Most video games take place in a No Man's Land, with monsters aplenty and not a friendly face or Innocent Bystander in sight. When they do show up, they live in houses or towns, far away from the monsters.
But sometimes these friendly faces show up where the monsters also live. Sometimes they don't, but follow you there. But the funny thing is, the monsters often just seem to ignore them. They only care about hurting you. Even attacks that catch the friendly characters in their wake don't seem to hurt them at all. Why is that?
Why, because these are Invulnerable Civilians.
A number of games have these. It's often a compromise between allowing more friendly characters to wander around the world to make it feel alive and populated, while at the same time avoiding violence that might upset Moral Guardians or come across as inappropriate. Obviously, violent games tend not to do this, allowing civilians to be killed if they are not protected. Most games avoid the issue by not allowing friendly characters and enemies to coexist in the same location.
Another reason this trope occurs is when a game is characterized by sneaking around enemies, while escorting civilians. Human players get frustrated when they have honed sneaking skills that are worthless with bad AI sneaking.
It's generally the norm for players to not be able to hurt civilians, of course (though some games allow the player to commit such atrocities). This refers mainly to when enemies ignore or cannot hurt them.
Sometimes, the game is generous enough to treat you as a Civilian extending to you these same privileges, at least until you get your gun. For examples where this is the case, see Non-Combatant Immunity.
See Also Hide Your Children. Contrast with the Lord British Postulate, where NPCs can't be killed by normal means, but can still be offed using some rather..."creative" methods. The opposite of this is Vulnerable Civilians. Please put your aversions there.
- In City of Heroes, civilians will often find themselves struggling over purses or ancient artifacts, but they can walk through groups of evil body-possessing mages without a problem. Villain-side Mayhem missions are the only times they are attackable by players, just like enemies and scenery. However, the same attack that puts a dent in a SWAT officer's armor or destroys a car does absolutely nothing to a citizen.
- In the EA developed Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars, you can spot tiny little pedestrians running around in the city campaign missions, they are unaffected by the hordes of tanks driving over them. Not the case in previous games in the series, where civilians were units just like any other... including being squishable beneath tanks if on foot (several of the games had cars and trucks as well as pedestrians).
- In Crazy Taxi, pedestrians jump out of the way of your taxi when you drive towards them. It's impossible to hit the pedestrians, even if you realistically should be able to. The only exception is that it is sometimes possible to reverse and turn into a passenger that you've just dropped off, but the game doesn't register the collision (the person's body passes right through the car).
- The Crew, which shares D:SF's developer, maintains the incredible dodging skills on the pedestrians.
- In Dark Souls, monsters will completely ignore the few NPCs scattered around the game world. This is a good thing, as several NPCs are found in the middle of major danger zones will monsters crossing their path regularly while trying to get to you. However, monster attacks will still damage friendly NPCs, so it's possible for them to die if you get into a fight near them and they get hit by, say, a few stray thrown boulders.
- The civilians evacuating the planet in the second campaign map in Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War are completely ignored by the attacking Orks. In the Orks' defense, killing fleeing civilians it a lot less fun than killing Space Marines.
- Same for the earlier Driver games. Goes to the ridiculous extreme in Driver: San Francisco in which pedestrians dodge out of the way of cars as if the Spidey Sense bit them in the taint.
- Final Fantasy:
- Final Fantasy XI has a few areas with NPCs in dangerous areas. While most of them are in areas that don't have monsters spawn there, if you run a mob over there and manage to lose aggro, do they attack the NPCs? Nope. The only time the mobs seem to notice the NPCs is when you are supposed to escort them somewhere for a quest. In fact, during the early years of the game, there were almost no player-race enemies whatsoever. In fact, the only player-race enemy you fought at that time transformed into a monster.
- Justified with Namingway in Final Fantasy IV's DS remake: he has the ability to always appear in whatever location the story mandates your party to visit next, complain about his current situation, find a new calling, change his name to <Insertcurrentsituationhere> way and ask Cecil to help him out in some way and possibly reward him somehow, in no particular order. Said locations are invariably filled with lots of dangerous monsters, and the one time you actually need to fight him a good way into the game, he only has a measly 32 HP. So how does he survive? Simple: after you complete his subplot and find him in one of the randomly chosen locations afterwards, he gives you his good luck charm that he's apparently carried with him the entire time: a Safe Travel augment, which eliminates all random encounters. The game doesn't bother to elaborate if the very first monsters he runs into afterwards kill him brutally or if he barely manages to escape to a nearby town, realizes the danger he's been in the entire time and spends the rest of his life sobbing in the corner of a nearby inn.
- He's still alive and well in Final Fantasy IV: The After Years and has settled with setting up challenge dungeons in each character tale, which might or might not mean he's learned his lesson. There's another member of his species that pops up during various dungeons to sell you items which might or might not be him, though.
- Final Fantasy XIII-2 has an interesting version, as many NPCs will attack enemies that appear near them on the overworld, but thats purely visual and has no bearing on the actual battle, nor will anyone ever die to these monsters.
- Final Fantasy XIV has several camps and other points of interest where many of an NPC populate them. While it is possible to drag monsters over to them, they won't attack them and even if you get them to use an AOE attack, the NPC will not get hurt at all. The only time an NPC can get hurt or attacked directly is if they're part of an Escort Mission.
- In Global Defence Force (Chikyuu Boueigun 2) there are crowds of civilians running away from the alien enemies on many levels. Even if the player is fully kitted out with a superweapon capable of killing a gigantic Godzilla-alike lizard in one hit, shooting civilians will make them fly through the air, lie on the ground for a moment, then simply pick themselves up and start running again. Likewise if they are stepped on by the aforementioned lizard. If you shoot a single civilian with a continuous-fire weapon for long enough, though, they will vanish into thin air, but this seems to be a bug rather than 'death'.
- In Guild Wars, a young girl you meet in an early area playfully follows you around. Enemies ignore her and only try to hurt you. This is more a case of Improbable Infant Survival, since most other civilians can be killed if you lure monsters close to them. And when the same character shows up as a teenager in Eye of the North, she is most certainly not invulnerable (though she's not a civilian anymore either).
- In Infinity models aren't allowed to declare attacks against civilians.
- In a non-videogame example, the NPCs of the Resistance in Kid Radd actually weaponize this. Even though they are unable to damage others, their complete invulnerability (due to not being coded to take damage) makes them very effective shields for their more damage-oriented allies. Even more dangerous are the NPCs who attack others after taking damage, but are still invincible. Sheena, due to a series of events, eventually is able to transform between NPC and player character modes.
- Played straight in Lagoon for the SNES, where the first major thing you do is explore a dungeon and do an Escort Mission with a little boy. He can't be hurt at all, but goes at quite a slow pace...
- The Legend of Zelda:
- In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Dampe the gravekeeper wanders around the graveyard at night. As you pull gravestones and ghosts come out of some of them, the ghosts attack you, but kindly ignore Dampe, who in turn ignores them. Always wondered why the hordes of skeleton monsters wandering around Hyrule field at night didn't march into Lon Lon Ranch and go on a stabbing rampage. Its door was always open.
- The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. Tingle, the map selling fake fairy, can be found deep in the well-defended Clock town, on the peaceful road to Milk Ranch and...in the horrible, death-shrouded, fairy-frightening, blood-streaked, zombie-filled canyon/death temple found later in the game. Sure, he has unlimited balloons but there are heat-seeking flaming bats and death-birds everywhere.
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: NPCs cannot die, despite often needing to be saved. If attacked by monsters, the worst that will happen is that they're knocked out briefly. If you attack them yourself, they'll dodge in fear but never get hit, while the Goron elder will knock you back in retaliation.
- Machine Hunter: The hostages in each level cannot be harmed in any way, either by hostile aliens, robots, or friendly fire from you.
- Batman: Arkham Knight: Subverted in Batman Arkham Knight, You have the Batmobile which is equipped with an arsenal of deadly weaponry such as a 60mm cannon, a minigun, and missle salvos, but when ever you try to shoot any of those weapons at a mook the weapons targeting automatically switches to the non lethal missle launcher (which is still brutal.
- Civilians in Metal Slug are most of the time immune to damage and harm from both the player and enemies, and are completely ignored by most enemies. In particular, the first stage of Metal Slug 2/X contains a baby crawling around. Like most civilians they're immune to damage but they can get tossed around by your explosive weapons. They'll just get back up and continue crawling no worse for the wear. This trope, however, is averted when mummies and zombies are involved. And at that point you can sometimes get more bonuses for letting the civilians get mummified/zombiefied and then killing them.
- In Midnight Club: Street Racing has invulnerable civilians that you can run over, but they'll get back up on their feet and continue on like nothing happened. The sequel, Midnight Club II, averts this, as pedestrians you run over don't get back up and are treated as dead. The opponents would even call you out for doing so. This stands out in a game that is otherwise non-violent, and subsequent games grant the pedestrians super dodging skills.
- The pedestrians in Midtown Madness also have incredible dodging skills, though in the first game, you could turn the weather to snowy and drive down the sidewalks of Lakeshore Drive to force them to dive into Lake Michigan. They would welcome death after that.
- In Might and Magic VI, if you lured monsters into town, they'd continue attacking you, but would completely ignore the townspeople walking around (funnily enough, the townspeople would be happy to attack you if you start killing them).
- This was corrected in Might & Magic VII, where townspeople and monsters would fight each other if they ever crossed paths (all townspeople were randomly generated; all plot important NPCs were unkillable signpost conversations safely tucked away indoors).
- There is one exception to this in the first play area, where a semi-plot-important NPC offers the players a wand of fireball in return for a later 'favour'. Since the character in question carries the wand on him, enterprising players who know how M&M aggro works quickly learn that no favour is incurred if they just so happen to loot the wand from his corpse after he was tragically killed by a completely random and not-at-all player-led monster incursion focused on his location.
- Neverwinter Nights features one of the most frustrating applications of this trope. Some Invulnerable Civilians will ignore your attacks, but God help the adventurer who takes a swing at an NPC only to discover that a.) he's invincible and b.) he's pissed off.
- Octopath Traveler: Downplayed. Townsfolk can be challenged by Olberic and H'aanit to fights, though these are typically just sparring matches that leave the civilian dazed until the player exits the map.
- The Demon Scrolls in Ōkami will happily float right past any NPCs in the area, but if you get anywhere near them, they actually chase you out of Suicidal Overconfidence.
- The second level of Project: Horned Owl has a hostage situation in an airport taken over by Metalica's forces. Despite your lieutenant telling you to "Watch out for those hostages!" You can, in fact, shoot passing civilains (which are immune to your bullets) while gunning down enemies without suffering any penalties.
- In Ravensword: Shadowlands, anyone who isn't explicitly an enemy cannot be harmed at all, and is completely ignored by monsters.
- In Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale, whenever you go into a dungeon, you need to hire an adventurer to do the fighting, while Recette tags along handles all the loot, and it's explained in-universe the non-combatants are magically protected and can't be attacked by monsters, but can't interact with them either.
- The webcomic RPG World lampshades this trope (just like it does for every single other video game trope in existence), in this comic.
- Scarface: The World Is Yours. The main character, Tony Montana, will refuse to fire his gun at innocents. However, running people over is easily possible. Explosions? The pedestrians are just rattled. Even if you play with the 'murder spree possible' sub-characters some essential civilians, like the bank tellers, are still impossible to kill. Explosions? Tear pedestrians to shreds.
- In The Simpsons: Road Rage, however, you can run over both the pedestrian you've dropped off and other pedestrians waiting for a taxi on the road. However, other than complaining at you and being dragged off like every other object you can collide and drag with you, the pedestrians aren't any worse for wear afterwards.
- Averted. At one point, there was a near-invincible civilian in the form of the Guide (who could still be killed by lava, but would quickly respawn), but an update changed this to allow him to die like the other Non Player Characters. NPCs still can't be killed by the player under normal circumstances, although it is possible to with magma, and goodie bags dropped by enemies around Halloween commonly have Rotten Eggs, which can be used to damage and kill NPCs.
- Killing the Guide by throwing his voodoo doll into a lava pit summons the Wall of Flesh.
- 1.2 adds the same potential fate for the Clothier, which lets you summon Skeletron again.
- In the Ty the Tasmanian Tiger series, the townspeople won't get hurt if you throw boomerangs at them, but they will still yell at you.
- Certain areas in World of Warcraft have wandering predators and wandering herbivores passing right by one another... but so help you if YOU should happen to walk near either of them.
- That specific case (herbivores and carnivores walking right by each other) was actually addressed in the game's latest expansion pack, where in some cases you have predators ignore you to go eat something that they actually hunt (wolves on some sort of moose like animal), though they will gladly start attacking you as soon as they are done 'eating'.
- The game also has several examples of merchants who are somewhat allied with enemy forces, but you can still purchase items from. They are usually marked as traitorous, or just willing to accept anyone's coin. And Vendor Trash.
- Exaggerated and lampshaded in zOMG! when a lost little girl is found on the cliffs by the Otami Ruins, unharmed by all the particularly nasty Animated that live there.
- Secret of Evermore follows this trope to a T, as a number of enemies like Rogues and Mad Monks actually pop up as friendly NPCs as well who cannot be harmed, and in the volcano you'll find a single friendly Viper who offers to save your game after berating you for smacking him with your weapon unprovoked. It also pops up as an insane case of Developers' Foresight for anyone who uses a walk-through walls cheat in the Tutorial Level and smacks either Professor Ruffleberg Carltron with the bazooka: the friendly professor will be unharmed, but Carltron will pop just like any enemy, and even award you with some talons and experience points, as he is secretly the game's Big Bad.