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Guile Hero

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"My favorite three questions are, 'What do I want?', 'What do I have?', and 'How can I best use the latter to get the former?'"
Bella, Luminosity

Completing a triangle with the Action Hero and the Science Hero, the Guile Hero is a hero who operates by playing politics and manipulating the bad guys. The Guile Hero trades swords and guns (or science and technology) for charm, wit, political and/or financial acumen, and an in-depth knowledge of human nature. The Chain of Deals, along with the Social Engineering and Gambit Index tropes are all at the Guile Hero's fingertips. Often, a Guile Hero will manipulate the other good guys and a whole bunch of innocent bystanders as part of his scheme to bring down the Big Bad, though he'll take care to ensure the other characters aren't truly harmed in the process (and if he fails, he'll be very sorry). The Guile Hero is likely to be a politician or a businessman, and engage in Battles of Wits. If he has superpowers, then he's likely to think that Heart Is an Awesome Power.


The Guile Hero could be a good analog to the Manipulative Bastard (though there can be occasional overlap if they are willing to manipulate their friends as well as their enemies): the Guile Hero is unambiguously a good guy with the same goals as any Action Hero or Science Hero. Though some other heroes may be unhappy with being manipulated by the Guile Hero, it is made clear to the reader that this character both has a heroic goal and is not (usually) Jumping Off the Slippery Slope into becoming a Well-Intentioned Extremist. When a Guile Hero suffers an Epic Fail, it falls under the Too Clever by Half trope.

The Guile Hero combines elements of The Chessmaster, The Trickster, and the Manipulative Bastard without having to be all of these. A Guile Hero isn't necessarily The Chessmaster: the Guile Hero is simply a hero who uses wit, charm, and skill to mislead and set up the bad guys, whereas The Chessmaster is often devoted to grander schemes and more likely to use Chess Motifs. A Manipulative Bastard tends to be more personal and controlling in his manipulations. A Guile Hero need not be a master manipulator; "guile" can mean "shrewdness" instead of "deceit". As for The Trickster, a Guile Hero is just as likely to be The Stoic or a "Stop Having Fun" Guy as the fun-loving and mischevious trickster. The Chain of Deals is just as valid a tool for these characters as The Plan, and a Guile Hero may very well be a grown-up High-School Hustler.


In The Team, the Guile Hero is most likely to be The Face of the troupe and/or The Smart Guy, though a particularly bright Leader or Lancer can also fit in. If The Chick uses her emotional influence to the extreme and combines it with quick wits and words, she can also grow into one. The Guile Hero is also frequently a Sixth Ranger, and if a Sixth Ranger is also a Guile Hero, then he tends to be Sixth Ranger Traitor.

Compare the Young Conqueror, which is a young example of this trope taken Up to Eleven with a side of Take Over the World ambition as well. May overlap with Good Is Not Dumb. Compare Silk Hiding Steel when a Proper Lady feels like plotting. Very, very rarely will this overlap with Small Steps Hero, due to the latter being unwilling to sacrifice innocent parties—but manipulating the villains is just fine. The Evil Counterpart of the Guile Hero is the Magnificent Bastard.

In some rare cases, the Guile Hero may be a character who is more powerful than anyone else (either through magic or science and technology) and could easily solve everything himself. But doing so may violate his principles.

Not under any circumstances to be confused with a certain Sonic Boom-tossing airman whose theme song goes with everything.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ah! My Goddess: Keiichi's not endowed with magical powers or insane physical strength; he's just DAMN clever, and he is NOT afraid to prove it to defend the people or goddesses he loves.
    • Example #1: When fighting an opponent who sees sound and can knock you out, what do you do? (1.)Have Belldandy put up a barrier while you think (2.)Drop the barrier and have Belldandy split to make the barrier better, and act as a distraction for #3. (3.)Have the magical vacu– Errr. "broomstick" that breaks the sound barrier attack the demon. She can only see the afterimage of it, so by the time she's seen the broom, it's moved on to another spot. She was basically blind and couldn't fight it and, unlike the goddesses, that broom aimed to kill with each shot.
    • Example #2, In Hell, they have to fight a demon who can PUNCH OUT LIGHTNING in order to advance to the next room. Keiichi's solution? Have Urd make him a super-speed pill so he can trick said demon into punching the door out of existence for them by goading her into attacking him while he stands in front of the door; then, when the pill takes effect, BOOK IT out of the way. The Demon later asks him what he would've done if the door didn't break, and he calmly replies that "If the door didn't break, it would've broken your fist, so either way, we'd have won". Needless to say, she's impressed with him, even admitting he bested her like a good sport instead of making snarky remarks like the last demon he outwitted.

  • Rock in Black Lagoon starts out as a Non-Action Guy Salary Man but he has plenty of cunning.
  • Bleach: Kisuke Urahara is a Power Trio all by himself. He manipulates both the villains and the protagonists to ensure the protagonists can defeat the villains, telling the protagonists only what he feels they need to know and sometimes only just enough to get them into trouble. He's a firm believer in the school of hard knocks, believing the best martial training is real battle experience. However, he's also a former shinigami captain, and therefore when he has to fight, he willingly becomes a full-blown Action Hero. Most of his machinations, aid, and fighting tactics occur in the form of scientific knowledge and invention, as he's actually primarily a Science Hero. There's a reason why he's a Living Legend in-universe.
  • Bloody Monday: Falcon often figures out what his opponents are trying to do, and regularly comes up with counter-plans to manipulate them to his advantage. The success rate, on the other hand, is iffy at best because his opponents are Magnificent Bastards in their own right.
  • Homeron in the Blue Dragon anime is an informant who sneaks into a target, steals information, and gets out before his mark knows he's arrived.
  • Harusumi from Bokura no Kiseki. He can kick ass when the occasion calls for it, but given that he has less in the way of combat training than most of the other characters, he tends to prefer to achieve victory through manipulation and coordination with other characters.
  • In Brave10, Yukimura is intelligent and is very good at taking in the bigger picture and using that knowledge to manipulate people into doing what he wants without ever having to fight himself.
  • Clow Reed and his reincarnation Eriol Hiiragizawa in Cardcaptor Sakura manipulate the heroine into accomplishing his master plan aid her in her quest to become the second master of the magical cards he created.
  • Byronic Hero Lelouch Lamperouge from Code Geass in the Anti-Hero interpretation of his character. He prefers to play politics to sideline his opponents most of the time. For instance, at one point after losing his most important fighter and being attacked by the two most powerful armies in that universe - the Chinese and the Brittanian - he manipulates the Eunuch Generals into announcing their evil plans to their entire country, inciting riots and cutting off their Brittanian support. This plan went very smoothly because he managed to steal it from a third opponent without that third opponent ever telling something about it, who had no choice but to support Lelouch after this fight. Using politics he sidelined one bad empire, destroyed a second one, and got the support of the third one.
  • Cutey Honey: The heroine does this in her original incarnation and '90s OVA's. While other adaptations turn her into an idiot heroine, her first manga series portrayed her as a very clever woman, Wise Beyond Their Years that used several tactics including charm, manipulation, distraction, and lies to advance her investigations and go straight to the source of the evil. Unlike the most magical girl warriors that this manga inspired, she didn't resort into ass-kicking immediately, favoring detective work, stealth, and the simple solution. But, of course, when the time for fight does come, she becomes unbeatable. And similar to the way she manipulates to achieve her goals, during fights she is never ashamed of using whatever type of dirty tricks she feels necessary.
  • Death Note:
    • L, heroic counterpart to Light, is the poster boy for Magnificent Bastards. Less heroic than other cases in that he comes across as amoral- the author admits that he is "a little bit evil"- and is interested in Light more for the challenge than administering justice.
    • Near, who is L's successor as the Heroic Chessmaster. He makes a lot of inspiring speeches (when his assistants moan about how well Kira, Mello, and the mafia seem to be doing), but some that are clearly insincere.
  • The incarnation of Taichi Yagami from the Digimon V-Tamer 01 manga survives and thrives throughout the series thanks to this trope. His penchant for strategy, faking out opponents, and making himself be underestimated are a requirement when constantly facing stronger opponents like he and his Digimon partner Zeromaru do on a regular basis. Especially in a series where most of the antagonists are strategists themselves.
  • Don't Meddle with My Daughter! has Athena Haruka, the protagonist's Action Mom and local hot goddess, who is extremely good at indy ploying and willing to use EVERY dirty trick she can come up with to win a fight. Including her VERY sexy looks.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Piccolo is very wise and strategic in battle. Manipulating the likes of Frieza, Cell, and Majin Buu in Dragon Ball Z when it seems they have the upper hand against him. He is considered The Strategist among the Z-Fighters for a reason.
    • Vegito also counts. Hell, him manipulating Super Buu and frustrating him into acting desperately was the main plan to saving his sons, friend, and the whole universe.
    • Mr. Satan manages to be one of these through sheer luck while trying to preserve his facade of being the world's strongest fighter and hero, or by exploiting his fame and celebrity status. His exploits include aiding in the battle with Cell by convincing Gohan to fight by risking his life to get Android #16's head to him, stopping Majin Buu's rampage by befriending him, and convincing the entire planet to give their energy to Goku to finish off Kid Buu once and for all, and he continues this trend in Dragon Ball GT by convincing the planet's populace to escape the impending Earth-Shattering Kaboom, and in Dragon Ball Xenoverse he teaches you the Draw Aggro technique, one of the most useful moves in the game. Even other characters acknowledge in-universe that while he's nowhere near the power of even the weakest Z-Fighter (though admittedly very powerful compared to regular humans) he definitely is a hero all the same.
  • In Dr. Stone, famed magician and mentalist Gen Asagiri is this for the Kingdom of Science, relying on his knowledge of human psychology to manipulate his opponents. During the Tournament Arc involving becoming the village's chief, he takes advantage of Magma's ignorance by stating he put a curse that'll cause his heart to explode if he moves from his spot within a minute (also knowing that Magma will subconsciously want to rest after fighting Chrome), buying Chrome enough time to use the lens in Suika's helmet to set Magma's clothes on fire.
  • The Dollars from Durarara!! as a collective whole are a decentralized version of this. This partially stems from their decentralized nature (they have no concrete organization, mostly rely on cellphones and the Internet for communications, and the only form of 'hierarchy' is that the founder is The Leader but he's usually a hand-offs kind of guy) and it's partially because the vast majority of members are rank and file civilians of all ages, so many have to help using whatever means they have at hand, even if it's not in a direct fighting capacity, which Episode 22 of the anime shows in great detail.
  • Akira from Eden of the East, as expected from a series about a bunch of people with Supernatural Phones and an obscene amount of money trying to outwit each other (except that Akira also manages to do it all with amnesia.)
  • Sociopathic Hero version: Hiruma Youichi, Deimon Devilbats quarterback in Eyeshield 21. How did he get his players? Blackmail, manipulation, or the ultimate fallback, guns. Lots of guns. What does he do with his players? Gives them all nicknames that start with "Fucking," and puts them through Training from Hell including running up Tokyo Tower and pushing a truck from Texas to Las Vegas. What does he do to his opponents? All out psychological warfare, showing his hand, taunting unmercifully and cackling madly (even through a freshly broken arm if he has to.) He keeps innumerable calculations going on in his head and strategizes on the fly, willing (and eager) to go for the insanest of insane trick plays. He's a terror, but he has the absolute loyalty of his players (even the ones he recruited at gunpoint) who are willing to push themselves to insane heights right along with him (although they would be happier if he left his guns at home).
  • In Fairy Tail, while Natsu gets random Power Ups and Erza just overpowers her opponents, Gray uses his brain to defeat his opponents and outsmarts them.
  • All of the protagonists of Fullmetal Alchemist. While they all do have their fair share of fighting skill, most battles are decided by the winners taking advantage of their opponents’ weaknesses, physical or mental. Even as early as the first two storylines in the manga, Ed first takes down a Sinister Minister and his Path of Inspiration by tricking him into an Engineered Public Confession rather than just beating him up, even though there is an action sequence as well, and then saves a coal-mining town from its corrupt, incompetent and greedy military administrator by gleefully swindling him out of the deeds and giving them to the miners, not even throwing a single punch.
  • Chief Aramaki from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is shrewd and cunning, manipulating the inter-departmental bureaucracy of the Japanese government to ensure that his people can do their jobs.
  • Serika from Harem Royale - When the Game Ends - isn't able to fight Zepfur (a demon) head-on, so she has to use her wits to make all of the girls cooperate so they can all survive.
  • Kyon from Haruhi Suzumiya eventually becomes this. He achieves some truly impressive feats on this front as well, such as blackmailing the Data Integration Thought Entity to keep it from taking Yuki away by threatening that he can convince Haruhi to use her Reality Warper powers to do all kinds of horrible things with only a single phrase.
  • Leonhardt "Leon" Aschenbach from Honoo no Alpen Rose, who manages to use his own concert to escape from Vienna alongside his childhood friend Jeudi.
  • Kurapica from Hunter × Hunter. He successfully convinces eleven of the most dangerous criminals in the world that any deviation from his directives, namely any harm done to his friends they hold hostage, will result in the immediate death of their leader Chrollo (whom Kurapica has captured.) During the course of their hostage exchange itself, he successfully de-powers Chrollo and separates him from his followers for the foreseeable future. And he ensures that if the Ryodan's negotiator reveals any personal information she learned during their negotiation, she will die, removing a significant threat his future plans as well as one of the more stable members of the Ryodan even if she doesn't uphold the deal. Keep in mind that up until this point the Ryodan has successfully curb-stomped their way through all obstacles, and Kurapica himself is only capable of restraining one of them at a time. And he managed to get ahold of Chrollo in the first place by simply turning off the lights.
  • Toru from Iris Zero lacks the eye powers of his peers. Instead, he is able to construct situations and use his friends' abilities to achieve a noble goal.
  • It's a constant debate, both in-universe and amongst the fans, whether the title character of Irresponsible Captain Tylor is The Fool, a Genius Ditz, or a Guile Hero who uses Obfuscating Stupidity in order to carry out his plans. Some fans believe that it's actually a mixture of both; that Tylor has somehow become enlightened to the extent of becoming a bodhisattva through his original simple, happy-go-lucky ways and that most, if not all, of his antics in the series are part of a plan to help the others on the Soyokaze achieve enlightenment too.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All of the protagonists. Battles in this series are more about tactics and mind-games than power levels and the heroes are very good at this. Not that any of them aren't any good just laying a good old-fashioned beatdown when the situation calls for it.
    • Joseph is probably best at this, he often sets intricate traps and backups in case his foes figure out the first one. He even manages to defeat the Big Bad of his part by firing the two of them into the air and launching his severed arm at him with a volcano (well, he didn't do it on purpose, but his Guile Hero reputation had built up so much by that point that he knew the villain would believe him if he told him he planned it).
    • Jotaro is also very noteworthy: later arcs have villains being cautious of him, claiming it's not his super-powerful Stand that makes him dangerous, but his genius intellect and cunning.
  • Meta Knight in Kirby: Right Back at Ya! leans further towards this than in the games - especially since he's definitely on Kirby's side in the anime. Nevertheless, he's so charismatic that he's very popular with the Cappies, and they even made a mini-figure of him. At the end of the series, he reveals that he had been building his Battleship Halberd in King Dedede's basement ever since he came to Dreamland to everybody can battle Nightmare from inside it during their final assault on his fortress.
  • Legend of Galactic Heroes give us Yang Wen-Li, a textbook example: he has all the skills of the Magnificent Bastard yet remains one of the nicest persons you could ever meet.
  • Sun from The Legend of Sun Knight. Having low physical endurance and strength, and sword skills that are "not very good," as well as having been trained to hide his magic talent, Sun can't openly muscle his way through most challenges. He still fights openly with spells when he doubts he'll be recognized, but his preferred tactics are to manipulate others into doing what he wants, something which is helped by the appearance he maintains as an attractive figurehead. Those who know his true nature consider his friend Judge to be the one who maintains the church from the front while saying Sun's place is to sneak around and mess with things behind the scenes.
  • Akiyama from Liar Game. In a series based around tactical mind games, Akiyama is usually the one to engage the villains in Xanatos Speed Chess and win.
    • Akiyama's partner Nao, the main heroine is this of the emotional variety. Without her, in fact, Akiyama would have long lost.
  • Arsene Lupin III, the titular character of Lupin III, wins by guile. Although he is often also the Action Hero (he carries a gun, and one of the best shots in the world) and Smart Guy (his planning and sometimes inventions are beyond current science), his behavior is always characterized by a desire to go "around". He tries to set up situations where the victim of his theft is doing most of the work for him.
  • Aeolia Scheinberg from Mobile Suit Gundam 00 was the founder of Celestial Being, the organization that the protagonists belong to. He also was a very skilled Manipulative Bastard who came up with a centuries-long plan involving the group he founded, manipulating events to suit the plan, and leaving recordings of himself to the public long after his time. In fact, Scheinberg was such a guile hero that his influence and plans were still vital to the plot... 200 years after he froze himself to try seeing how CB would do centuries later.
  • Great Detective: Among them we have Hajime Kindaichi (The Kindaichi Case Files); Shinichi Kudo/Conan Edogawa (Detective Conan/Case Closed); Kyuu Renjou, his Five-Man Band and his mentor Morihiko Dan (Detective School Q); Ryouko Yakushiji (The Case Files of Yakushiji Ryoko), etc.
    • In the case of Detective Conan, Conan is later joined by Heiji Hattori, Shiho Miyano/Sherry/Ai Haibara, Shuuichi Akai in his Subaru Okiya persona and presumably Rei Furuya aka Tooru Amuro aka Bourbon.
  • Lacus Clyne of Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED Destiny combines this with All-Loving Hero in order to set herself up as a political and ideological counterpoint to first Patrick Zala, and Murata Azrael, and later Gilbert Durandal. Playing on her own fame, and that of her martyred father Siegel Clyne, she talks people into switching sides, steals a battleship, launches a propaganda campaign that undermines both sides of the war, and ultimately gathers an army that's able to take them down and end the fighting. She also funnels her money into a private Mobile Suit factory, so that when the next war breaks out, her side has up-to-date technology.
  • Audrey Burne from Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn, a young woman who easily relies on her wit and persuasion as a means to fulfill her goals. Banagher calls her out on it in the second episode twice, first when she attempts to get him to escape with her from the Nahael Argama, and then when she is persuading Daguza to shoot her when her true identity as Princess Mineva Lao Zabi is revealed.
  • Relena Peacecraft from Gundam Wing, as the precursor to the aforementioned Gundam heroines, also exhibits this. Being an Actual Pacifist means she may not do a lot overtly, especially when her allies are all One-Man Armies, but she learns how to make exceptional use of her charisma, empathy, and speaking skills to oppose the globe-spanning military-industrial complex which has been manipulating the planet into war for generations. At one point, said complex convinces her to become their figurehead leader, and she parlays that into complete control of the organization merely by convincing its members to work for peace rather than war. All this from a 15-year-old girl whose only credentials are being a diplomat's adopted daughter and the princess of a destroyed country (which she only learns about five episodes into the series, and spends seven months mostly off-camera rebuilding and acclimating herself to the role).
  • Naruto:
    • Sasuke Uchiha showed characteristics of this type when he was still a member of the Hidden Leaf. An example was the Chuunin Exam in the Forest of Death: He noticed shadow clones with ease, mostly because he analyzed the behaviour of his teammates.
    • Shikamaru Nara of Team 10 is widely considered the greatest strategist in Konoha. His accomplishments include out-gambitting a pair of Akatsuki members (extremely dangerous S-Rank criminals, one of whom battled the First Hokage himself), beating his mentor Asuma at Shogi (a Japanese equivalent to chess), and being named the first chunin of his age group, due to his remarkable tactics in his fight against Temari.
    • Shino Aburame is also an excellent example, due to his brutally pragmatic and underhanded approach to almost anything. His first fight was over before it started due to him filling his opponent's arm tubes with bugs before the match even began.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi: Although he's more of a Magical Boy Warrior, Negi Springfield has some inklings of this too, specially with how he out-gambitted Kurt Godel.
  • When Carol Reed from Ouke no Monshou is exploring some Egyptian ruins, she's the victim of a curse and ends up thrown into Ancient Egypt. Luckily for Carol, she is a Cute Bookworm who's more or less familiar with old Egyptian culture, thus she uses said knowledge as well as her quick wits to protect herself and survive while helping out those who need her. She basically does what the aforementioned Yuri Suzuki pulled on the Hitite Empire, but decades before Yuri was born.
  • Kyouya Ohtori from Ouran High School Host Club. Considering that Tamaki Suoh is an Idiot Hero, and he's a Hypercompetent Sidekick, he has to be one of these.
  • Oz from PandoraHearts is definitely one of these. Break also occasionally acts as one. Duke Barma straddles the line between this and Manipulative Bastard, as it's still unclear as to exactly whose side he's on. Jack subverts this.
  • Green, Yellow, Gold, and Ruby from Pokémon Adventures tend to rely more on tactics and deceit during battles than actual strength.
  • Shiho Kobayakawa from Private Actress. As the titular "Private Actress", she must put up huge and perfect facades to get her work done and uses her acting skills and quick thinking to do so. It's well-seen in the first episode, where she immediately comes up with a more or less believable scenario to make an ill man believe she's his long-lost daughter so she can keep him company during his last days of life and specially towards the end when she manipulates her rival Satoka and everyone in the set of the movie they're filming so she can punish Satoka for her cruel actions.

    Comic Books 
  • As a (mostly) reformed con-artist, Jack Fortune, the protagonist of Afterlife Inc, is more than capable of talking his way out of any situation. Just as well, really, as he lacks any and all combat skills.
  • While most characters in the Asterix books tend to default to violence (hey, when all you have is a magic potion that gives you super strength…), Asterix himself switches to Guile Hero mode when punching stuff isn't the best answer - such as when there's no magic potion available (Asterix the Gaul springs to mind), or using subtlety gets the villain of the book a far more appropriate fate than mere pulverisation, such as in "Asterix La Zizanie", also known as "Asterix and the Roman Agent" or "Asterix and the Green-Eyed Monster".
  • Batman
    • Bruce Wayne, especially in group settings where his companions and adversaries have superpowers that render his gadgets and martial arts prowess less relevant. He's not called the World's Greatest Detective for nothing, and his habit of spinning victory from available resources have spawned the popular belief that he can take down any opponent with nothing more than "ample time to prepare."
    • Following in Batman's footsteps, Tim Drake (Robin III, Red Robin) adopts this facet for crime-fighting, managing on one occasion to convince a superpowered life-draining baddie he had no chance against in a fight that he was immune to his powers while horrifying him, causing him to surrender.
  • Tony Stark, Iron Man is a Science Hero, but usually has to think on his feet and use his intellect for more than just designing weaponry.
  • Doctor Strange, crossing over with Action Hero. He routinely deals with unimaginably powerful entities who could snap him like a twig in a straight fight, meaning he must look for and exploit their weaknesses, use his wits, and creatively play the situation as it develops.
  • Erstwhile has the title character of "The Farmer's Clever Daughter", who earns her happy ending by predicting what the king will do and solving a riddle he sets before her.
  • Hellblazer: John Constantine is a talented sorcerer, his power is of the mile-wide but inch-deep bent, and he can't dish out anywhere near the force that his magical peers like Zatanna and Dr. Fate can, but he doesn't need to. Between his silver tongue and his ability to manipulate and improvise, he'll make you beat yourself faster than the other two could beat you into the ground.
  • Kid Loki from Journey into Mystery, because it's all he has left. He can't fight physically. He has no magic. All he has to go on is his wits and he's got a reputation as a scheming, deceitful bastard who can't be trusted, which makes his job even more difficult. He's usually trying to trick ancient and powerful beings, some of whom are no slouches themselves when it comes to deceit. Even the soul of his evil adult self gets played by Kid Loki. Yes, he's so good he can trick himself, the God of Lies.
    • Later on, in Loki: Agent of Asgard, Loki (who is currently undergoing a case of Heel–Face Turn. It's a long story) frequently resorts to this. For example, in issue 1 their method of getting past the Avengers is to turn them on each other, then casually stroll off while they're brawling.
  • Commander Arcturus Rann of the Micronauts shifted back and forth between this and Action Hero, during the original series. His main weapon was his mystical connection to the Enigma Force. He spent an entire story arc removed from the main events where he retreated to a spiritual plane (via meditation) and spent all his time philosophically debating with Baron Karza (who had similarly removed himself from the main affairs), the Time Travellers serving as mediators. Both eventually came away with what they wanted, sort of.
  • Sin City:
    • Dwight McCarthy from the story "A Dame To Kill For". While healing from severe gunshot wounds and on the run from the cops, he had to convince the girls of Old Town to help him out. In a later story called "Family Values", he politely manipulates a crime family into ruin.
    • Wallace also manage to gain the cooperation of Sin City cops in Hell and Back while getting his friends to supply him with enough guns to take out the Big Bad.
  • Superman:
  • Wonder Woman: The Holliday Girls in the Golden Age tended to show a lot of guile and used their feminine wiles to take opponents by surprise. On one occasion they pretended to be part of a nonexistent parade to simply march their way in to a secret Nazi spy base which confused the guards and let them beat all the Axis agents senseless once they were in.
  • X-Men:
    • Charles Xavier. Aside from being a telepath, he keeps secrets even from his own team, has faked his own death as a ruse, and has employed secret operatives for when dogs need to be shot.
    • Cyclops, particularly from Astonishing X-Men onwards, completing the (most likely unintentional) trio of major team leaders with Captain America as the Action Hero and Reed Richards as Science Hero.
    • In the second volume of X-Men Legacy, Charles Xavier's son, Legion, becomes this - he has won the Superpower Lottery, but even when he cannot access his greater powers, he can work with what he has, bluff and cunning. The series, however, deconstructs this - David is unable to trust anybody and so quickly gets manipulative. He rarely thinks of the consequences of his actions, and the people he uses as pawns are not happy about it, which often gets him in trouble.
  • Black Panther is sometimes this, depending on the writer. The epitome was Christopher Priest's run where he was running schemes against multiple opponents simultaneously. While he was more than capable of fighting in person, more often than not regardless of who beat who in the physical fight, T'Challa had already won in strategic terms.
  • The Black Widow is often depicted as this in her solo adventures. As a trained espionage agent, Natasha's craftiness is her greatest weapon and she often has to outsmart her enemies as well as outfight them.
  • In his early stories, Adam Strange mostly defeated the menaces he encountered with science and trickery.
  • Fantastic Four: Invisible Woman shamed Ben Grimm into piloting the ship during the first issue. She was also told to distract many of the Silver Age male supervillains. After Psycho Man temporarily turned her into Malice she used her knowledge of Reed and Psycho Man's personalities to track him down and take revenge on him. When Dr. Doom stole the power cosmic from the Silver Surfer, she tricked him into flying into outer space when he couldn't. During the Civil War, she spied on Reed. As any real chessmaster/manipulative bastard/guile hero would tell you, the greatest achievements in theses tropes is to make certain that your opponents don't realize you are a social expert.
  • The Enchantress in Shadowpact. In their first battle, Strega easily defeats her thanks to superior power and experience. However, Enchantress knew that she was outmatched and wasn't even trying to win the fight at all. Rather, she was studying Strega's attacks to analyze her spells and figure out how to undo the barrier Strega had placed on the town.
    Enchantress: When I can't be the toughest witch in town, I settle for being the sneakiest.

    Fairy Tales and Folklore 
  • Kate Crackernuts: Kate negotiates a deal with the king, sneaks into (and escapes from) the realm of The Fair Folk three times, uses some well-placed nuts to steal artifacts she needs to break the spells on both her sister and the prince, and ultimately secures the Standard Hero Reward, with his brother marrying her now-disenchanted sister.
  • Puss in Boots: The titular cat requests a shapeshifting ogre show off his full range of abilities. When the ogre turns into a mouse, the cat swallows him and moves into the ogre's castle with his owner.

    Fan Works 
  • Jade from Akatsuki Kitten: Phoenix Corporation Overhaul. Most stories, of any kind of "characters get turned into small animals and sent to the real world" plot, have whichever teenage girl that takes them in give no thought to the consequences (like paying for veterinary visits, food, supplies, etc.) or origins (random box of animals on your doorstep, anyone?), or only give it a fleeting mention. Jade takes it with a head full of paranoia and skepticism, and even then only because she's being paid a lot and figures that she can sell the kittens for a large sum if their fur colors are natural.
  • Cenotaph features this as a central component of Taylor's personality and strategy. First: as a solo operator with a power best suited to observation and spying, she lacks most tricks to end a fight decisively. Second: a great many capes possess abilities that can level city blocks. Third: Many of her enemies don't like each other. She takes advantage of the situation.
  • Child of the Storm has the canonical examples of Harry Dresden, John Constantine, Albus Dumbledore, T'Challa, and Bruce Wayne - though the latter two are still in training, so to speak, one being a smart but somewhat brash young Prince when first introduced, and the latter being a teenager. Additionally, it has:
    • Loki, who post Heel–Face Turn is this trope, being Reformed, but Not Tamed and while he's more than capable of being an Action Hero - and usually is in public - he uses his old skills of tricks and manipulation to get things done quietly.
    • Natasha, who's a lethal fighter, but is generally considered to be among the most terrifying Avengers not for her combat prowess (which is impressive, but against god-like opponents, has its limits), but for her intelligence and manipulation skills.
    • Doctor Strange, the acknowledged chief Magnificent Bastard in a series stuffed with them, is even more this trope than this canon counterpart, using his knowledge, well-earned reputation, and mastery of the Batman Gambit. The fact that he's also a powerful Seer helps with both the knowledge and his additional mastery of turning For Want of a Nail to his advantage. As a result, until the finale of Book 1, he rarely actually uses any magic on screen, and when he does, it is - usually - nothing that any other accomplished mage couldn't do. However, he is also very capable of getting his hands dirty and demonstrating just how he got his reputation.
    • Harry Potter/Thorson, the protagonist, becomes this trope as a matter of survival - for most of the first book he's suffering a major case of The Call Put Me on Hold, combined with Everyone Wants To Kill Me, meaning that he has to rely on his wits to keep himself and those around him to stay alive, becoming excellent at thinking on his feet. The fact that he pays close attention to his uncle Loki and to Natasha (and not just for the obvious reasons in the latter case) explains a lot. However, these tendencies fade somewhat as his powers develop to Person of Mass Destruction levels, and towards the end of the first book and during the first arc of the sequel, Ghosts of the Past he learns several rather harsh lessons about the virtues of planning ahead and controlling one's emotions, rather than just charging in and making it up as you go along, becoming an adept schemer, a deft manipulator, and a talented student of Xanatos Speed Chess.
  • Jess from Children of the Atom is hopeless in a straight fight, but manages to be awesome due to deductive ability and acting diplomatically.
  • The most dangerous thing about a Host of each version of the Communication Quest they are in isn't the ever-growing list of powers they obtain as time goes on, but the fact that they have an entity that has knowledge of what had happened, what is happening, and what will happen inside side their heads, and more importantly, each Host is able to exploit and use said knowledge to make sure people and events alike very much lean into their favor.
  • Unohana might or might not be a heroine in the AU Downfall, considering her desires to reconcile Seireitei and Hueco Mundo she seems heroic. But as she seems to think that only the wholesale destruction of the Gotei will accomplish this, it would seem that she qualifies more along the lines of well-intentioned extremist. Of course, there seem to be other events and forces involved, moving behind the scenes…
  • Raonar Aeducan in Dragon Age: The Crown of Thorns qualifies as this and a Wise Prince, being the second son of the Dwarven King. He is a manipulator and schemer that constantly uses his wit to turn even the most dangerous plots against him, his family, or his friends in his favor. This becomes apparent early on, when the events of the Dwarven Noble Origin are fundamentally changed, although things still somehow manage to get more and more difficult for everyone involved as the story progresses.
  • Drawn With The Night Klein Bottle is able to get his way by learning about the various traditions and ethics among the various species in the world of Equestria, allowing him to run his company staffed with minotaurs smoothly, negotiate with dragons, and in his avoidance of the princesses.
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami features the titular heroine, who uses her knowledge of modern technology, combined with magic to create Reaper-Golem shock troops, magical power armor, and an airship fleet. All the while pissing off every Dark God in existence.
  • Evangelion 303: Gendo and Fuyutsuki –especially the latter- spend most of their time negotiating with politicians and bureaucrats in Washington. They find it very tiresome and distressing.
  • Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality: Harry James Potter-Evans-Verres. His ability to think more logically than most is both his biggest strength and weakness; there are times when one needs to act on intuition, and he has a near compulsive need to understand what he's dealing with before reacting.
  • HERZ: Misato. Being the Director of UN organization HERZ she has to deal with politicians constantly, often playing them against each other.
  • Bella in Luminosity is turned into one of these. While most of her characterization revolves around this, one quote summarizes it well:
    My brain flew into action.
    I want to live. I have the power of speech. How can I get what I want?
    And then I spoke the words.
  • My Little Castlevania: Most of the enemies that Twilight faces are too strong to fight head on, so she's forced to use her wits to compensate.
  • Once More with Feeling:
    • Played straight with Kaji, who is spying on and for three different organizations at once.
    • Subverted with Shinji. After a meeting with SEELE goes awry, Kaji warns Shinji that he must not try to outthink and outplan the Committee because he is not trained for it.
  • Severus Snape, in the Harry Potter fanfic The Peace Not Promised. Although his time travel means that he has adult duelling skills in a teenage body, he's not interested in the front lines of the war. Instead, he uses surgically applied Cherry Tapping to establish himself as a power to fear in Slytherin House, leverages that influence to demand House unity and make the older years look out for the younger ones - thus gaining a groundswell of popular support from the rising generation - and once his policies have gained traction, he declares independence from the Death Eaters, shocking many of his former associates but retaining many allies and giving many others an excuse to remain neutral. As a result, the Dark Lord's recruitment is greatly hampered compared to the original timeline.
  • Trixie in the Pony POV Series becomes one of these after her Heel–Face Turn. She uses her cunning and ability to lie flawlessly to aid the group in their goals. A great example is faking a hostage situation to distract Princess Gaia's The Dragon so the others can take her down.
    • Orangejack, one of Applejack's Alternate Universe selves, proves to be this, using her brain to help her and Applejack defeat Nightmare Mirror with a Fake Defector gambit.
    Orangejack: You and big brother dearest are Elements of Honesty, I'm still a liar.
  • The Powers of Harmony: Twilight of course, thanks to her intellect combined with the combat training she receives from her Guards.
    • Rarity as well, at least in her dealings with Eclipse after the latter possesses her.
    • Most of the Guards qualify as well, to varying degrees.
  • In Prodigal Son, Hiccup was able to leave Gothi speechless (even for her) when he openly defies her use of the valknut rune in order to get him to tell her his true identity in what essentially amounts to "if the Gods wanted you to know, then you would not have had to ask in the first place." Ironically, it actually compels her to speak to Astrid, telling her to tread lightly, comparing him to both Odin and Loki.
  • Scar Tissue:
    • Gendo Ikari is accustomed to playing powerful, influential people against each other. And in chapter 11 he proved that his skills are unmatched in that area. He was confronting a bunch of politicians planning to extradite him or execute him on the spot, and he drove them mad. He compared it with fishing with dynamite.
    • Deconstructed with Misato. She is Nerv’s Sub-commander now, and she hates it. Every day she has to deal with politicians, army officers, civil servants, and mass media, assist pointless meetings, staying late in work, oversee Tokyo-3’s rebuilding… and because she missed what was happening to her wards. She is sick of the feeling of being loaded with all troubles of the world, of being unable to relax in her own home, and of having her children physically and mentally wrecked.
  • Saito Hiraga in Soldier of Zero comes from a world where he had to use his wits to survive. He was noted by his old teachers that he'd never be more than a mediocre soldier but he was extremely skilled at improvisation and fitting in with groups of people. In his first conversation with Louise, he effortlessly trolls her into believing he's actually a foreign noble. It helps that he's a spy in his world.
  • This Bites!: Being from our world, the Self-Insert, Jeremiah Cross, is downright Made of Plasticine compared to the World of Badass that is One Piece, and is barely able to handle Mooks in a straight-up fight. He makes up for it with his knowledge of the story, his tactical thinking, his silver tongue, and his penchant for triggering Berserk Buttons.
    Cross: Nobody withstands my words.
  • While starting out as a side character in the fic Uplifted, by the sequels, Admiral Halid Zorah becomes one of these, though he remains on the sidelines. Still, he tends far more towards being a magnificent bastard.
  • The four do their damnedest to be Guile Heroes in With Strings Attached since they're Actual Pacifists with a huge amount of power who don't want to use it on anyone—at least, not lethally. In the Fourth Movement, their string of ploys to rescue one another and win back the Vasyn are things of legend.
    • Even more so in The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World, when they are determined to do everything peacefully, which means being tricky and subtle.
  • Even after taking a level in badass in Xendra, Xander still has to fight more with his wits than his brawn since even as the titular Xendra (A teenaged Xena), he's only slightly better than the average vampire fledgling. As a result, he pulls stunts like tricking a pair of zombies into fighting a trio of demons, firebombing a vampire nest during the day, and pretending to be an ancient vampire with a fetish for Cold-Blooded Torture to interrogate a minion.
  • The Reactsverse has a lot of these:
    • Weiss Reacts: Yang is a more Anti-Hero / Sitcom Archnemesis version, as her heart's in the right place but her methods are rather embarrassing. Jaune is a more straightforward version of this and Weiss grows into one throughout the volumes as she adapts to deal with Yang.
    • Lucina Reacts: Reflet and Robin, Reflet moreso. Todd to some extent, although he is more often a Sitcom Archnemesis.
    • Corrin Reacts: Corrin is a straightforward version of this as one of the very few unambiguously heroic members of the Antic Order. Flora, Felicia, and Kana all express similar traits themselves.
  • Ranma Saotome shows shades of this in The Demon's Contract after he's sent back in time to shortly after he first met the Tendos. For example, he ruins Ryoga's reputation right from the start by showing up at the time of their duel and when Ryoga doesn't show, Ranma loudly declares him a coward. When Ryoga comes back a week later, no one is willing to buy that he got lost for a week. Furthermore, Ranma immediately tells Nabiki and Akane that Ryoga has a Jusenkyo curse that turns him into a piggy and has used it to snuggle girl's chests or sleep in their beds.
  • Midoriya Izuku of Yesterday Upon The Stair, having spent his life helping ghosts to move on, which often involves talking them down from violence, has become skilled at remaining calm while manipulating people who could very easily kill him. This backfires, as it leads to his kidnapping, due to Shigaraki genuinely liking him. Doesn't stop the boy from pulling off a Batman Gambit while in captivity, managing to play the Arch-Enemy of his mentor like a complete chump.

    Films — Animation 
  • Aladdin is a roguish street rat who gets by via theft and charm and uses cunning and trickery to best most conflicts — but we never doubt he's the good guy.
  • Danny from Cats Don't Dance is a lot smarter than he appears to be for a Naïve Newcomer. He manages to first successfully not only remind all of the animals of their dreams but make them a reality as well, and then he manages to fight off a dreaded butler, and finally turns the tables on Darla by using her egotism and cheating tendencies to push himself and his friends to stardom and get Darla herself fired. All by using trickery, cleverness, and charm.
  • Hiccup from How to Train Your Dragon could be the flag bearer of this trope. The whole point of his character is that he contrasts the other, burly Vikings by his brains and lack of brawn. He demonstrates this by making a snare-throwing device to compensate his lack of physical prowess, observation skills in noting how the dragon he downs acts and slowly develops a relationship with the powerful dragon, develops an artificial tailfin for the dragon to allow him to fly once again, and trying to end the hatred his people have for dragons by finding the root cause of their raids on the island. After a large setback, he exclaims to Astrid, who is the strongest and smartest of his classmates, and who didn't even give him the time of day before:
    Hiccup: Three hundred years and I'm the first Viking who wouldn't kill a dragon.
    Astrid: ...First to ride one, though.
  • Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas uses her brain to get out of tight spots. Justified as being a rag doll doesn't lend you much strength. She uses her ability to pull herself together to escape her tower room from her creator by falling out and then reattaching her body. She manipulates her creator many times to escape by drugging him, even once when he rightfully suspects she placed something in his sou and he insists she try it first. She "accidentally" drops the spoon and takes a hidden one with slots in it from her sock to "drink" it. She trusts her gut in realizing that Jack's attempt to take over Christmas will end badly. And in the lead up to the climax, uses her separating body parts to both distract Oogie Boogie by showing some leg from a vent and her hands descend to untie Santa Claus. It was only because Oogie realized it was a trick and overpowered her did she fail.
  • Nick Wilde and Judy Hopps from Zootopia both get through problems primarily by being smart and fast-thinkers. Nick is arguably the more clever one, having grown up on the streets as a con artist, but Judy is no slouch herself (and makes up the difference with her police training).
    • In his introduction, Nick shows his commerce skills in buying one jumbo pop ice cream, which is larger than as his whole body, melting it, using his-size Popsicle sticks to create dozens of tiny Popsicles, selling them to some lemmings, reselling the now discarded red wood to a mouse construction unit. With the costs of $20-$30 from the popsicle, smaller sticks, and gas, he nets over $300 on a single day. And he does it daily.
    • During her training, Judy discovered the harsh landscapes and buildings designed for larger animals makes things like climbing a wall that is over 10 times her height impossible. However, she realizes her natural agility allows her to climb the wall by using other cadets as platforms to jump off of. Her instructor is very impressed, and by doing other similar tactics Judy graduates at the top of her class. She later blackmails Nick into helping her by noting with all that money he makes, he doesn't file any taxes on his income and records the whole conversation. Nick's partner laughs his tail off and agrees she schooled Nick good.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Bart in Blazing Saddles. Of particular note is the incident in which he escaped from an entire town of people with guns aimed at him by taking himself hostage and using himself as a human shield to get to safety. It has to be seen to be believed.
  • Bone, of Blood and Bone appears to be an action hero at first but is really using his guile so in the end it really does not matter if he wins the battles at the climax.
  • Attorney James Donovan from Bridge of Spies, who repeatedly uses his cunning and intellect to manipulate his opponents in order to achieve his idealistic goals. The centerpiece of the movie has Donovan boxing East Germany into releasing an American student — and getting nothing in return — as part of a spy exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union.
  • Shy, the protagonist of By Hook or By Crook, scams people, robs a vending machine and hotwires several cars in his quest to get rich and help out his friends.
  • John McClane from Die Hard may be considered an Action Hero at first sight, but he doubles as this. He kills one man, gains a radio, a machine gun, and a whole LOT of information about the guys he's fighting. Uses the radio to call for help, uses the machine gun and the next guy he kills to get police attention, and spoon-feeds them everything he found out.
  • Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit prefers to use his brain to get him and the others out of tight situations rather than with force or violence. Most of the film shows him using his skills with words from distracting the trolls long enough for Gandalf to get into position to his "game of riddles" with Gollum.
  • Fraizer from Inside Man. Magnificent Bastard Russel even lampshades this by saying that Fraizer is "too smart to be a cop".
  • Any character played by Groucho Marx. To give some idea, he was at least a partial influence on Sheriff Bart, mentioned above, and the main inspiration for Bugs Bunny, mentioned below. In Real Life, Groucho himself had this mindset. His method was pure speed and he made jokes so quickly that anybody who might try to stop him just couldn't keep pace.
  • João, the main protagonist in the Brazilian comedy O Auto Da Compadecida, is a scammer who makes use of his wits to just barely survive in the harsh Brazilian hinterlands.
  • Revenge (2017): For someone who initially comes across as a shallow blond cutie, Jen shows remarkable resourcefulness and quick thinking in an extremely traumatic situation she is unlikely to have any experience with.
  • Oskar Schindler in Schindler's List uses bribery and convincing lies to stuff his factories with as many Jews as possible, and thereby save their lives. None of the factories produced one shell that worked.
  • Mattie Ross in the 2010 version of True Grit. Upon first meeting her, all anybody sees is an unaccompanied 14-year-old girl in pigtails… an impression which lasts about as long as it takes for her to bludgeon them into submission with her intellect, her business acumen, and her sheer, gimlet-eyed stubbornness.
  • Hotel Rwanda: Paul Rusesebangena is definitely this. He manipulates genocidal merchants into supplying his guests, corrupt generals into beating up The Mole, bribes genicidaires into sparing his friends and family, and even saves the Hotel from destruction by phoning the owner, who in turn telephones the French who supply the bad guys with arms. Truth in Television.
  • X-Men Film Series
    • Professor X's manipulative side is hinted in X2: X-Men United and X-Men: The Last Stand, where Magneto and the Phoenix suggest that Xavier has been doing whatever he can to keep Wolverine at the school. Magneto even directly asks him this, something Charles never directly refutes, instead changing the topic.
      Professor X: I've put him on the path. Logan's mind is still fragile.
      Magneto: Is it? Or are you just afraid of losing one of your precious X-Men?
      • This is the Phoenix's observation:
        Phoenix: What, you think [the Professor's] not in your head, too? Look at you, Logan. He's tamed you.
    • X-Men: Apocalypse: Xavier's psychic powers are useless against En Sabah Nur's mental shields, so the former exercises his smarts to undermine and delay the latter's Evil Plan as much as possible. Apocalypse's New Era Speech was intended to stir planet-wide panic, but Charles mitigates this somewhat by altering the last sentence with a slightly hopeful note, and it no doubt saves some lives. Meanwhile, he stealthily embeds a telepathic message for Jean so that the X-Men know where to find him. When Apocalypse imposes a Sadistic Choice on his escaped prisoner, Professor X Takes a Third Option by diverting his foe's attention with a psychic duel, and he thus avoids having to sacrifice the world or Mystique and Quicksilver. Xavier knows that he can't win the fight on the astral plane, but what ultimately secures his victory is his emotional connection to his daughter figure Jean. He learns from his mistake in the original timeline, and he understands that the only way the Phoenix can be "tamed" is for him to love Jean for all that she is—and not fear what she's capable of by locking away a part of her mind—so that she develops the confidence to accept herself and her abilities. What Charles lacks in raw power in comparison to Apocalypse, he makes up for it with his psychological insight and exploiting The Power of Love.
  • Assassin's Creed (2016): Michael Williams has stated that Moussa would prefer to use trickery or magic to defeat his enemies than hand-to-hand combat. Indeed, in the film itself, Moussa starts the prison riot with the "pick a hand" trick and revealing smoke bombs in both so his allies can swarm the guards.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Nick Fury: he constantly lies and manipulates everyone around him, and he's good enough at it that even when they don't like working with him, they still end up helping him in the way he wants them to. In fact, if it wasn't for him, in Captain America: The Winter Soldier Hydra would have successfully eradicated S.H.I.E.L.D. and launched Project Insight. Although his tendencies to do this were deconstructed, as it showed that no one really trusted him and sometimes they outright refused to follow his plan... except that he also anticipates this and counteracts accordingly to adapt to their behavior, or at least offers a reasonable explanation. He is just that good.
    • Thor: Ragnarok: Thor losing his Mjolnir forced him to depend more on his cunning escaping Sakaar and fighting Hela, ultimately evolving into this. He even ends up outsmarting Loki, the God of Mischief himself.
  • The Shawshank Redemption: Andy Dufresne. Upon discovering the deteriorating condition of the wall of his cell, he slowly (as in over the course of twenty years) carves an escape tunnel through it. Meanwhile, he works his way into the trust of the Warden, who is under the mistaken assumption that he is the Chess Master. Twenty years later, Andy escapes from the prison, taking a new identity — that he happened to create for the purposes of laundering the Warden's embezzled money, thus making himself a millionaire — and having the Warden and sadistic guard both arrested...all without mentioning a single word of his plan to anyone...not even his best friend. Andy is like the heroic version of Keyzer Soze and gives us one of the most satisfying endings in film history.
  • The Hunger Games:
    • The Hunger Games has Katniss manipulating the emotions of the citizens of the evil empire to gain their support by pretending to be in love with Peeta. Peeta himself is even better at manipulating them and is very charming to the population.
    • In The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Peeta drives his manipulative skill up to 11 by pretending that Katniss is pregnant with his child.
    • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay has the good guys and the bad guys battling each other with very emotional political advertisement (and other things).
  • Wonder Woman (2017): While Steve is capable in combat and is an ace pilot, he is a spy first and foremost and he seems to be a clever one. He's shown to be remarkably adept at mingling among Germans and getting the enemy to trust him and even charms Doctor Poison and his assignments in infiltration definitely play to his strengths.
  • Gleahan and the Knaves of Industry: Mark, a pre-law school dropout, uses his knowledge of the law to do some really awesome things.
  • From Paris with Love: Wax manipulates everyone around him and loves to keep his partner James in the dark about his plans or intentions, but ultimately he's clearly on the side of good and trying to stop a terrorist attack.
  • Yojimbo: Although Sanjuro is a highly capable fighter, his greatest asset is his skill with Batman Gambits. His ultimate victory comes from his ability to expertly play both sides of the main conflict against each other.
  • Frailty: Adam's entire scheme depends on revealing his family history to an FBI agent in a manner that obscures his real identity, in order to lure the demon inhabiting the agent to its doom.

  • The scale of his manipulation is not as grand as some others listed here, but Aloysius Pendergast from the Preston/Child novels never hesitates to blackmail anyone into doing his bidding. For the greater good, of course.
  • In the Age of Fire series, all three of the sibling protagonists qualify as this, especially RuGaard, who uses his wits to make up for the number of crippling injuries he's gained over his life.
  • Alex Verus from the series of the same name generally counts. He uses his divination magic for precognition and quick thinking to stay alive in a setting full of magical beings and other mages with much more directly dangerous magically abilities
  • The main character Anargrin of The Angaran Chronicles is this. The best example of him doing this is in the short story An Ulterior Motive where he uses an infected with lycanthropy Emilia to lead a pack of werewolves to attack a Church of Jaroai convoy which is travelling to destroy a village they've deemed heretical. Both the werewolves and priests and the soldiers accompanying them, almost wipe each other out before Anargrin steps in and finishes off the three remaining werewolves himself. Effectively stopping the attack on the village and making sure the werewolves are gone for good.
  • Animorphs has a few:
    • Marco fills this role. Later, we see it runs in the family.
    • Cassie as well. Many, many times throughout the series, she uses her innate understanding of people for the good of the team, if not necessarily for the good of herself, or the person. The main victim of her manipulations was Visser Three (mainly because the Visser was an evil ego-driven son of a bitch). She also (reluctantly) used her understanding of people to trap a traitor of the group in the body of a rat. Beware the Nice Ones, indeed.
    • Once he takes off the kid gloves at the end of the series, Jake outdoes them all, ending the war for good (albeit while going into What the Hell, Hero? territory).
  • Scheherazade from Arabian Nights. To save her own life and stop the Sultan from killing more concubines, she worms her way into his heart with her beauty, her smarts, and her breath-taking stories.
    • Most heroes of the Arabian Nights are a combination of Guile Hero and Action Hero. (Some even include Science Hero, considering how technologically advanced medieval Arabia actually was.)
  • Artemis Fowl — Artemis himself because he has more faith in his prodigious mind than his scrawny stature.
  • The Art of War basically spends thirteen chapters explaining how to be this and how important it is for generals and tacticians to do so. Its central ethos can be summed up in one quote: "the Way of War is a Way of Deception". Flank attacks, proxy conflicts, fake peace talks to buy time, striking unexpected targets, feints, false indicators of ambushes, double agents, bribed enemy officials - to Sun Tzu, these were as important to a general as a hammer and saw to a carpenter.
  • Sage/ King Jaron in Jennifer A. Nielsen's the Ascendance Trilogy.
  • Isaac Asimov:
  • Mina Davis of Asshole Yakuza Boyfriend and Hungover and Handcuffed is one of these, relying mostly on her ability to out-think or out-talk much more physically dangerous enemies. She's yet to win a fair fight in two books.
  • The title characters of the Aubrey-Maturin series have absolutely no problems lying as much as they can without breaking the law and provoking internation incidents. Aubrey himself will lie like a rug in his personal life, and Maturin is a full-time spy.
    • The RCN series is based on A-M, and since the heroes are often out at the tip of the spear, so to speak, they will lie like crazy in order to complete their mission. It helps that they face a lot of idiots.
  • Silk, a.k.a. Prince Kheldar a.k.a. The Guide a.k.a. The Rat a.k.a. Radek of Boktor a.k.a. Ambar of Kotu from the Belgariad and Malloreon. There isn't a chapter he's in where he doesn't make some witty comment, scam the crap out of someone, pull off some incredible stunt, or show a depth of character, knowledge, or experience that's downright amazing.
  • Brenish in Below is a Consummate Liar first and foremost. He's also spent so much of his life learning tales of the underground ruins that his approach to fighting is highly strategic. His antagonist (and boss) Gareth distrusts him to the point of grabbing a hostage to keep him in line, and even makes sure the two men stand watch together because he doesn't trust Brenish not to compromise the loyalty of one of his henchmen in two hours.
  • In A Brother's Price Jerin is one of those whenever heroism is necessary. In the first chapter, he gets his sister to feed the baby by claiming that his younger brother (who she says should do it) is occupied with making butter, a task she dislikes even more. He later uses his intellect against the villains, too.
  • City of Bones by Martha Wells: Khat is quite good in a fight but is physically average; most of his success comes from being an unhesitating Combat Pragmatist who stacks the encounter as much in his favour as possible. Contrary to everyone's expectations, he excels in complex logic and interpersonal pursuits more than physical ones.
  • Codex Alera
    • Tavi is this out of necessity. This, coupled with a hefty dose of Badass Normal, is really the only way to survive as the one Muggle in a world where everyone has Elemental Powers.
    • Ehren, too. He barely has any crafting powers, but still becomes a skilled liar and spy for the Crown. He also is guilty of something few can claim to have done. He tricks High Lord Aquitaine, an Archmage-tier power and political enemy of Tavi's, to go into battle so he would be killed and there is no evidence pointing to him at all. Lampshaded by Max, who calls the two of them "sneaky little gits."
    • Nasaug, an 8ft tall wolfman, and leader of the warrior caste of Cane who are invading Alera shows a lot of this. In his first time against Tavi, where Tavi must lead some few thousand inexperienced soldiers against Nasaug's 60,000 strong, the two try and play each other for victory. In the end, Nasaug wins because while Tavi successfully held the line and forced the Cane to retreat, Tavi's efforts slaughtered the leader of the Ritualists and many of his fellows, who were leading the invasion before. With the civilian Cane no longer supporting the Ritualists, Nasaug, a far more competent and dangerous enemy, is now in charge.
  • Coraline Jones is a classic example. After she figures out that the Other Mother kidnapped her real parents, she spectacularly trounces the Other Mother through her wits.
  • Hoemei maran-Kaiel in Courtship Rite. In a clan where status derives from making accurate predictions, and clan members are encouraged to manipulate events to make their predictions come true, Hoemei is the second-best predictor/manipulator.
  • Deeplight: Being on the puny side, Hark relies on wits, manipulation, and running away in the right direction. He is introduced scamming a wealthy visitor, then talks his way out of being sold as a Galley Slave and into Dr. Vyne's employ. His skill at reading people and understanding what they want to hear also proves useful when caring for the elderly priests on Sanctuary. The more experienced staff quickly start turning to Hark for help.
  • Dirk Pitt from the Dirk Pitt Adventures.
  • Most heroic characters in Discworld qualify. Boxed Crook Con Man Moist von Lipwig is a great example.
    • Granny Weatherwax has her Headology, and Vimes has a certain amount of this. He knows how to be a good copper and how to play people and situations to come out on top. Vetinari is the morally-grey version. It says a lot about him that he is listed both here and on the Magnificent Bastard page.
    • Lampshade Hanging (bordering on Deconstruction) in the introduction of the Disc's version of Odysseus, which says:
    It's funny how people have always respected the kind of commander who comes up with strategies like "I want fifty thousand of you chappies to rush at the enemy," whereas the more thoughtful commanders who say things like "Why don't we build a damn great wooden horse and then nip in at the back gate while they're all around the thing waiting for us to come out" are considered only one step above common oiks and not the kind of person you'd lend money to. This is because most of the first type of commander are brave men, whereas cowards make far better strategists.
    • Which is why Rincewind belongs on this list. He doesn't want to be a hero at all and would rather stay where it's safe.
    • Hex develops into this over the course of the three The Science of Discworld novels, building upon his invention of Lies-To-People.
  • Pulp heroine The Domino Lady was just as likely to use her allure and quick wit as her pistol and knockout serum to defeat the bad guys.
  • Although Harry Dresden from the The Dresden Files is best known as a magical brawler with a tendency to burn down buildings, it's only because very few realize that he achieves his most impressive victories with wits alone (and he is not eager to enlighten them). For instance, in Blood Rites, he manipulates Lara Raith into doing what he wanted, and political intrigue is her lifestyle.
    • This is the result of Character Development over the series. In the first few books, he was just an Occult Detective, and much more inclined to fight than outmaneuver his opponents. It wasn't until his failure to plan (and deal with his feelings better) led to His Greatest Failure in Grave Peril that he started thinking and asking questions first.
    • This is also the result of how magic, and especially the magic of wizards, works. Harry's only real strong inherent talents are his magical tracking ability and a particular gift with fire and wind (though mainly fire). It's so strong that in the earlier books, he has tools he uses specifically to avoid burning down everything when he does it. By his own account, he's a magical thug with the subtlety of a sledgehammer - though he develops his skills considerably over the series. However, a lot of Wizardry is about using some external power source or applying leverage carefully, or of storing a spell or power in advance in a potion or device. The best wizards aren't the strongest, because they are still human levels of squishy and most monsters are very much not, but the ones most quick-witted and capable of taking advantage of a situation, such as in Dead Beat where the villains had summoned a giant typhoon of necromantic energy well-suited to raising the dead, and it occurred to him that older bodies were more powerful if you had the energy just lying around, only necromancy on humans was illegal, and the local museum had a dinosaur exhibit...
  • Mahlia of The Drowned Cities is a little bit better educated and a whole lot smarter than most of the people around her, including the soldier boys who more or less destroyed her home. Through a combination of wits, planning, and talking very fast she manages to screw over the United Patriotic Front a time or two, earning herself the hatred of Lieutenant Sayle and the respect of Sergeant Ocho. Not bad for a one-handed girl.
  • Dragon Bones has Ward, who survived to adulthood by pretending to have severe brain damage after his father nearly killed him in a particularly violent beating. He can use a sword, too, and does so frequently, but he's also a good actor and uses this talent whenever he faces a situation where brute force is not enough. Among other things, he is good at pretending to be obsessed with reclaiming castle Hurog, to the point of being happy to work together with the people who tortured his brother if they can give him his birthright back. He actually does want the castle very much, it's his home and the magic there calls for him, but he wouldn't kill his relatives over it.
  • In Firebird, we're told that Ilya is a more than competent warrior; he gets beaten only because his brothers gang up on him and they gang up on him because they can't take him one on one. However, apart from his brothers, he never encounters an enemy he can beat in a fight. The boar, the rusalka, the winter, the demons, the dragon, and the Katschei all have to be beaten with his wits, or just fled from.
  • In Forging Divinity, Jonan uses his cunning and charisma to manipulate both his enemies and his allies to his own ends. Lydia fits this to some extent as well, although she's more like the Great Detective to Jonan being The Chessmaster Con Man.
  • Alaric from the Warhammer 40,000 Grey Knights novels was already a Genius Bruiser, but he becomes one of this with his plan to take down the Chaos lords of Drakaasi, even if he does not think such a plan to be right.
  • Harry Potter: Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore is a kindly-looking and a little kooky Eccentric Mentor. He's also a master manipulator and extremely powerful wizard who nevertheless devotes himself to battling Voldemort and regrets lots of his unavoidable yet harsh decisions. His friend Severus Snape, who simultaneously stays loyal to Dumbledore and appear to be Voldemort's most loyal servant.
  • Poison, the heroine of the Chris Wooding book of the same name, would count as this, as she uses strategy, trickery, and intellect to fight rather than brute force. This is also true for many other characters in the story, including villains.
  • Tocohl Susumo, the protagonist of Hellspark, has been extensively trained in cultural understanding and adaptation, so as to be able to speak to people with not only the right words but also the right gestures, customs, etc. to put them at ease. On top of this, she adds her own ingenuity to become a great diplomat, tricking people into doing the right thing. It's a common trait for Hellspark traders; a Hellspark of past centuries, Veschke, is worshiped in parts of the galaxy as the patron saint of thieves, conmen, traders, and other people who make their living from a fast brain and a fast mouth.
  • Lyra from His Dark Materials. She is so good at this she earns the title "Lyra Silvertongue".
  • Honor Harrington, the Recycled In Space counterpart to Hornblower, is very straightforward. She can be deceptive militarily but isn't a very good liar otherwise.
  • Horatio Hornblower is a highly intelligent man and relies on his wits far more often than the raw strength of his ship to win the day. Of particular note is Lieutenant Hornblower. Even though he's the fifth lieutenant out of five, Hornblower adroitly maneuvers his seniors when the tyrannical captain is debilitated by a fall and adopts a course of action to avert legal suspicion, then persuades the dithering first lieutenant to mount a daring expedition to destroy a Spanish privateer nest, and then successfully implements a plan to gain their unconditional surrender and triumphant return to British authorities (marred only by a prisoner uprising… which he also manages to quell, although that by force).
  • Peeta Mellark from The Hunger Games. He's the Non-Action Guy to Katniss's Action Girl, but knows how to manipulate the Capitol audience and knows the right lies to use (like when he claims that Katniss is pregnant). He also figures out the setup of the Quarter Quell, interpreting Wiress's Cloudcuckoolander message in Catching Fire
  • In The Invisible Library, Irene often uses such tactics. In the first chapter, she has just spent weeks establishing her Harmless Lady Disguise as a servant in a school, a task which included cleaning floors and eating porridge for breakfast every day. She hopes that her next assignment will enable her to live in a luxury hotel with her undercover identity.
  • George Smiley, in the novels of John le Carré. He's one of the most respected spies in British intelligence, despite being (by all appearances) nothing more than a pudgy, bespectacled British office worker with an unfaithful wife. In his entire career, the guy hardly ever leaves his desk in London and undertakes almost no truly dangerous field missions. But despite all of that, he has the analytical mind necessary to piece together disparate clues to deduce Mother Russia's most intimate secrets from half a world away. His weapon is information, and he wields it like a broadsword.
  • Journey to Chaos:
    • As Eric's confidence grows so does his wiliness. He does not defeat older and more experienced mages by overpowering them but by outsmarting them. In this sense, he's not so different from Tasio.
    • Including deceit and slight of hand in combat is part of Tiza's training, such as exploiting someone's expectations to set up A Handful for an Eye.
  • Kim by Rudyard Kipling had the eponymous Street Urchin taking to this so well, he later only needed to be taught cartography and a few things about security to make a Teen Superspy.
  • Kindling Ashes: Giselle relies on out-smarting enemies to stay out of their reach because they are usually professional raiders or bred dragon-slayers.
  • Legacy of the Dragokin: Downplayed with Benji as he's too much of an Idiot Hero to make proper use of it but he shows potential:
    • Zarracka is impressed by the deviousness of his plan to escape a city.
    • He wins his fight with Kthonia by outsmarting her instead of overpowering her.
  • Gavin Guile of The Lightbringer Series is worthy of his name (and then there's his other name... it's complicated), and his family are just as tricky (do not let his father even notice you exist). Bonus points for the name itself of course, but consider the level of Badass Boast in a family taking a name that warns their enemies "I'm going to trick you" and still pulling it off. For centuries.
  • The Lord of the Rings: Gandalf to some degree. He's forbidden by the cosmic higher-ups from attempting to combat evil by simple force— they learned their lesson when their battle with the previous Big Bad broke half the world— and mostly limits himself to using diplomacy to cajole the forces of good into taking action. He does take a certain pleasure in being the smartest guy in the room, especially in The Hobbit, as when he tricks the notoriously misanthropic Beorn into playing host for thirteen dwarves and one hobbit.
  • Chilean novelist Alberto Blest Gana was pretty fond of this type of hero, and his two most famous leads are these: Martin from Martin Rivas and Carlos Diaz aka el "Nato" from "El Loco Estero". Both young men are kind-hearted, honest, and suffering of Unrequited Love (for Leonor and Deidamia, respectively), and their deviousness and manipulation skills will help them go forth with their goals.
  • The Magic Pudding: Bunyip Bluegum is the most calm, rational member of the trio, and tends to be the cleverest as well. Bunyip is the one who sorts things out when trapped in a Kangaroo Court; by claiming that Albert was poisoned, which sends the judge into such a panic (he and the Usher having been gorging on the pudding through the trial) that he goes wild and starts attacking everyone with a bottle of port. He then snatches the pudding and gets out of there with his friends.
  • The Mental State has Zack State. He has a talent for turning criminal gangs against themselves and luring his enemies into traps. His status as a 'Hero' is questionable to say the least, but his schemes tend to have positive consequences for others (except his opponents).
  • The Cosmere:
    • Mistborn: The Original Trilogy: Kelsier straddles the line between this and Magnificent Bastard. He's unambiguously on the good guys' side, but often comes perilously close towards slipping into Well-Intentioned Extremist or even Knight Templar territory. He's also a brilliant revolutionary who takes down an Empire ruled by a Physical God... and he does it posthumously.
    • The Stormlight Archive: Shallan slowly evolves into this over the course of the second and third books, learning how to use her Lightweaving powers, plus various social manipulations like fake accents and effectively lying to get things done through relatively subtle means. She still blushes when confronted, though.
    • Warbreaker: Vasher is a subversion. He's trying to be a guile hero, but he's absolutely terrible at it. He has awful social skills, no political connections or subtlety, and just plain doesn't like people. In fact, he's so bad at it that everyone initially mistakes him for a villain. The truth is he's basically the magical equivalent of a Science Hero with a great grasp of Awakening and how to use it in a fight, but few other skills to speak of. Notably, he ultimately saves the day not with any clever manipulations, but by unleashing an unstoppable army that he helped create.
  • Aahz, the powerless demon in Robert Asprin's Myth Adventures novels, is one of the all-time great guile heroes. His catchphrase is "Ah, therein lies the story…"
    • Skeeve, his former apprentice and current partner, has learned a lot from Aahz, and at times is even better than him at this.
  • In Nobody's Girl (and its anime adaptation, The Story of Perrine), the titular Perrine is a 13-year-old All-Loving Hero at first but must turn herself into this in the second part of the story. Under the fake name "Aurelie", she becomes the near-blind millionaire Vulfran Pandavoine's guide, interpreter and secretary... but she realises that her weary and sad Grumpy Old Man of a boss is surrounded by ambitious and greedy smug snakes (like his nephews/potential heirs Casimir and Theodore, each young man's scheming mothers, and the executive Talouel). From then one Perrine evolves into a pre-teen version of the trope to fend these selfish people off, protect Vulfran's interests, and avert becoming anyone's pawn in the upcoming Succession Crisis. And all the time, she must also hide her identity as none other than Vulfran's granddaughter and the rightful heiress, since letting such a huge secret leak would put her in even more danger.
  • Dragaera series:
    • In The Phoenix Guards, Pel gets his True Companions and himself out of prison by tricking a guard into propositioning his (Pel's) lover, who then almost kills the guard in a duel. Then she asks the poor guy who put him up to it, he tells her, and she pulls some strings to get Pel and the others out.
    • Vlad Taltos also invokes this trope a lot; he has to be smart and sneaky to last as long as he has, first in an extremely dangerous profession and later on the run from the entire Jhereg.
  • Nicolas van Rijn, from Poul Anderson's Polesotechnic League stories, is large and fat—though strong and fast—and he takes great joy in outthinking and outwitting his enemies.
  • Gen and Attolia from Megan Whalen Turner's The Queen's Thief books definitely. However, any descriptions as to why would require excessive use of spoiler tags.
  • In the Rainbow Magic series, Trixie the Halloween Fairy and Addison the April Fool's Day Fairy are fond of pranks and tricking people.
  • Mustang definitely qualifies as this trope in the Red Rising trilogy. Darrow, the series' protagonist, would qualify, but he's terrible at playing politics.
    • Rachel and Kirsty are able to trick and manipulate the goblins, and sometimes Jack Frost. They often use this to succeed.
  • Dirk Provin from Jennifer Fallon's Second Sons trilogy. He's a brilliant political genius with nerves of steel and any more would give away the plot of the last two books.
  • Secret Santa: Erik's Secret Santa Marcy, who drives Erik crazy with taunting secret Santa gifts, causing Erik to retaliate against the person she's tricked him into thinking is responsible with an Excrement Statement. Marcy then arranges for the whole office to witness this so their boss can see Erik for the sleaze ball he is. She also makes her last gift to Erik an innocent one, so he'll look crazy when he opens the present to try and explain himself. It's also implied that Marcy's primary motivation wasn't to get revenge against Erik for being a Mean Boss but to keep him from getting Nice Guy Sandberg fired.
  • Sherlock Holmes is probably the Trope Codifier regarding modern guile heroes, as a "consultant detective" who solves even the hardest to clear crimes using his sharp mind, his witty tongue, his Master of Disguise skills, his contacts within the police and Londoner society, etc. i.e., The Hound of the Baskervilles has him apparently disappearing to solve another case and sending his companion Watson to investigate in his place... but actually using him as a "decoy" of sorts while he quietly investigates, then shows up exactly when he's needed.
  • Mike Stearns and Gretchen Richter in Eric Flint's 1632. The former of whom has stated outright that he's trying to be a better chessmaster than Otto von Bismarck.
  • Ruth from Someone Else's War. In the Five-Man Band, she's The Smart Guy rather than The Hero, but her smarts are usually what make up for Matteo's lack of foresight.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Tyrion Lannister, if you consider him a hero. In the first novel, he walks into the Vale of Arryn in chains and facing a near-certain death sentence, and walks out at the head of an army of tribesmen, thanks to a quick wit, a silver tongue, and the promise of lots and lots of gold.
    • Arya Stark has had to rely on her wits to survive just as often — if not more — than swords. While she doesn't make the best immediate decisions, in book 2 she cleverly cornered a man who owed her a debt into helping her liberate Harrenhal from the Lannisters. While she's not as cunning as Tyrion, keep in mind that she's only twelve by now.
    • Varys, again depending on how heroic you consider him. A distrusted foreign eunuch with no lands, incomes, titles, connections, or armies, he parlayed a quick wit and a talent for thievery and mummery as a youth into a peerless spy network and immense behind-the-scenes political power. As for his "heroic" credentials, well, he claims to serve the realm… and he might even be sincere.
    • In the backstory, most of the Great Houses trace their lineage back to a great warrior ancestor, conqueror, or folk hero (or, in the somewhat odd case of the Starks, a talented architect). All except the Lannisters, whose semi-fabled progenitor is known as Lann the Clever. His claim to fame isn't fighting battles or leading armies, but swindling the Casterlys out of their castle with his wits.
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe
    • Wedge Antilles is a consummate Guile Hero, and his cunning is probably his second-most important talent (directly behind his Improbable Piloting Skills). He is a master of everything from simple misdirections and lies to grand-scale feints. He can run rings around officers who are supposed to be his superiors. On Adumar, he hatches several plans to disorient the enemy: attacking at dawn to rouse the hard-living pilots from their bunks before they're ready, reprogramming his fleets' transponders to lie about their unit composition, ordering some of his low-ranking pilots' fighters to identify themselves as champions, and vice versa. On Borleias, he encourages one of his allies to claim to be a Yuuzhan Vong goddess and lays plans for a galaxy-wide La Résistance against his own government (a government that he browbeat into giving him the resources he needed for his plans). A choice quote from Starfighters of Adumar sums him up nicely:
    Iella: So this is the cockpit Wedge. The one the enemy has boxed in, when suddenly he breaks off in a whole new direction, changes all the rules.
  • Wakatake of Tantei Team KZ Jiken Note. Kozuka lampshaded this trait in the first episode. Aya actually missed this trait at The School's Urban Legends Knows when he's on a 10-Minute Retirementthe rest of the boys wants to threaten a girl who sees him as Living Emotional Crutch to break off with him, to Aya's own disdain.
  • The Wheel of Time:
    • Thom Merrilin. He's handy with knives when he has to be, but what he really brings to the table is an intuitive knack for politics that lets him play the protagonists' opponents off against each other without anyone suspecting that he's responsible, and a gift for sifting through rumour and gossip to see larger patterns.
    • Mat Cauthon, being something of a protégé to Thom. He learned the fine art of horse-trading at his father's knee, and when his natural quick wit is coupled with supernatural luck and a few thousand years' worth of battle tactics dumped into his head, watch out.
    • Egwene al'Vere also becomes a Guile Hero, as the Amyrlin Seat. The Aes Sedai thought she'd become a puppet… hoo boy, did they turn out to be mistaken when Egwene owned them all, just like that.
  • Lydia of Carol Berg's Rai Kirah series turns out to be rather good at this. Seyonne occasionally engages in it as well, though since he several times does it by making use of his position or appearance as a slave this also tends to be combined with drawing some amount of torture on himself.
  • Present in military thriller Victoria. Between his maneuver warfare military trickster tactics and shady political manipulations, protagonist John Rumford soundly qualifies. His somewhat morally ambiguous mentor William Kraft takes it a step further into out-and-out Chessmaster territory.
  • Locke Lamora of Gentleman Bastard is a Guile Antihero, solving - or at least attempting to solve - his problems with cunning and charisma instead of brute force. Anticipating people's actions is how he survives, and even when he gets it wrong, he has a knack for improvising a plan to get out of trouble. Even when he's being relatively honest towards the end of The Lies of Locke Lamora, he still uses deception and manipulation to get at least some of what he wants; he manipulates the city authorities into sinking the Big Bad's loot as a death-offering to his murdered friends, and manages to kill said Big Bad by tricking him into thinking that Locke had backup.
  • Nova of Renegades has powers that require her to be really up close and personal to use, and when she's Insomnia, she can't use them at all, so she gets by with wit, some acting, and manipulating people around her (though she's still a Guile Hero in training, so she's not always successful).
  • All three main protagonists in Spinning Silver.
    • Miryem takes over her father's collecting duties when her mother falls ill during a hard winter, forcing the townspeople to actually pay what's owed in either money, goods, or labor, which takes her family from poverty to comfort in the space of a few months. When this gets the attention of the Staryk King, she manages to keep her feet and adapt to the customs of their fey society to escape death and free herself.
    • Wanda, a poor peasant girl under the thumb of an abusive father, becomes housekeeper for Miryem's family to Work Off the Debt. She quickly recognizes the chance for escape and squirrels away her extra earnings, making sure not to buy new clothes or food (which her father would notice) so that she can save enough for her and her two brothers to leave him.
    • Irina, finally, is married to a literal demon bound to the human body of the tsar. She figures out how to survive the first few nights and then convinces him and his host to cooperate with her. Meanwhile, she plots to kill him and restore stability to the country through plain old political footwork. Together with Miryem, she hatches a plot to get rid of Chernabog and bring an end to the Staryk King's winter at the same time, saving the country from two dooms.
  • Amaranthine Saga: Argent, true to his fox nature, relies on misdirection and deception rather than brute strength to defeat his enemies
  • In the Sandokan series, Yanez. While Sandokan is no idiot, it's Yanez who does most of the thinking and deals with outsmarting enemies.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Coulson in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. He deals with an awful lot of HYDRA by tricking them into an Enemy Civil War with the leadership purging each other, then mopping up the now-leaderless grunts.
  • Alex Rider: Alex is very good at using the training his uncle quietly gave him to escape tricky situations, such as using foliage to evade pursuers. He figures out a way into Dr Greif's office so Kyra can hack the security system by first using dark powder on the keypad to show which buttons were pressed, then deducing the combination from that. In one.
    • Kyra. She all but provides a page quote for this trope when she tells Alex and James they need to use their brains to escape Point Blanc (so their "Just head out onto the mountain and hope for the best" plan isn't it). When she decides she needs to escape but Alex wants to stay and find James, she heads off into the snow, leaving a nice clear trail, then quietly doubles back and rescues Alex after his cover is blown. She also escapes the safe house by stealing Crawley's security pass and successfully disappears.
    Kyra: No one's getting down off that mountain. We use our brains, not our muscles!
  • Babylon 5:
    • Londo Mollari and John Sheridan are both clear examples of this, albeit in Mollari's case an ambiguously good one.
    • Sinclair had his moments too, such as the resolution to "By Any Means Necessary", in which he deals with an illegal strike by getting the shady government spook to invoke laws granting him unlimited discretion in resolving which point he immediately gives the striking crew everything they wanted. And then there was Ivanova's solution to the Drazi Green-Purple conflict which was wreaking havoc on the station.
  • Boardwalk Empire:
    • Nucky Thompson, though lighter on the hero part than usual, is an excellent example of this trope; he never does anything exciting personally, and he instead uses his political power and somewhat shallow, yet efficient understanding of human nature to get what he wants.
    • Many characters (particularly Rothstein, Jimmy, Margaret, Meyer Lansky, and Chalky) would actually fit this trope quite well, but all of them (with the exception of Margaret and arguably Jimmy) are less scrupulous than Nucky, and none of them are as clever, and both Jimmy and Chalky have actiony moments. The Commodore is more of an out and out Magnificent Bastard.
  • Michael Westen in Burn Notice is this and an Action Hero, and sometimes a Science Hero too.
  • Jason Gideon and his successor David Rossi in Criminal Minds.
    • Hell, just about every member of the team displays it at some point or another.
  • Lt. Columbo, whose Obfuscating Stupidity and fuddy appearance conceal a brilliant detective who Always Gets His Man.
  • Jeff Winger from Community is a former Amoral Attorney, and his talents lie in the fields of talking and manipulation.
    • Abed Nadir is also a Guile Hero of sorts, albeit with a radically different style to Jeff's. (It's telling that in order to Guile Hero himself in the season four finale, Jeff has to pretend to be Abed.)
  • Control Z: Having Hyper-Awareness, Sofia is pretty deductive, allowing her to outsmart bullies such as Gerry or even discover the hacker's identity and reveal it to the other students.
  • The title character of Doctor Syn ("The Scarecrow") crafts his Scary Scarecrow persona to intimidate his own smugglers, but since his day job is as a vicar, he almost always refrains from violence. Instead, he uses his trusted position to gather information and use it against the army. When he discovers a traitor in his group, he concocts a ruse that will satisfy his smugglers' desire for vengeance, terrify any other would-be turncoats out of the notion, and keep from actually killing the traitor by holding a Kangaroo Court and fake hanging.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Doctor himself. Bavarian Fire Drills are his specialty. In addition, he's a Science Hero.
      • No incarnation more so than the Seventh Doctor. "Remembrance of the Daleks" is one of the best examples of this, when he tricks Davros into destroying Skaro and convinces a Dalek to commit suicide.
    • Dalek Caan manipulates the Doctor and his companions into defeating Davros and the New Dalek Empire.
    • Irving Braxiatel from the ExpandedUniverse might just be the embodiment of this trope. In his very first appearance in Theatre Of War, he was able to out-manipulate the Seventh Doctor. Throughout his appearances in the Bernice Summerfield series, his reputation of using people as tools became legendary (to the point where, when someone asks if he isn't being too manipulative, he concludes that they haven't been introduced). It's been suggested several times that he engineered the entirety of events in the Bernice Summerfield series; for example, when his collection was occupied by a group of Fascists called The Fifth Axis, something which should be impossible because, as a Time Lord, he knew that that sector of space was never occupied, he suspected that it might be a future version of himself which had engineered the whole situation and almost killed himself in a temporal paradox (luckily, it turned out to be the Daleks, not him, who were behind it). So devious was he that he became a full-blown Magnificent Bastard in later seasons (although it may not have been entirely his fault). He's reformed now (sort of). Of course, none of this should be surprising considering that he's the Doctor's older brother.
  • Adelle DeWitt in Dollhouse is an expert in playing the politics (and just plain manipulating everyone) in order to protect her House.
  • Donna Stone from The Donna Reed Show was this on a domestic level, solving local and family problems through ingenious planning and subtle manipulation.
  • Firefly: Simon has his moments. A doctor who has never so much as picked up a firearm before, he was able to bluff, bribe, sneak, and otherwise manipulate his way past top-secret government security in order to rescue his sister. And when the crew is in need of money, and he's in need of hospital access for his sister? He casually pulls out the contents of his medkit, quotes the black market value of each bottle, and then comes up with a detailed and mostly successful plan to pull off one of the crew's best heists. His sister, River? She's even more clever than he is, despite being mentally unstable due to the government's tampering. "Objects In Space" proved this. Nasty Bounty Hunter on board? Said Bounty Hunter has the crew outgunned and access to the engine room? River and Simon trick him into thinking she's one with the ship and distract him long enough to throw him out an airlock.
  • Game of Thrones offers several examples:
    • Tyrion Lannister is first and foremost, though his antiheroic traits cause him to straddle the line of magnificent bastardry. Nonetheless, he's one of the more heroic characters in the show and definitely fights best with his mind, with an incredible ability to charm, manipulate, bluff, and talk his way out of a bad situation. For example: laying the groundwork for Bronn to champion him a full episode before he even knew there'd be a trial by combat. He's also able to talk his way from a situation where he's likely to be murdered by hill tribesmen to getting said hill tribesmen to serve as his bodyguards.
    • Robb Stark, once he begins resisting the Lannisters, is forced to fight this way. He's massively outnumbered and is forced to fight with masterful tactics. Fortunately, he is one of the best tacticians and strategists Westeros has ever seen, and he wins battle after battle (moving him into Young Conqueror territory, as well).
    • Margaery Tyrell, who is something of an enigma in the novels, has much more (visible) agency in the show. Her grandmother the Queen of Thorns is the Chessmaster behind House Tyrell, visibly teaches Margaery everything she knows. Notably, she's the only person able to reign in King Joffrey with any consistency, she instantly gains the love of the common people, and when Tommen ascends the throne, it's not long before he's eating out of her hand as well. She puts on different facades when it comes to protecting her family, and is very much heroic, but her lack of the ruthlessness, and preference for using manipulation and love over violence and fear, which makes her heroic in the first place, is what gets her killed in the end.
    • Arya Stark, once forced to go on the run, isn't much of a threat due to being a young girl, and is surrounded by heavily-armed and potentially-hostile adults which has fostered quick thinking on her part just to stay alive and avoid being captured by the Lannisters. She proves quite adept at using her wits to survive, such as when she uses them to force a skilled assassin to help her escape Harrenhal.
    • Despite his rough, Old Soldier appearance, Davos Seaworth uses charisma, honesty, and diplomacy to bring allies to the cause of his king, such as when he brings Salladhor Saan into Stannis' service and then when he convinces the all-powerful Iron Bank of Braavos (an institution he formerly tried to rob and who have neither forgotten nor forgiven) into backing Stannis on pure nerve and implacable logic. He used to be a smuggler, an occupation that requires you to avoiding fighting as much as possible and has only once drawn his sword. His experience helps compensate for Stannis' complete lack of charisma.
    • After losing his sword hand, Jaime is forced to rely on his wits and cunning to achieve his desires, such as playing on Steelshanks' sense of self-preservation to help him rescue Brienne.
    • Bronn is this crossed with Action Hero. In his fight against Ser Vardis at the Eyrie, he declines a shield and constantly dodges out of Vardis' way until he's too tired to resist Bronn, who kills him. When he and Jaime are intercepted by some Dornish soldiers, he tries to avoid (or at least delay) a direct confrontation by coming up with a cover story about their being stranded. If Jaime hadn't ruined it, he might have succeeded.
    • Grey Worm incites the slave revolt that topples Meereen from within.
    • For 6 seasons, Sansa Stark was held hostage by various powerful enemies who helped kill her family, under the constant threat of death or torture, without any hope of rescue or even comfort. Then she's rescued and uses her bitter experience to become an infinitely more ruthless schemer and politician than her brother, the noble King in the North.
  • Gotham: Though he is sometimes easily manipulated in the first two seasons because of his youth and the fact that he went through significant trauma, Bruce Wayne becomes better and better at using his knowledge of his enemies to outsmart them as the series goes on. Jim Gordon is sometimes written this way too, depending on the season. Lucius Fox, even though he isn't usually in a position to directly confront the villains of the show, also sometimes takes on this role when the GCPD has to deal with the Riddler because Riddler considers Lucius to be a worthy opponent.
  • Methos from Highlander. An immortal at least 5,000 years old not because he's the greatest fighter, but because he is a clever and slippery Manipulative Bastard who will do almost anything to survive.
  • Hogan's Heroes kept an espionage/sabotage operation going in a Luftstalag for three years.
  • Dr. James Wilson of House is the only person in the series who has successfully manipulated the title character multiple times. Not only that, but he's less of an Anti-Hero than almost the entire rest of the cast. The title character is additionally a Guile Anti-Hero Manipulative Bastard.
  • Fan Xian from Joy of Life, who uses his quick wits and deception skills (as well as his knowledge as a modern person stuck in pseudo-Imperial China) to navigate court politics and take down his enemies.
  • From Leverage, Leverage Consulting and Associates as a group. They're a group of top-notch thieves who teamed up to take down even worse crooks. All of them (save Parker) are fairly good at deception. Sophie Devaraux's primary skill is "Grifter," meaning she never has to use force, or stealth. She says it herself - if she's doing her job right, the mark opens the door for her and lets her take what she wants. Hardison is primarily the Techno Wizard, but he's just shy of Sophie when it comes to a con (Truth in Television: Social Engineering attacks are probably the most common way someone accesses a computer system they're not supposed to). However, Nate Ford has the title of "Mastermind" - he used to be the thieves' bane as an insurance agent, but when he went rogue, he becomes increasingly devious with his scheming. You always know the mark is screwed, but you never know quite how until Nate lays it out in the last act.
  • Robert Goren from Law & Order: Criminal Intent. He knows exactly how to push people's buttons, and has manipulated many a criminal into a confession through his understanding of their psychology.
  • On Law & Order: SVU, Nick Amaro is most likely to use emotional manipulation, flat-out lies, and his own personal charm to ferret out information and induce a suspect to confess. Amaro's arrival coincides with the showrunner of the aforementioned Criminal Intent, Warren Leight, taking over at SVU.
  • Malcolm from Malcolm in the Middle. Showcased when Mr. Hurkabee encourages the class to cheat on an Academic Decathlon and Malcolm obliges… by giving every single team the answers to all the questions, to the point when they are blurting out the answer before the questioner even begins to ask, in an elegantly simple plan that must be seen to be appreciated.
    • Or before that, when Hurkabee devised a ranking system to make the students compete with each other. When Malcolm failed to convince the others to rebel, he stopped bothering. Instead, he started over-achieving to such a degree that the others pushed themselves harder and harder to catch up, eventually culminating in a class-wide nervous breakdown that publicly humiliated the teacher.
    • Younger brother Dewey evolves into this. Not as strong as Reese or clever as Malcolm, he starts as the put-upon punching bag but learns how to work the arrogant, short-tempered, and frequently distracted nature of the show's cast to his advantage.
  • Maverick:
    • Brett and Bart Maverick move through the west as gamblers and con men.
    • Their dad outclasses them both. He was sold a gold mine the sellers knew was worthless -and convinced the sellers there was still gold in there and sold it back to them. Oh, and helped his fiance and her lover elope.
  • Patrick Jane from The Mentalist turned into this after using his "powers" as a psychic got his family murdered. New CBI boss Madeline Hightower demonstrates impressive signs in her introductory episode, identifying a threat that will actually make Jane think before he acts too outrageously, then setting up a situation giving Jane the opportunity to pull off one of his stunts when normal police methods aren't working, and finally engaging in a bit of I Know You Know I Know with Jane to make him aware she let him get away with it. Jane is impressed with the new boss.
  • Guinevere from Merlin is quite good at this; in lieu of any combat abilities, she would often use a blend of logic and guile to simply talk various antagonists into doing exactly what she wanted.
  • NCIS Agent Tony DiNozzo, usually via Obfuscating Stupidity to make others lower their guard. A prime example is when he's being interrogated by Mossad Director Eli David, and he successfully tricks Eli into revealing his agenda in front of the very people he was playing.
  • The title character of Nikita starts off her new series exemplifying this when you find out that Alex, the new recruit into Division, is a plant that Nikita trained to be recruited into Division. And all her actions at the start of the episode, an obvious attempt to capture Division's resident hacker and get access to their network was actually a Batman Gambit to convince Division that she was working with a foreign power because she couldn't get access to the network, and its intelligence, on her own.
    • That's just the first episode. Listing all the other examples of her qualifications would take up a whole page.
  • Henry from Once Upon a Time started the series at all of ten years old, but employs all kinds of tricks (stolen credit cards, the Living Lie Detector ability he appears to have inherited from Emma, taking advantage of his adopted mother's absences) in order to try and fight off the curse he's realized is affecting the town. Since that town is populated by exiled Fairy Tale characters, he also employs near-weaponized levels of Genre Savvy to spin things his direction (though he wound up being Wrong Genre Savvy when Peter Pan showed up). It tends to run in the family. His paternal grandfather is the first-rate Magnificent Bastard Rumplestiltskin, but he has the moral compass of his maternal grandfather, Prince Charming.
  • Del from Only Fools and Horses occasionally demonstrated enough savvy to come out on top after a whole episode of apparent failures.
  • Captain Mercer of The Orville. He's a physically average man in command of a Fragile Speedster, forcing him to rely on his wits against enemies with greater brute strength.
  • Harold Finch of Person of Interest manipulates information, finances, and people themselves to save lives and bring 'untouchable' villains to justice. Though he doesn't seem to like, and will avoid, manipulating good people, he will occasionally if it is the most expedient way to save a life.
  • Michael Scofield of Prison Break uses long term plans and quick on-the-stop thinking to save his brother from a death sentence.
  • Psych was doing this before the Mentalist with the protagonist Shawn Spencer. Posing as a "psychic detective," he uses nothing more but his sublime deduction skills from a childhood of intense training from his father along with eidetic memory (inherited from his mother) to charm people, catch bad guys and solve cases.
    • Even when he is acting goofy, there is some level of this. His goofy demeanor and tendency to show-off means a lot of criminals, especially those who pride themselves on their cleverness, underestimate him only to get hoodwinked and caught.
  • Betty Cooper of Riverdale can be very underhanded and manipulative in her quests to do what she thinks is right, even toeing the line of Villain Protagonist.
  • Scandal: Olivia personifies this trope. In the pilot episode when she wants Amanda to leave town, all it takes is a two-minute conversation in which Olivia describes every way she can ruin Amanda's life.
  • Sherlock:
    • The title character, most of his fights are won through pure observation and intelligence.
    • His brother Mycroft, as it comes with the territory of being a Knowledge Broker and The Spymaster.
  • Richard Woolsey of Stargate Atlantis becomes this when he takes command of the city. There's an episode where he saves the day with lawyering, manipulation, and a little bribery.
  • Benjamin Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has to be more cunning than most Starfleet captains, placed as he is in a post where he's as much a local political figure as he is a military commander. He's excellent at manipulating his adversaries and finding chinks in their armor (literal or metaphorical) to exploit.
  • Jean-Luc Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation is no slouch either. Watch "The Ensigns of Command" — after exploiting a loophole in the Treaty of Armens, a document which is half-a-million words long, he puts the Sheliak ON HOLD.
    • In "The Drumhead", after a witch-trial occurs on the Enterprise and leads to Picard eventually being brought to trial himself, he calmly begins by making an opening statement that quotes the father of the prosecutor, Norah Satie, about suppressing individuals' freedom. This causes her to begin an angry tirade that causes the head of Starfleet Intelligence to walk out in utter disgust.
    • In "Peak Performance", Riker gives Worf a tactical scenario; "You're outmanned, you're outgunned, you're outequipped. What else have you got?" Worf gives a one-word answer: "Guile."
  • And of course the precursor, James T. Kirk of Star Trek: The Original Series is the first guile hero. Sure he'd throw fists and judo chops when required, but his greatest skill was his ability at subterfuge. From lying about his ship's capability multiple times to disguising himself as the enemy or pretending to know things he had no way of knowing just to throw his opponent off. Kirk owed much of his success to his enemies' inability to tell if somebody is lying.
  • The "under the radar" winner archetype from Survivor, who lets their Smug Snake accomplices do the major strategizing and take the heat for it, while banking on a superior social game to win the jury over in the end. Subverted with Natalie White from "Samoa", who was not pure dead weight strategy-wise (the Erik Cardona blindside) and adopted a less aggressive approach for pragmatic reasons, having wisely deduced that a female power-player would be nothing more than a walking target in that particular environment, instead just letting her Smug Snake partner dig his own grave.
    • Denise from Philippines is another example; while more proactive than Natalie, Malcolm ended up taking most of the credit as the Magnificent Bastard. At the Final Tribal Council, she was specifically called out on using her skills as a therapist to build relationships and win people over.
  • The title character of Veronica Mars relies on smooth talking, wit, and calling on favors from her many allies to successfully carry out her detective work. She's outsmarted the police department on several occasions.
  • Artemus Gordon of The Wild Wild West, who believes that "when you cannot confound the enemy, then you have lost to him."
  • Gabrielle of Xena: Warrior Princess was very good at doing this, given that she had aspirations of becoming a bard, which set her apart from the brute force of Xena. In the first episode of the series, she outwitted a cyclops and escaped from him.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • Queen Esther from The Bible managed to save thousands of innocent Jews from being slain by a Smug Snake's orders almost singlehandedly, using her incredible beauty, her charm, her quick wits, her Plucky Girl nature, and her uncle Mordecai's wise counseling to work her way into King Xerxes's favor.
    • Same goes to Ruth the Moabite (an expatriate who was determined to not fall in misery after losing her husband, ending up as the grandmother of King David and one of Jesus's ancestors), Abigail (one of David's followers who mediated between the King and her Jerkass first husband rather skillfully and later was one of David's wives), Judith the widow (who used her good looks to trick Holophernes and kill him) and Judge Deborah (a Lady of War and one of the Judges of Israel).
    • Also, Jael, a Guile Heroine from Deborah's story who lures an enemy general into her tent, lulls him to sleep, and stabs him in the head with a tent peg. Specially noticeable in that this is one of the few times when breaking Sacred Hospitality is presented as the heroic thing to do; the guy was THAT dangerous.
    • Jacob straddles the line between this and Magnificent Bastard. While he is generally considered a good guy and the father of the Hebrew people, he was also a crafty con-man who managed to trick his eldest brother Esau out of his birthright and father's blessing, and after that went sour, he and his uncle Laban took turns conning each other, with Jacob coming out ahead in the end.
      • His mother Rebekah was one of his biggest supporters and the one who encouraged him to go forward, so she qualifies as well.
    • Several Jewish prophets were like this, especially Elisha and Daniel. Daniel, interestingly, is also a Science Hero, considering the manner in which he manages to persuade the king to cut down on feasting…
    • 'Jesus the Christ. True, he was a Messianic Archetype, but He was also a master at outsmarting the Pharisés— often using their own words against them. One example is the famous "cast the first stone" story; He saves a woman by putting her prosecutors in a double bind. Notably, He doesn't tend to use overt displays of power all that much, using mostly His wits to solve problems and saving His Reality Warper abilities for the occasional miracle.
  • Common in Celtic Mythology - the Celts considered defeating your enemies through trickery just as noble and praiseworthy as fighting them directly, with truly great warriors being capable of both.
  • Odysseus must surely be the patron saint of the Guile Hero. In an age when most Greek heroes were part-divine, unstoppable, ass-kicking badasses, along comes Odysseus, whose greatest weapon is his mind, officially making this trope Older Than Feudalism. Having the blood of Hermes, the Greek Pantheon's trickster god, makes him even better.
    • Being a personal favorite of Athena, the goddess of guile heroines, didn't hurt either.
  • Hercules was the World's Strongest Man, but he wasn't Dumb Muscle. His Super Strength alone wasn't enough for several of his Labors, so he had to use his brain alongside it. When he found out that the Nemean Lion's hide was impervious to weapons, he strangled it with his bare hands. To fight the Hydra, which could grow its heads back, either he or his friend Iolaus seared the stumps with a torch right after cutting them (though relying on Iolaus rendered this Labour invalid since he was supposed to do them alone). To clean up the enormous and never-cleaned Aegean Stables, he used his strength to alter the course of two nearby rivers and make them pass through (though this was also rendered invalid — see below).
    • He was also great Indy Ploys. Having been poisoned via wearing a cape doused in the blood of a Centaur that he killed with poison arrows, Hercules was headed to a Cruel and Unusual Death - but then he asked his people to burn him alive in his own funerary pyre, knowing that it would hurt even more for a while but betting that his father Zeus would see it and make him ascend to the Olympus ASAP. He was right.
      • A little explanation on the Augean Stables example above. Hercules was ordered by the Gods to serve his jealous cousin Eurystheus. Eurystheus, already having failed to kill him decided to humiliate him instead and ordered him to clean the Augean Stables. King Augeas had not cleaned them in 30 years. Hercules first surveys the area and notices the two rivers. He then went to King Augeas promising to clean the stables in a day, if Augeas would give him a tenth of his cattle. Augeas thinking that it was impossible and that he'd be getting a free days labor out of him agreed. Hercules brings his own sons in to watch Augeas swear an oath and then diverts to rivers to pass through the stables. Cleaning them out. Augeas is forced to give up his cattle. Hercules walks away not getting his hands dirty, rich, and having played two kings. However, this backfired on Hercules. Whether it was because the rivers (and by extension their river gods) technically did the work or because Hercules took payment from Augeas for the deed, this Labour was considered invalid. This is why Hercules ended up doing Twelve Labours instead of just ten.
  • Krishna in the Mahabharata. Helped by the fact that a.) He is a god; and b.) He is a moderately cunning fellow surrounded by a cast of characters that live and breathe Honor Before Reason.
  • Loki, before his Face–Heel Turn, was the cunning trickster to Thor's Action Hero.
  • Per Gynt from Norwegian folklore qualifies as one of these. Most of the sticky situations he gets in he resolves by outsmarting the baddie. In one example, he convinces a hungry troll not to eat him by challenging him to a contest of feats of strength. In the rock crushing contest, Per squeezes the piece of cheese in his pocket, impressing the troll by squeezing "the water from a stone." In a rock-throwing contest, Per grabs a bird out of a nearby bush and gives it a hurl. Needless to say, he was not eaten.
    • Peer Gynt was inspired by Askeladden, an even older Guile Hero archetype who is the Norwegian version of Jack.


