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Guile Hero
aka: Guile Heroine

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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 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. Female Guile Heroes are also often the Beauty of a Beauty, Brains, and Brawn trio. 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.

The Guile Hero is the most common type of hero in a Puzzle Thriller, and they often shine brightest in one.

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

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Other examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • In his early stories, Adam Strange mostly defeated the menaces he encountered with science and trickery.
  • 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".
  • 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. Being an idealistic and responsible King might have something to do with him preferring this approach over straight violent confrontation.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 (Gillen), 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.
  • 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.
  • 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, 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.

    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.
  • In Asbjørnsen and Moe's "The Old Dame and her Hen", the little daughter triumphs over the incredibly strong and dangerously hot-tempered troll by being observant, patient and clever. For example, she asks him to carry food to her mother, and then she stuffs a sack with his gold and silver, covered with a little of food.
  • Espen Askeladd, aka Askeladden (the Ash-Lad) from Norwegian folklore qualifies as one of these. Most of the sticky situations he gets in he resolves by outsmarting the baddie. For some examples, he convinces a hungry troll not to eat him by demonstrating his prodigous strength by squeezing the piece of cheese in his pocket, impressing the troll by squeezing "the water from a stone." In a rock-throwing contest, Askeladden grabs a bird out of a nearby bush and gives it a hurl. He is also sometimes called Per Gynt, and formed the basis for the Henrik Ibsen play by that same name.
  • The Jewish folk hero Herschel of Ostropol (who was a real person, but probably didn't do all the things he's remembered for) is famous for getting out of trouble with his quick wits, fooling rich men, bandits, gentiles, and even goblins, angels, and demons in some stories.
  • The Brave Little Tailor is about a character who, having been Mistaken for Badass, resolves the quests and other challenges he encounters with cunning: killing two giants by tricking them into fighting each other, catching a unicorn by baiting it into charging into a tree, and scaring away assassins by pretending to be asleep and still aware of them, to name a few options.

    Fan Works 
  • 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 be excellent at thinking on his feet. While he later becomes a Person of Mass Destruction with an impulsive streak, prone to defaulting to the most ludicrously... destructive solution, he's a highly creative lateral thinker and the sequel's Character Development and a brutal Trauma Conga Line make him an adept schemer, a deft manipulator, and a talented student of Xanatos Speed Chess. As even the extremely observant Jean-Paul admits, it is very easy to forget that Harry is actually frighteningly clever.

Godzilla / King Kong / MonsterVerse

Harry Potter

  • 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.
  • The Peace Not Promised: Severus Snape. 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.

How to Train Your Dragon

  • 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.


My Hero Academia

  • Turning A New Leaf: Izuku manages to both elicit Bakugo's Heel–Face Turn and have Aldera investigated by the Hero Commission — outing them as a secret recruiting tool for the Meta Liberation Army — by shapeshifting into All Might and using his influence to manipulate both.
  • Yesterday Upon The Stair: Midoriya Izuku, 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.

My Little Pony

  • 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.
  • 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.

Neon Genesis Evangelion

  • HERZ: Misato. Being the Director of UN organization HERZ she has to deal with politicians constantly, often playing them against each other.
  • 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.

One Piece


  • Luminosity: Bella 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.
  • Jess from Children of the Atom is hopeless in a straight fight, but manages to be awesome due to deductive ability and acting diplomatically.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    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 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Gleahan and the Knaves of Industry: Mark, a pre-law school dropout, uses his knowledge of the law to do some really awesome things.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • Fraizer from Inside Man. Magnificent Bastard Russel even lampshades this by saying that Fraizer is "too smart to be a cop".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Star Wars: The Jedi of the franchise are expected to be this, taught to use diplomacy first, and violence only as a last resort. Obi-Wan Kenobi in A New Hope overcame most hurdles with either trickery, both Force-assisted and not, or just smooth-talking. Luke Skywalker eventually evolves into one himself by Return of the Jedi — His repeated attempts to negotiate with Jabba the Hutt and placate him with "gifts" also hides multiple infiltrations of his gang by Luke's friends. By the time Jabba attempts to execute everyone, all of Luke's allies (and his new lightsaber) are already in place to retaliate.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    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. True, he was a Messianic Archetype, but He was also a master at outsmarting the Pharisees — 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.note  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.


    Puppet Shows 
  • Kingdom Adventure: Minstrel Vibes is very good at making up lies on the fly and getting Magistrate Pitts and his guards to believe what he wants them to believe. Justified in that he knows Pitts and the guards well, having worked for or with them in the castle for some time, so he knows how to use their flaws and expectations to his advantage, and has gotten the heroes out of a jam more than once with his ability to trick them.
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 & 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.
  • 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.
  • 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:
  • 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.
  • Nippon Ichi loves this trope:
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • If the Villain Protagonist of Tyranny wants to join the rebels (and isn't just using them for their own ambitions), they'll have to be this. Though they start out serving Evil Overlord Kyros, the Fatebinder can keep rebels alive — and even in their court as trusted servants — under technicalities. All the while claiming they are following the orders of Kyros to the letter, and using creative interpretations of Kyros' magical edicts to break them. The Rebel path also involves a lot of getting the squabbling peoples of the Tiers to cooperate in spite of ancient grudges, and a good bit of guile is needed to achieve this relatively bloodlessly.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Walking Dead:
    • Lee is a strong guy and good fighter and zombies are a threat that can't be talked away, but what keeps Lee alive is, primarily, his intellect. He even makes a point of explaining it to Clementine - the dead are slow, the living are fast. The dead are stupid, the living are smart. He is also adept at manipulating the emotions of other to achieve his objectives.
    • Clementine, 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.

