated to have been a very active globetrotting gentleman explorer-big game hunter-archeologist extraordinaire back when he was alive, dressed in the stereotypical pith helmeted outfit and carried a huge blunderbuss, and had a number of eccentric habits revolving around observing abstruse facility traditions, educating his granddaughter, and stuffing his island home with an extensive collection of exotic trophies, mummies, knights, globes, and portraits. His Alternate Universe self can be considered this trope in training.
  • Nerf This has this as a core concept.
  • Narbonic: A variant occurs with Antonio Smith, Forensic Linguist. While he tries to play it up as Film Noir, he's simply not in the right fictional universe for that. He is, however, a literary professor who regularly sets out to fight the forces of evil (which, in this comic, means our protagonists.)
  • Widdershins: Henry Barber, famous member of the Royal Society of Hunters, is the fourth son of the Baron. He decided in his youth that his life would be better spent hunting magical artifacts and supernatural oddities than enduring high society.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • AQUAMAN on Batman: The Brave and the Bold easily falls under this. Although he takes his kingly duties seriously, AQUAMAN actively looks for various adventures, and spends all his time not adventuring by boisterously recounting his various exploits to whoever happens to be standing next to him — complete with Hardy Boys-esque titles.
  • Commander McBragg from Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales. Or so he claims...
  • Touché Turtle and Dum Dum: Neither Touché nor his sidekick appear to be gainfully employed, seemingly having all the time in the world to engage in swashbuckling derring-do.
  • Naturally, Col. Horace Gentleman of The Venture Bros. ("RAF, MI5, et cetera... retired") who is, admittedly, a takeoff on Quatermain and Bond, with elements of racism and pederasty by way of William S. Burroughs.
  • The Wild Thornberrys has Sir Nigel Archibald Thornberry, who maintains a gentlemanly disposition even when interacting with vicious jungle animals. In fact, he was knighted by the Queen of England just before leaving to film his nature program, Nigel Thornberry's Wild World.
  • Scrooge McDuck from DuckTales (1987) and DuckTales (2017) is the richest duck in the world, has an insatiable thirst for adventure, and even dresses like a Victorian Era gentleman even though the shows take place in the modern world. Interestingly, he often describes his past adventures from the typical "gentleman adventurer" period of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, implying that he's well over one hundred years old.