    Puppet Shows 
  • Pili Fantasy: War of Dragons: Team Tiger has Chi Lu-Jen, who goes around researching the past of the mysterious Ku Yeh to try and get him on Team Tiger, and generally matching wits with the Emperor and Tai Huang-chun.
    • Su Hua-chen also fits, being able to outmaneuver Tai Huang-chun and Vermillion Lady.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In tabletop RPGs, while storytelling-oriented Game Masters tend to leave these things to players, there often are classes or character builds which are oriented towards smarts and talk. The bard could be a Dungeons & Dragons example, due to high Charisma score.
  • Canonically, Justin Xiang Allard from BattleTech is regarded as one of the best Mechwarriors of his time… but not through any factor of speed or personal fortitude. He is, however, one of the most cunning warriors ever shown in the series. In his main appearances:
    • He is first shown fighting a 'Mech twice with twice his size and hideous amounts of firepower… and almost wins by destroying its engine, except it pulled a trick he didn't expect.
    • He next is shown on in the Gladiator Games fighting a faster enemy with effective short-range weapons while he is slower, using a new 'Mech among other things, and armed mostly with long-range weapons with a minimum range. He wins by unexpectedly firing some of his weapons ahead of his enemy, tricking him into pulling up short and right into Justin's sights.
    • Justin next fights in a battle where his machine is slower and has less armor and long-range firepower, and he is riding a 'Mech known to have unreliable weapons… so he tricks his foe into closing into close range, having equipped a very-short-range BFG beforehand that visually resembles the unreliable weapon. He annihilates his enemy's 'Mech in two shots.
    • Now that his modified 'Mech is a known variable, his next enemy (his first foe defeated in the games, as mentioned earlier) attempts to pilot a model of 'Mech that crippled Justin, which still has greater range and more firepower than his machine, and even manages to disable the BFG early on. Attempting to use the tactic that maimed Justin, the other pilot is tricked into shooting Justin's main gun more… only to reveal that his 'Mech can literally punch through his enemy's back.
    • Facing a skilled champion who cheats dirtily, he overcomes the trap by summarily destroying two of his ambushers by hitting from an unexpected position and dealing a Humongous Mecha Groin Attack. He knows that his rival will try to shoot him from behind… and marches into the obvious trap area backwards so that he presents strong armor to his enemy, who he overcomes.
    • At one point, it's mentioned he won a battle by tricking the enemy commander into making a bad maneuver by giving a false report, using the enemy nation's native language to convince him that it was legitimate.
    • Finally, when he is tasked to face an old friend in combat, he once again allows his enemy to fire on him as he closes, knowing that while his foe is piloting the same model of machine, his BFG can quickly overcome his enemy's armor, and his former friend did not pay enough attention to the Gladiator Games to remember the change Justin had made until it was too late.
    • Notably, when he was once tasked to go in a straight-up open fight with no chance for mind games or sneakiness, he lost handily to his son, who while a Guile Hero himself is also considered a naturally gifted pilot in terms of raw skill.
    • Outside of combat, Justin's story involves perhaps one of the biggest and most complicated scam operations in the history of the Inner Sphere—through a combination of exile, injury, and disgrace, he comes into the employ of the mortal enemy of his former liege lord. For several years he plays the role of a quisling, helping said enemy, Chancellor Maximillian Liao, make small but noticeable advances against Hanse Davion, his former lord. It all comes together at the end of the entire ploy, where the advantages Liao thought he had gained proved to be vulnerabilities instead, essentially getting Liao forces steamrolled in a very short, very one-sided war where all of Liao's weaknesses were set up by Justin's advice and machinations to Chancellor Liao… as he was in fact still loyal to Hanse Davion, and taking this entire mission on orders from Davion.
  • Exalted: while anyone with a high Manipulation would qualify, Changing Moon Lunars (especially Tamuz), the less malevolent Fiend caste Infernals, and Starmetal caste Alchemicals are engaged in a three-way proxy war to see who gets the crown… with the Sidereals sitting back to see who wins and working on strategies to manipulate any one of them. It's also the hat of Eclipse Caste Solars, who are less about "guile" then they are about More Than Mind Control.
  • The idea of the Face build in Shadowrun.
    • Also the Face class in Spycraft.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, Inquisitors blur the line between this and Magnificent Bastard. The best, most loyal Inquisitors are this— though they are willing to sacrifice millions, that's their plan b. The difference between what makes a good inquisitor and what makes a bad inquisitor is the bad ones make sacrificing millions their plan A. Mind you, 40k does follow Authority Equals Asskicking, and Inquisitors are THE authority in the Imperium so they aren't pushovers in a fight. In practice, they tend towards Action Hero too, or at the very least have someone to do that for them.

  • Sophocles treats Odysseus, the quintessential Guile Hero, quite differently between his plays Ajax and Philoctetes. In the first Odysseus prefers compromise rather than pride, and argues for the burial rites of his worst enemy. In the second he encourages the mostly honest Neoptolemus to lie to the long-suffering Philoctetes to persuade him to come to Troy, despite the severe injustice Odysseus had done against him in the first place.
  • Ulysses in The Golden Apple, "smarter than Nick Carter" by reputation, develops a cunning Divide and Conquer plan to take Rhododendron after a straightforward assault fails.

    Video Games 
  • The game Alpha Protocol encourages you to play the main character Michael Thorton along the lines of this trope. He's even stated in the beginning to be noted as a Manipulative Bastard. The game encourages you to get an understanding of what makes certain characters tic and use it to your advantage and by the end, you'll be able to play Smug Snake Henry Leland like a fiddle. In fact, deliberately choosing between portraying a smooth-talking, smug jerk or a calm, collected, professional is crucial to whether or not you can effectively play Conrad Marburg into either backing you up or hating you so much he'll stick around to try and kill you.
  • Styled after the previous games, Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura also fits: with a high enough intelligence and charisma, the player character can effectively avoid almost every fight in the game, and look good while doing it.
    • A purely diplomatic character, missing out on the experience from combat, will finish the game at a lower level, but have a much more powerful overall party. The maximum number of NPC followers can wield every endgame weapon, all at higher levels due to earning the combat experience themselves. Even if your character doesn't talk their way out of the Final Battle, they can still breeze through it.
  • Rachel Alucard in BlazBlue leans even further towards this in Continuum Shift than in Calamity Trigger. Her goal? To find the Master Unit Amaterasu and kill Terumi. Of course, the Imperator destroys Amaterasu before she can find it, but naturally, Rachel doesn't lose her cool even when she learns her efforts to find it were for naught.
  • Dragon Age II has Hawke, who can be played this way if you often choose the humorous or charming options in dialogue. He/she can manipulate and schmooze with people to his/her advantage and is presented as being a lot more intelligent than he/she initially seems.
    • Your companion Varric is just as skilled, if not better. The entire game's framing device, in fact, is Varric being this: he's telling the story of Hawke's exploits to Chantry Internal Affairs, he opens with a flat-out lie about not knowing Hawke's whereabouts, and while he regularly gets called on exaggerations, he manages to get Cassandra so hooked on the story that she never questions that first lie, and he does all this while in a darkened room with an armed and armoured woman in black demanding the truth - at swordpoint, occasionally - without losing his cool.
  • The Warden of Dragon Age: Origins is a hybrid of this and Action Hero if played as a good-aligned character. If played as a Villain Protagonist, the Warden becomes a Magnificent Bastard, instead.
  • In any Dynasty Warriors Shu mode, especially in 5 and 6, Zhuge Liang will willingly become this in order to keep any Shu citizen's ire off Liu Bei or any other officer with a reputation as a good man. At some points it skirts towards Magnificent Bastard for the same reasons, namely, ensuring Shu's success while making himself out to be a cold-hearted bastard so Liu Bei seems all the more virtuous for it.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • Throughout the series, heroes of the Breton race, both real and in stories, tend to rely on their wits and resourcefulness to succeed. Even when the fail, such as in How Orsinium Passed to the Orcs, these skills allow them to fail gracefully.
    • Morrowind:
      • In the Backstory, the legendary Chimeri/Dunmeri hero Nerevar was one of these. He managed to get the hated rival Dwemer to form an Enemy Mine with the Chimer in order to drive out the invading Nords thanks to his skills as a leader and his supernatural powers of persuasion. In order to complete much of the game, The Nerevarine will need to be one as well.
      • Crassius Curio, a councilor of Great House Hlaalu, is one. Despite his...uncouth proclivities...he is actively working to rid Hlaalu of corruption and is one of only two councilors who aren't in the pocket of the Camonna Tong. He's not above letting everyone else believe that he is an easily-manipulated fool while he's at it...
      • Skink-in-Tree's-Shade, Master Wizard of the Wolverine Hall (Sadrith Mora) Mages Guild Hall, isn't known for his magical strength as much as other mages. (That's not to say he's a slouch in the matter, however.) Skink is known more for his ability to handle situations diplomatically, which helps him act as the Guild Master in a region controlled by rivals to the Mages Guild in Great House Telvanni. He's the Master Trainer in Speechcraft, and that 100 skill level in Speechcraft isn't just for show.
    • In the series' spin-off Action-Adventure game, Redguard, the hero, Cyrus, proves to be one. Cyrus is a pirate and a skilled swordsman, but relies on his wits and being clever in order to defeat superior foes. These include a dragon, a Sload necromancer, and even matching wits with a Daedric Prince.
    • In the series' backstory, Tiber Septim, the founder of the Third Tamriellic Empire who ascended after his death as Talos, the Ninth Divine, is considered one (at least in the more orthodox tales). Whenever overwhelming force wasn't enough to accomplish his goals, he'd find creative alternatives. The more heretical tales of his life instead paint him as a Manipulative Bastard, who wasn't above betrayal and using assassination get what he desired.
      "If you are of no use to Tiber Septim, he will see to it that you are of no use to his enemies either..."
    • Also from the backstory, the ancient Yokudan (Precursors of the Redguards) hero Frandar Hunding was on as the leader of the Ansei during the War of the Singers. Vastly outnumbered (Hira's forces outnumbered the Ansei thirty to one) and, despite their skills, woefully unprepared to form into an organized army, Frandar devised the "Hammer and Anvil" strategy to get around the weaknesses of his army. He devised a plan of seven battles, each leading Hira's forces deeper and deeper into the Yokudan wilderness. The first six battles had no clear winner, as was Frandar's intention, but drew Hira's force further and further out. In the seventh battle, at the foot of Mount Hattu (where Frandar lived as a hermit for 30 years while writing the Book of Circles), the "hammer" struck. Frandar's Ansei killed over three-hundred thousand of Hira's men, winning the war.
  • This is also true in the Fallout games, where you gain extra XP and other rewards for succeeding at speech challenges. There are also perks that open extra dialog options with various characters.
    • Fallout: New Vegas — though obviously only if you choose to play your character that way, but there are a number of situations that, with a sufficiently high Speech skill, you can talk your way out of without firing a shot.
  • In Final Fantasy VI, King Edgar Roni Figaro plays lipservice to the Empire to keep his people safe, but secretly supports The Returners. Some of his guile hero moments are tricking Kefka into believing they will hand over Terra, just to flee with Locke and Terra and have the castle dive in the sand to safety, outwitting Kefka. Later, he uses some of the escaped thieves he imprisoned to find his castle after the collapse.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Princess Caeda from Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light and Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem. While her boyfriend and local Magnetic Hero Marth is able to recruit some allies to the crew, it is Caeda who can influence the most amount of characters to join in, simply by going up to them in battle and talking to them.
    • Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade:
      • Elphin, who is the brains of the West Isles resistence while Lalam is the heart and Echidna is the brawns and leader. He is also Prince Mildain of Etruria, thought to have died in an accident, but no one is supposed to know that. At least not until the war is over and he can return home safely.
      • Roy, the hero of the game, is this and an Action Hero. He finds out about Elphin's identity almost on his own, after all.
    • Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones has two of these: Prince Ephraim of Renais does this by being The Strategist and making guerrilla tactics a complement of his spear-using skills, whereas his Friendly Rival (and possible brother-in-law) Prince Innes of Frelia is the lead of the Frelian spy network. Ephraim's twin sister (and Innes' potential girlfriend and partner) Princess Eirika aims to become a guile heroine, but she is more of an all loving heroine - using her kindness and charisma rather than deceit and tactics, alongside her swordmanship.
    • The player will become this in Fire Emblem Awakening. Or better said, the Player Character aka the Avatar - a mysterious young man or woman who belongs to the Tactician Class (able to use both magic tomes and swords). S/he becomes the advisor and best friend (and prospect love interest in the case of a girl!Avatar) of Prince Chrom of Ylisse, serving as his Number Two in his Badass Crew, the Shepherds. And then it turns out that s/he is also the Big Bad Friend, as the potential host for a Dark God. And his/her biggest goal is to go "Screw Destiny" so this won't happen.
    • Fire Emblem: Three Houses brings in Claude. The guy always prefers deceit and strategy to fair fights, constantly looks up intel on everybody around him with or without their knowledge, likes to have tricks up his sleeves to the point he considers poison-brewing a hobby, and always hides his sharp mind and keen political skills behind a laid-back attitude and endless wisecracks. It's not all positives, though: he's so well known for being underhanded that despite being unarguably the most good-natured of the three Lords who only wants peace for everyonenote , most people just don't trust him.
  • Every protagonist in Five Nights at Freddy's is one. There's no fighting option (that would contradict the point of the genre) so you have to outsmart the bad guys to survive.
  • This is the predominant hero in Sierra's games from the '80s, including Space Quest, King's Quest, Leisure Suit Larry and numerous one shots. Very few of them had fighting options, requiring the protagonist - and player - to use his head.
  • The Unnamed Hero from the Quest for Glory games (another Sierra series) invariably comes up against evil sorcerers/Eldritch Abominations that are far too powerful for him to deal with via any means but outwitting them.
    • Though by the final game the Hero is potentially powerful enough to just straight-up kill the Dragon of Doom instead of sealing it away like he'd usually do.
  • The King of Fighters: Ash Crimson turns out to be this, thus him being the literal embodiment of the Joker card.
    • Kyo Kusanagi's mother Shizuka is a soft-spoken but incredibly sly and plucky Yamato Nadeshiko, and the KOF: KYO manga makes her this through and through. Specially by subduing Eiji Kisaragi with words alone (and pointing her naginata at him) and via hilariously showing her own husband Saisyu why he should NEVER go out behind her back.
    • On top of being a Colonel Badass and Action Hero, Heidern can play the role of Guile Hero pretty well when it's needed. He gets his first try in KOF 99 and 2000, when he and the Ikari Warriors are tasked with investigating NESTS through the KOF tournament, and he does this again in XIII cia organizing and leading an Investigation Team (with Seth, Blue Mary, Ramon, and Vanessa as its members), to check on the mysterious circumstances surrounding Those Of The Past — and this is alongside always sending out the Ikari Warriors into the battlefield itself as well. Too bad Ash is just as guileful and manages to perform his plan even with Heidern and Co. around.
  • Mass Effect:
  • Nippon Ichi loves this trope:
  • The Geneforge series of games allows the player with high Leadership to pass through diplomatically, an avoid picking a side amongst the factions, at least up until the endgame. A powerful shaper/lifecrafter can summon Mons and arrange them tactically enough to avoid all personal contact with battle.
  • Lillet Blan in GrimGrimoire outfoxes the devil in a display of cunning that even impresses her demon teacher.
  • Shin Megami Tensei:
    • Most of the games require the player to develop some skills with this with the demon talk mechanic, as you really have zero hope of advancing if you do not learn to interact with demons, learning to flatter, bribe, and deceive them into serving you, helping you, or just leaving you alone.
    • Persona:
      • Naoto Shirogane from Persona 4, especially seen when she intentionally gets herself kidnapped in hopes of figuring out who the kidnapper was while at the same time completely expecting the "Investigation Team" to come rescue her. That being said, Kanji does chew her out for putting herself in danger.
      • The protagonists from Persona 3 and 4, who save almost everyone around them with words and simple emotional guidance.
      • The protagonist from Persona 5 takes it even further; besides his talents as a pseudo-therapist, he's constantly noted to be a trickster at heart, can negotiate with enemy Shadows, and he's even able to play his team's traitor like a fiddle.
  • In Planescape: Torment, monsters and goons will often force physical confrontations, but it is very, very rare to have an actual story objective that can only be achieved with violence. Usually, smooth talking, quick thinking, or outright deceit can carry the day every bit as easily as barreling in and breaking things.
  • Professor Layton. Helps that the games he's in revolve entirely around solving puzzles. Mind you, he actually engages into a sword fight in Diabolical Box, but only to defend himself from a deluded villain.
  • Elaine Marley-Threepwood in Tales of Monkey Island. She laid down an intricate master plan, used her charm back in Chapter 2 to make sure Guybrush would play his part in said plan, and repeatedly engaged in swordplay and (in one case) naval warfare to help move things along.
    • Guybrush (the player character) is no slouch, either. Although he is often portrayed as bumbling and foolish (and perhaps a bit cowardly) many of his actions throughout the Monkey Island series involve him tricking or manipulating someone into getting what he wants. Indeed, his lack of physical strength or prowess is the main reason he must resort to such tactics.
  • Kratos Aurion in Tales of Symphonia. His plan to let a human wield the Eternal Sword relies on him repeatedly betraying the party and playing both sides so that he can finally die. He constantly switches sides because he's torn between preventing a Full-Circle Revolution (side with Mythos) and stopping an Instrumentality Plot (side with Lloyd) until the end, and although it is his sword skills that are commented on the most, his plotting does a lot more to drive the story forward.
    • Fittingly, as he's supposed to be Kratos' replacement and foil, Zelos Wilder should qualify. He, too, plays multiple sides of the conflict, intending to stick with the side that has the greatest chance of success. This term works best if you take the route that keeps him alive: he betrays his original allies, Cruxius, at the last minute, just so he can obtain the Eternal Ring. In the other ending, he's just a lying liar who lies… and then dies. Not to mention he's probably had to deal with a lot of political shenanigans on the side, growing up as The Chosen in Meltokio and all.
  • Undertale will make you one if you want to beat the game without hurting anyone. Most of your enemies are very persistent in their desire to kill you, and the pacifist player has to get creative in order to calm down the Legion of monsters.
  • Clementine of The Walking Dead, as part of being a girl Kid Hero, just doesn't have the raw strength to tackle many challenges head-on. That said, she's very spry, clever, and quick to learn how to survive in this post-apocalyptic world, working well with other members of her groups (most of the time). She's also a crack shot with a handgun.
  • Johnny Cage from Mortal Kombat has become this after Character Development. He's not military, a warrior monk, an Edenian with a thousand-year lifespan's worth of training, or a god. He's an actor who signed on initially to shut up some tabloids and quickly (but far too late) figured out he was way in over his head. But his Motor Mouth taunting of his opponents, Obfuscating Stupidity, and quick thinking (in the Movie, he had no chance of defeating Goro in a straight fight, so he tricked Goro into making a fatal mistake instead) means that while he's chronically underestimated by ally and enemy alike, there's a reason he has the position of Earthrealm (and Raiden's) champion after Liu Kang's death and corruption.
    • In the "Aftermath" expansion story of Mortal Kombat 11, Liu Kang (after his ascension to Fire God) becomes this, pulling off a massive Batman Gambit by allowing Shang Tsung to take Kronika's crown and betray absolutely everyone until all other possible threats to the realms are eliminated, allowing him to deal with Shang Tsung without anyone or anything else to interfere.
  • The player character from The Outer Worlds can be played as this. With charm, perception, and cleverness on the player's part, the Unplanned Variable can unite the various squabbling factions into a peaceful system, manipulate them for personal profit, or some combination thereof. The best endings, including the Unplanned Variable installing themself as dictator of Halcyon, are most easily achieved with this kind of playthrough.
  • In Untitled Goose Game, you play as a goose, so you frequently need to use guile and subterfuge to manipulate the villagers into accomplishing your goals.
  • Many point-n-click adventure game protagonists seem to run on this trope. A point-n-click interface doesn't lend itself very well to fighting so the player must use their wits alone to progress by choosing the right dialogue options, solving puzzles, and combining the right items to macgyver their way through the game.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Mia Fey combines this with Stealth Mentor, often delivering cryptic clues to Phoenix about the weaknesses she spots in the witnesses and prosecutors. Phoenix himself turns into one by the time of Apollo Justice, pulling off a truly impressive and long-running Batman Gambit.
    • The Player Character, no matter the installment. You play as either a defense attorney or a prosecutor and bring criminals to justice only with wits, rhetoric, and evidence.
  • The protagonists of the Danganronpa franchise are of this type. Makoto Naegi of the first game and Hajime Hinata of the second game often have to defeat their opponents with their minds since, well, the circumstances make physical resistance foolhardy at the least. Then in Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, Kaede Akamatsu is able to lie during Class Trials about the evidence she has and give false information in order to get the culprit.
  • In Higurashi: When They Cry:
    • Keiichi has a remarkable gift for knowing exactly what motivates people and how to convince them to do what he wants; see the Atonement finale, where he successfully persuades a psychotic would-be murderer to realise the evil of her crimes and seek help.
    • Mion is easily bored by academic studying but is a genius leader and strategist (…who once led a team of about seven teenagers to victory against a crack team of trained government agents, using only a friend's well-placed traps, knowledge of the terrain, and a small modicum of martial skill). Interestingly, the gaming club she formed tends to attract these kinds of people- probably because, in said club, cheating and anticipating how others will play is explicitly the only way to win, because everyone else is cheating too. And since humiliating 'punishment games' are always assigned to the one who comes in last, no one wants to lose.
  • Majikoi! Love Me Seriously! has Yamato Naoe, who is one of the most forward protagonists in visual novels, mainly through manipulating and outsmarting people.
  • Marco and the Galaxy Dragon: Marco, the galaxy’s greatest treasure hunter, is an ordinary girl in a galaxy full of superhuman aliens. While she can hold her own in a fight, she’s more likely to solve her problems through trickery or persuasion.
  • Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors:
    • Junpei, the Player Character, can influence the other characters into doing what he wants with rhetoric. The most prominent usage of his cleverness is when getting people to go through the numbered door he wants: infamously done (if the player so wishes) with Door 3note , and also the voting for the third set of numbered doorsnote . What's more, Junpei tricks a murderer into confessing with bluffs in one of the endings.note 
    • June, AKA Akane, AKA the person who kidnapped all the characters including Junpei, looks like a harmless Cloud Cuckoolander with occasional fever bursts, but gets Ace to murder his three business partners just by predicting how he would act when given the chance and means to kill them and giving said stuff to him. These victims, along with Ace, nearly got her killed 9 years ago, and accomplishes all of this without getting her own hands dirty.
  • Shall We Date?: Ninja Shadow:
    • Ritsu is a mix of Intrepid Reporter and Knowledge Broker who really, really want to play this role. His biggest goals are to expose Suetsugu's evil and find out the identities of the Vigilantes.
    • Few would've thought that Zeyo Sakamoto would be able to play this trope straight, judging by his first apparitions, but his route gives him the chance to be this through and through since his biggest desire is to end with the Shogunate without starting a bloody revolution.
    • Yoshinobu Tokugawa is also portrayed as this, as the closest to a Big Good in the cast and a Reasonable Authority Figure who never loses his cool. It's next to no wonder that he and Sakamoto become fast friends in the latter's route.
  • While not nearly to the same level as her friend Seiji, Kaoru from Spirit Hunter: NG shows a surprisingly devious streak despite her bubbly personality; she subtly threatened her manager to cover for her when she sneaks out at night, she knows secret routes to skirt around police, and she's fine with sneaking into prohibited areas or bluffing her way into them.
  • Battler Ushiromiya graduates to this in Episode 6 of Umineko: When They Cry. And both he and Beatrice take it Up to Eleven in Episode 8.

    Web Animation 
  • Wrip the rabbit-spirit in No Evil is, in her own words, "only good at getting people to do things". However, she's really good at getting people to do things, especially when using her disguise magic. In Little Bunny Foo Foo, she and Calamity are caught spying on the McCoy food thieves; it takes her two sentences to convince them that she's there to help, at which point she lures them into a trap.
  • Agent Washington in Red vs. Blue. Church often attempts to be one but fails more often than not.
  • RWBY:
    • Though he was once a Wide-Eyed Idealist, Ozpin demonstrates in his position as headmaster of Beacon Academy that physical strength isn't the only way to fight on Remnant. He keeps a close eye on the titular team during their various vigilante acts, even directly bending the rules for them when they want to investigate Mountain Glenn. His colleague and friend, General Ironwood, prefers to confront any problem with overwhelming military might, but Ozpin advises him to take a more subtle, cautious approach. As a matter of fact, Oz has set up a great deal of precautions across Remnant to battle Salem: founding the Huntsman academies and hiding a Relic in a secret vault within each school so they're constantly guarded by veteran warriors and can only be accessed by specific Maidens. Professor Lionheart can't simply hand over Haven's Relic when he defects to Salem, and extra protections for the Relic of Choice means that Salem can't retrieve Beacon's Relic even when she takes control of both the school and relevant Maiden. Oz has also embedded members of his Benevolent Conspiracy in kingdom power structures so that he still has powerful allies whenever he reincarnates, and gave Qrow orders to recover his cane should he die so his next host can retrieve it; this enables Oz to return to fight as Oscar much faster than anyone expected. Upon his death and reincarnation into Oscar, Ozpin meets up with Qrow and Team RNJR in Mistral, where Leonardo Lionheart is acting very suspiciously. Oz instructs the others not to let the headmaster know about his current situation until they've learned more. Leo's therefore caught off guard when Oscar challenges him with Ozpin's cane. Then again, this rather manipulative side, as well as his secretive nature, does cost Ozpin his allies' trust more than once. Oz himself is not proud of some of his actions and eventually has to admit that for all his planning, he still doesn't know how to stop Salem for good.
    • Oscar may not be happy with how he has to join the battle against Salem, but develops quickly in more than just combat prowess. After only a few minutes of flying in the airship Maria stole, he manages to figure out the weak point behind Cordovin's Mini-Mecha. He almost singlehandedly convinces Ironwood to widen his circle of trust, which rallies Atlas' collective defenders to save Mantle from a Grimm attack together, at least for a brief time. Even after the Hound brings him to Salem, Oscar doesn't give her the information she demands, but works in tandem with Ozpin to appeal to Hazel's more noble qualities. When he's sufficiently wary, Oscar explains how the Lamp of Knowledge functions and that it will answer one more question, emphasizing he's giving Hazel the answer, not Salem. That way, Hazel has a chance to find out the truth for himself.

  • Kendall of Agents of the Realm stands out among her fellow Agents with this quality. When others want to confront Jordan with their Magical Girl Warrior fate, hoping it would force a Heel–Face Turn, Kendall arranges a Meet Cute and pretends to know nothing, learning everything.
  • Buck Godot of Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire is definitely no slouch in a stand-up fight, but his major victories throughout the comic's run were due to his ability to think on his feet and put two and two together just a little quicker than anyone else.
  • Averted in Dominic Deegan: The title character likes to think of himself as one of these but his 'clever schemes' backfire on him often.
  • Elator ( "Elly") of Dubious Company has managed to overthrow at least one mutiny and one riot due to his understanding of politics.. and that people like to get drunk.
  • Terezi of Homestuck is said to have killed or captured entire parties of FLARPers using mind games and politics. She is so good at it that she made manipulating a literal god into disfiguring and dooming Vriska look like child's play.
  • To the limited degree that Sam Starfall of Freefall can be considered a hero, he's a Guile Hero. He's not particularly smart, technologically speaking, and he's not particularly strong - at one point being beaten up when he tried to steal candy from a baby - but his ability to cause mayhem through words alone is impressive. For example, at one point he managed to prevent Florence from being cryo-frozen by dressing up as the head of cryogenics (despite only approximately appearing human), lying his tentacular butt off, and even managing to trick the Corrupt Corporate Executive into getting his tongue stuck to a freezing tube. It might be other people who come up with the ultimate plan, but if any stage of it involves manipulation, it's Sam who gets to do that part, and sometimes he'll just do it on the spur of the moment.
    Sawtooth: I don't want Sam on my side. However, I don't want Sam on the other side even more.
    • Dr. Bowman turns out to have a surprising knack for this despite being a genetically augmented chimp laden with anger issues and personal instabilities. Multiple characters describe him as The Chessmaster, but his long-term goals are invariably positive...even if he occasionally takes jaw-dropping risks in order to bring them about.
      Bowman: Take your safeguards. They're a constant neural weighting factor. As you grow and learn, you bring other factors in, making your safeguards less of an influence on your overall decision-making. There were others who wanted your safeguards to always be the overriding factor. They were quite enthusiastic about what limits your thoughts would be capable of. However, each was sure only they knew what the right thoughts were. I actively encouraged that until we ran out of time. That's how the monkey who was excluded from the process wound up making the decisions.
  • Petey from Schlock Mercenary isn't above manipulating others into doing work for him, although he has been willing to use direct force occasionally. The reason for this is that 99.9% of his power is occupied with the war against Andromeda, so he has to make others do the work. He also qualifies as Science Hero (being the most powerful AI in the galaxy and thus likely the smartest entity in the universe) and Action Hero (on a galactic scale).
  • Khun Aguero Agnes, Twenty-Fifth Bam, and Ja Wangnan from Tower of God. While one is a Magnificent Bastard, the second is a sharp, but somewhat naive Wide-Eyed Idealist and the last is a true-to-the-blood hothead.
  • The Girl in Tellurion. She refuses the Robot's offer to learn how to fight, preferring instead to use her understanding of the precursors to chart the course of their Quest. Her skills are enough to instantly convince a ship captain to work for her and follow her directions.

    Web Original 
  • Dream manipulates the hunters in his Minecraft Manhunt videos so that he has the advantage.
  • Ayla "Phase" Goodkind of the Whateley Universe. He is genuinely concerned for people and sincerely wants to help them, and at need is ready to fight toe-to-toe with demons, monsters, and supervillains, but Phase is at heart a Chessmaster whose preferred realm is espionage, trickery, manipulation, bribery, and financial pressure. As a friend puts it: "No one else quite has that when I rule the world I will not permit such behavior attitude".

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • Teddy Ruxpin from The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin. Much of the time, he relies on words, gambits, quick-thinking skills, outwitting his enemies, and the natural effect he has on people. Generally, he leaves the science to his friend Newton Gimmick and is too nice a guy to actually hurt his enemies unless they push things too far.
  • Gumball Watterson from The Amazing World of Gumball may not be the smartest or the strongest, and he doesn't have any special powers like some of his classmates but he does have a quick wit and a silver tongue that he makes frequent use of. Examples of this include tricking Principal Brown into a Engineered Public Confession in "The Pact." (Until it backfires when he starts confessing a little too much.), orchestrating a happy ending for Claire in "The Others", and defeating a troll simply by annoying it in "The Sorcerer." This appears to run in the family as his sister Anais also tricks her family into getting what she wants, as seen in "The Remote" and "The Password."
  • Sokka from Avatar: The Last Airbender. He is the one who comes up with the majority of their battle strategies.
  • Thor, surprisingly given his normal portrayal, pulls it off in an episode of Avengers, Assemble! when, after defeating Doctor Doom who has changed history to make himself absolute ruler of Earth, goes back in time to reset history to the original timeline. Instead of rushing in to stop Doom from using his time machine, Thor sabotages it and slips away, allowing Doom and his legendary ego be convinced that the process doesn't work, he's wasted years of effort and resources on it, and to give up on trying time travel.
  • Rattrap from Beast Wars is the quintessential Guile Hero. Uses his brains and cunning in every situation, will feign loyalty and pretend to switch sides and abandon his team to gain access to information that will really further his team's goals.
  • Bugs Bunny. While not averse to pull out a Hyperspace Mallet on his foes, his main tactic is to trick them into taking their own fall, confusing them with witty patter and deceiving them with costumes and flattery.
  • Louie Duck in DuckTales (2017) is described as "sharper than the sharpies" by his Uncle Scrooge. He is able to con villains (and his own family) and is (usually) able to talk his way out of problems due to being able to "see all the angles".
  • Gravity Falls:
    • Dipper Pines is perhaps the least manly character in town (apart from maybe Tyler the Cute Biker). Still, he uses his wits to uncover many many mysteries, much to the chagrin of the resident police constables.
    • Dipper's great uncle Stan Pines is this to an even greater extent, to the point that in the Grand Finale he manages to trick a demon and save the world. Stan's long-lost brother, Stanford even discusses how a con man like Stan never would have fallen for Bill Cipher's ruse, like the Author did.
  • Inspector Gadget: Seeing as her uncle is an Idiot Hero and she's just a young girl, Penny fits this role more often than not, with her and her dog Brain helping crack every one of Gadget's cases behind the scenes.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures: Jade in general, though she's an impulsive Action Girl a lot of the time, has a number of these moments throughout the series and tends to be the one who thinks of USING the magical objects they find (i.e. The Talismans) more often than not, not to mention all the ways she's found to follow Jackie.
    • Heck, she managed to trick the Monkey King, who is essentially the embodiment of mischief and trickery!
    • Jade is accidentally trapped in the Demon Netherworld and her family tries to find the last remaining portal to rescue her. When she gets captured, with Po Kong the Mountain Demon wanting to EAT her, she reveals that their brother lied to them and that only one of them can escape. She KNEW that they would fight over who would get to use the portal to leave, and uses the infighting to escape through the portal before they can.
    • In season 4, she also manages to briefly trick Tarakudo into thinking she was returning to the Forces of Darkness.
  • Heloise on Jimmy Two-Shoes, whenever she decides to side with Jimmy.
  • Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts: Unlike Wolf, who focus in fighting, and Kipo, who tries to deal with situations by befriending others, Benson is a very good scammer and frequently uses lies and general trickery to evade Mutes. A good example of this has him convincing the Timbercats to let him cook them dinner, but with the intention of tampering with their food to give him time to escape.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic's Rarity often persuades other ponies (and in one point, almost persuades a dragon - she would get away with it too, if not for her greed) into doing what she wants by using her wits and charms. In one episode she gets kidnapped by the Diamond Dogs. While her more action-oriented friends struggle to rescue her, she manages to get out of the situation herself by irritating her captors enough that they're more than happy to let her go. The episode's Aesop is a Take That! to "Real Women Don't Wear Dresses".
    • Princess Celestia counts as well: Equestria has been threatened by out-of-control malicious gods twice now, and both times Celestia has brought about their defeat, not by using her considerable power, but by mailing letters to her pupil (the first time to get her in the right place at the right time, and the second time to remind her of The Power of Friendship and inspire her to save her friends from being brainwashed).
    • The mane six, especially Fluttershy during the Season 5 premier. Starlight Glimmer steals their Cutie Marks and tries to brainwash them. Without their talents, all they're left with is their wits… which they use to trick and Out Gambit Starlight and expose her to the town, allowing her to be defeated.
  • Lisa Simpson of The Simpsons is extremely clever and perfectly able to outsmart and manipulate her enemies like Mr Burns.
  • All of the main characters in South Park (except Eric Cartman). In a Crapsack World where Adults Are Useless, just a little bit of youthful common sense always saves the day.
  • The Spectacular Spider Man Spider-Man is the trifecta in one person, combining book smarts, street smarts, and superpowered fighting-skills effectively enough to take down much more powerful opponents.
  • Jerry Mouse from Tom and Jerry qualifies, as he constantly resorts to cunning to outwit Tom and all the other enemies who wish to capture or eat him.
  • Kaeloo manipulates people a lot. It doesn't help that the Big Bad of the series is one of her best friends and has a crush on her.

    Real Life 
  • Benjamin Franklin. Few people would say that The American Revolution could have been won without his contributions, and he never lifted a gun. His weapons were words. He was occasionally also a Science Hero. For one example, some of his (completely false) "Poor Richard's Almanac" stories presented greedy British officers profiting off of Hessian mercenary deaths; predictably, desertions abounded.
  • George Washington, believe it or not. General Washington was only a so-so general but a crackerjack counterintelligence expert, and used his well-known image as a bluff, honest Virginia farmer-statesman to deceive, trick, and otherwise subvert the British intelligence throughout the Revolutionary War.
  • Harriet Tubman could take dares with an audacity that rivaled Robert E. Lee. For instance, on one mission, she was at a train station with her charges and spotted slave catchers watching the northbound trains for escaped slaves. Thinking fast, Tubman had her company board a southbound train and cannily retreated into enemy territory where they could use a safer station.
    • In another case, she noticed a group of men looking at a "Wanted!" Poster of her, one of them reading the text out loud to the others. The description mentioned her illiteracy, so she grabbed a book and pretended to read, which kept them from spotting her.
  • Iqbal Masih, a Pakistani boy who escaped indentured servitude at the age of 10 (twice)… who then turned back around to help other children in similar conditions by infiltrating the factories, using his "psychological dwarfism" (4'0" and 60 lbs at 10 years old) to his advantage. This helped the Bonded Labor Liberation Front free 3,000 children from those conditions in just 2 years. Unfortunately, this painted a big glowing target on him for the factory-owners (he cost them roughly $200,000,000 in exports), and he was killed with a shotgun at the age of 13.
  • Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, was the Guile Hero to Mahatma Gandhi's Badass Pacifist. Gandhi himself, too: he fought against the British rule in India through totally nonviolent means. Whenever he and his protestors would march, he called up the local media so that when the rest of the world looked at the news and saw the British beating on unarmed protestors who refused to fight back, they got painted as the bad guys. You know you qualify as a Guile Hero when you can show up to every battle unarmed and still win the war.
  • Josip Broz Tito, The Leader of the Yugoslav partisans in WW2. One of his ruses involved blowing up the bridge over the river Neretva to make it look like his troops would go elsewhere, but then crossing the river using an improvised bridge. At the beginning of the Cold War he broke off relations with the communist East Bloc but also refused to join NATO. Instead, he became one of the most prominent members of the Non-Aligned Movement. He also single-handedly held the disparate and not particularly friendly ethnic groups of Yugoslavia together for nearly forty years, and somehow managed to be a beloved leader to nearly all of them. When Tito died, it quickly became clear that nobody else was up to that job, and it took barely more than a decade for the ethnic tensions to rise to the point of civil war that broke Yugoslavia into 7 smaller nations.
  • King Juan Carlos I of Spain. When Francisco Franco agreed to change Spain from a different kind of dictatorship to an absolute monarchy, he started trying to groom the "Prince of Spain", Juan Carlos of the Borbón House, into a good successor who'd maintain the authoritarian state. The prince went along with this, publicly supporting Franco, enduring harsh criticism from reformists and moderates all over… until Franco fell gravely ill in 1975 and handed him absolute authority as King. Only a couple of days after Franco's death, Juan Carlos began to institute reforms at an incredible pace, turning Spain from western Europe's strictest dictatorship into a functional parliamentary democracy in less than three years. Heck, he even refused to take power after the military executed a coup so he could be returned to full authority, single-handedly saving a struggling democracy, and renounced almost all of the ancestral powers he once wielded.
  • Juan Pujol Garcia. After being turned down as an intelligence agent by the British, he decided to do the job without any government backing, getting himself hired as a Nazi spy, and creating an entire army of fictional employees to feed false information back to his boss. Eventually he went to the British again, who quickly hired him after seeing what he was capable of on his own, and became even more effective.
  • Mentioned in the Films section, but worth elaboration: Oskar Schindler, generally considered to be an opportunist turned Atoner. As written in Wikipedia:
    He was a very persuasive individual, and after the raid, increasingly used all of his skills to protect his Schindlerjuden ("Schindler's Jews"), as they came to be called. Schindler went out of his way to take care of the Jews who worked at DEF, often calling on his legendary charm and ingratiating manner to help his workers get out of difficult situations. Once, says author Eric Silver in The Book of the Just, "Two Gestapo men came to his office and demanded that he hand over a family of five who had bought forged Polish identity papers. 'Three hours after they walked in,' Schindler said, 'two drunk Gestapo men reeled out of my office without their prisoners and without the incriminating documents they had demanded.'"
    • A lot of the people Schindler rescued had stories to tell about him, including this one from Helen Hirsch, notorious Nazi Amon Goeth's Jewish maid: one night, while playing cards with Goeth, Schindler plied him with plenty of booze and got him very drunk, and persuaded him to gamble with Hirsch as a stake in the game. With—no doubt—a little help from the booze, Schindler stacked the deck and cheated outrageously to make sure he had the winning hand. Then, when Goeth tried to welch on his bet, Schindler said something like "Now, now, Goeth, you play fair!" and that's how he won her life in a card game.
  • Raoul Wallenberg has the record of lives saved… All through guile.
  • "By Strength and Guile" is the motto of the Royal Marines Special Boat Service. The similarly elite Long Range Desert Group of the British Army (serving as raiders, reconnaissance, and special forces in the North African theatre of World War II) used the similar Non Vi Sed Arte ("Not by Strength but by Guile." Both of these are slightly tongue-in-cheek references to the Latin motto of Clan Gordon, Animus non Astutia commonly translated as "By Courage, not Craft" or "By Strength, not Guile".

Alternative Title(s): Non Action Hero, Guile Heroine, Political Hero


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