    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.
  • Supermarioglitchy4's Super Mario 64 Bloopers: Mario is far, far stupider in here than in the games, but a great deal of his victories come from his ability to use the environment or even his own stupidity to his advantage.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Haley from The Order of the Stick is quite skilled in manipulating her enemies. A highlight involved her dealing with an intelligent, nigh-indestructible Flesh Golem with a grudge against her (due to being made from her rival Crystal). Unable to inflict appreciable damage on the construct, she managed to defeat her with words, first persuading her to turn against her master Bozzok, then distracting her with conversation until she could dump her into a lava pit.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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.

    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 
  • Dimension 20: Due to the format of most TTRPG campaigns, the heroes are usually severely outnumbered and/or less powerful than their enemies, which means than in order to win, they will have to resort to trickery and outsmarting their opponents.
    • After she comes into her own, Adaine Abernant proves to be a great strategist. Her ability to cast really useful spells at the right opportunity and her brilliant use of portents throughout the series has saved her party members or turned the tide of the fight multiple times. Her intelligence also means she's very good during investigation segments for putting the pieces of the puzzle together.
    • Riz Gukgak has an affinity for riddles and conspiracies, which comes in handy when the 2 campaigns have heavy mystery elements, has the best track record for solving mysteries of the party, and is learned and diligent. He's also very clever when fighting, a requirement to be an efficient rogue.
    • Fig Faeth is the most creative fighter of the party, bending the rules of her spells to their limits in order to accomplish what she wants them to do. She's also The Social Expert and The Face of the party, and uses these skills to advance the cases they're on, being very good at pretending other people, with a strong Deception bonus and clever usage of the spell Disguise Self.
    • Galfast Hamhead, despite being no slouch in combat, proves to be incredibly effective at escaping and outmanoeuvering the Lieutenants with cunning and sneaking. Her escape is an especially good example, as she tricks Avanash into releasing her and destroying the only mean to forge another crown, hides on the Siren, knowing they'll have expected her to go directly to her home, out-gambits Markus by being more persuasive than him, and once the goblin flying balloon can't fly anymore, parachutes across Gogmar, letting her enemies die from the thousand feet fall. There's a reason Brennan compares her to Bugs Bunny.
    • Lapin Cadbury distinguishes himself from the rest of the cast very early on by navigating the political minefield that is Calorum with finesse. His plans have saved the life of his king, Amethar, more than once, and even took out the villains' biggest edge against the Candians, the Water steel weapons, in one fell swoop.
    • Buckster Boyd is an excellent manipulator, and uses his gifts in the ways of charm and insight to help the case and suss out information from the witnesses, either by reading them or convincing them.
  • Legendy Polskie have Twardowski, who outsmarts the devil. More than once.
  • Spoony highly recommends playing Bards and Thieves in this manner on Counter Monkey, suggesting dirty tricks such as running past guards wearing nothing but a feathered boa, using makeup to fake wounds and reporting a false assault to send guards on a wild goose chase, or simply knocking on locked doors and punching whoever opens them.

    Western Animation 

  • Princess Carolyn from Bojack Horseman. Whenever there is some talking, negotiation or dealing the group has to do, she is always at the front, detailing the conditions, the basic requirements and bargaining with the other representatives in order to get the most beneficial deal she can make.
  • Lisa Simpson of The Simpsons is clever enough to outsmart and manipulate enemies like Mr. Burns.
  • Gravity Falls:
    • Dipper Pines he uses his wits to uncover many many mysteries, much to the chagrin of the resident police constables.
    • His great-uncle, Stan Pines, is this to a greater extent, to the point that in the Grand Finale he manages to trick a demon. 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.
  • Sokka from Avatar: The Last Airbender. He is the one who comes up with the majority of their battle strategies.
  • 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."
  • 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".
  • Fangbone! Whereas Fangbone and the other barbarians like to solve their conflicts using strength and fierceness, Bill relies mainly on his wits and ability to talk things out to deal with problems, whether it be convincing an enemy to change their ways or coming up with a plan that will let Fangbone slay Drool's Monster of the Week.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 premiere. 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.
  • 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.

    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".
  • Italy has Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour and prime minister of the Kingdom of Sardinia while it was trying to unify Italy, with his guile single-handedly making it possible for the small kingdom to face the Austrian Empire (that had territories in Italy and exercised great influence on most of the pre-unitary states) and come out on top. His greatest hit was how he used the Expedition of the Thousand, that saw Garibaldi invade the Kingdom of Two Sicilies with a thousand men and conquer it all, to conquer most of the Papal States and justify the conquest by pointing at Garibaldi and claiming it was the only way to keep the Pope independent (for the time being, as the Italians would only accept Rome as the capital), something even Austria had to recognize was true.


Video Example(s):

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


Picky-Wicky Pockets

Anita tricks Doctor Doctor into sucking the entire universe into the Trousers of Doom. Since Doctor Doctor happens to be wearing them at the time, she's forced to float through the void all alone where no one can hear her.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / AndIMustScream

Media sources: