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Klingon Promotion

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Grab a club and join the club.

"I shall kill the president... thereby becoming the president..."

In an organization with a ranked hierarchal structure, you can get a promotion by showing aptitude for the work, impressing senior ranked individuals, fulfilling certain criteria, having a place open up due to retirement, resignation or death, and probably kissing a lot of ass. Or you can kill them and take their job.

This is about the latter, not the former.

This is a sister trope to You Kill It, You Bought It. However, in that one, you kill someone, purposefully or accidentally, and gain something of theirs (whether you want it or not). That could be a physical object or something more metaphysical, like a role in life or a curse, and you don’t need to have a system that puts the character in a position to get the job. This requirement of a rank to get into for a Klingon Promotion means it will show up in connection to different sorts of organisations.


For instance, the Klingon Promotion will turn up in organisations that favour ruthlessness and the heavy dominance of a leader. Hence the trope name referring to the Klingons of Star Trek, who are often portrayed as accepting assassination of a superior (with varying justification) as a legitimate option for career advancement. You’ll get it in royal or noble lines of succession where individuals can obsess over the fact that if only 72 people would die in a very short period, they could become King.

A common subtrope is the Challenging the Chief trope where the role of boss goes to whoever's the biggest badass, who can kill or defeat any other badass in ritual combat.

Perhaps the focus will be on a character who uses this method often to get ahead in the world. They could easily then be The Starscream, and if we get the chance to follow them going through several stations in life, advancing themselves with cunning, guile, and possibly the odd bottle of arsenic, we might get to see them as a Manipulative Bastard and maybe a magnificent one.


This trope tends to enforce its Super-Trope: Superior Successor.

Asskicking Equals Authority is when you get a society that works based on this trope. The Evil Prince tends to see the world this way, due to his position. Occasionally, a superior can forestall it with Kill Me Now, or Forever Stay Your Hand. May result in You Are in Command Now if the replacement is lacking in qualifications for the position they gain and/or pulls off a Klingon Promotion by accident.

In practical use, this is a dangerous gamble on the part of the killer, since if he kills a superior who has popular support, he will most likely be killed very quickly himself before he gets an opportunity to enjoy his new power. Also, most don't take well to an unproven upstart killing a superior who has experience and the wisdom to rule effectively, especially when it threatens the status quo. However, no one will mind the killing of an officer who has failed too many times, as long as the killer knows what he is getting himself into now and everything that goes with it. Most of the time, an individual who decides on Klingon Promotion probably does so with the backing of parties sponsoring his actions, thus protecting him from retaliation (leverage). And even then, there still might not be anything to protect them from certain avengers for whom It's Personal. This is similar to how most real-life politicians rely on the support of others to get them in a position of power and keep them there.

Fictional societies that function on this rule often display its downsides. When leadership is predicated solely on being quicker on the draw than the opponent, there is no guarantee that any leader is at all qualified for the position they want, resulting in repeated misrule. Long-term planning is next to impossible since leadership changes hands often and violently, leading to stagnation. Nobody can count on anyone else not to betray them on a whim, which tends to make morale drop to rock bottom. Worst of all, no leader is likely to have the time, ability, or even motivation to improve the situation, since they are too busy fending off usurpers. Woe betide the organization when more than one candidate attempts a power play at once: the organization will likely tear itself apart before one of the usurpers comes out on top. This is a common cause of collapse for evil organizations. Expect a moral about trust and comradery to come from heroes who encounter these situations.

If someone did it by killing the former leader stealthily and impersonating them, this is Kill and Replace.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The headband rules of Afro Samurai fall under this. If one has the number one headband, they are considered god and only the number two can challenge him. The person who has said latter headband, though, can be challenged by anyone.
  • In Bleach, there are three ways to become a Captain. One requires achieving Bankai and demonstrating it to at least three of the other Captains (including the Captain-Commander); one requires getting recommendations from at least six of the sitting Captains, and having approval from at least three of the remaining seven; the last, and the most ruthless one, is to kill a sitting Captain in a one-on-one battle in front of two hundred members of the Captain's division. The 11th Division exclusively use this final option, partially because being Kenpachi requires the shinigami holding the title to be the strongest in his generation of captains.
  • In Code Geass, Lelouch invokes this trope after killing his father, Emperor Charles zi Britannia, ascending to the throne himself as 99th Holy Britannian Emperor, Lelouch vi Britannia. Played with in that he didn't kill his father for that purpose but was quite happy to take advantage of this trope afterwards. Further played with in that none of the nobility and fellow royal family members recognized his authority until he used his Geass powers to force them to accept his rule. This is despite the fact that Charles himself became the 98th Holy Britannian Emperor in the exact same manner.
    • Earlier, this is attempted by Kewell Soresi. After the Orange Incident, he thinks Jeremiah Gottwald is no longer fit to lead the Purebloods, so he lures him into a trap and tries to assassinate him. Fortunately for Orange Boy, Viletta and Suzaku intervene to save him.
  • In Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, Muzan makes it clear to the Twelve Kizuki, his elite group of powerful demons, that only the strong belongs in said close circle; so he has established a Blood Succession Battle system in which a demon who seeks to be ranked within the upper Kizuki can just challenge them and take any position if they are up to the task.
  • Digimon: In the lore, there are Seven Great Demon Lords, one representing each of the Seven Deadly Sins. Meanwhile, DarkKnightmon, after gaining the X-Antibody, wants to become one of the Seven Great Demon Lords himself. Since all seven have already been identified, he can't exactly lay claim to the title any other way unless one of those seven is out of the way. (The fact DarkKnightmon is hopelessly outclassed even by the weakest of them apparently is not a deterrent to his ambitions.)
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • Major General Olivier Armstrong kills Lieutenant General Raven, then assumes his position after telling Fuhrer King Bradley she killed him.
    • Basque Grand is shown using this method in a flashback to the Ishval Extermination. Nobody seems to mind, though, as General Fessler wasn't particularly pleasant and it's quickly decided that he was hit by a stray bullet; despite half the division having witnessed Grand killing him, not one soldier disputes the official report.
  • Gundam:
    • In the original Mobile Suit Gundam, the Zabi Family mostly use this tactic to get ahead. Zabi patriarch Degwin becomes the leader of Zeon in the first place by having Zeon Zum Deikun assassinated (or getting really lucky; it's never proven that Degwin ordered the assassination, or for that matter that he even was assassinated in the first place given that he had pre-existing health conditions that could have caused his fatal collapse, but several characters believe it to be fact, including Deikun's son Casval aka Char who uses it as justification for his Roaring Rampage of Revenge). Then, late in the series, Degwin gets a taste of his own medicine when Gihren uses the Solar Ray to kill him before he can sue for peace, thus becoming Zeon's new leader. Gihren's victory is much shorter-lived than his father's, though, as his sister Kycilia in turn confronts him with his crime before shooting him dead on the bridge in full view of all the ship's crew. She then succeeds Gihren as Zeon's leader before meeting her end in the Battle of A Boa Qu.
    • Played with in Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, where the Big Bad Duumvirate of Jamitov Hymen and Bosque Ohm are killed off by Paptimus Scirocco late in the series, securing Scirocco's role as Big Bad just in time for the final battle.
    • In Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack, this becomes Neo-Zeon Super Soldier Gyunei Guss's goal after meeting Quess Paraya and more or less losing his mind.
  • In Hunter × Hunter, this is how Hisoka replaced the previous #4 position member in the Phantom Troupe gang.
  • Mushishi has the Kuchinawa, a mushi whose very purpose is to do this trope. They roam around for the Lords of the Mountain, mushi who act as guardian spirits to a mountain or mountain range, and seek to devour them and take their place as Lord. Mujika, who assumes the role of the current Lord of the Mountain, is a subversion, since villagers killed the previous Lord for him in an effort to get him to stay in town.
  • One Piece: Blackbeard became one of the Four Emperors after killing his former captain, Whitebeard, and conquering his former territories for himself. It's downplayed a bit because Blackbeard wasn't considered a true Emperor by the masses until he also defeated Whitebeard's commanders in battle a year later, who came after Blackbeard for revenge.
  • In Reborn! (2004), Squalo takes over the Varia by engaging in an epic swordfight with, and eventually beheading, the former Head. Squalo cuts off his own dominant hand before the fight and wins while exhausted from blood-loss. The Varia promptly proclaim the fourteen-and-a-half year old the new Head of the Varia. About a week later, he gives it to Xanxus.
    • Belphegor becomes Storm Officer by breaking into the Varia HQ and murdering the then-current Storm Officer. Belphegor was eight at the time.
  • In the Trigun manga, the Murder, Inc. group the Eye of Michael appear to practice some form of this, as Wolfwood apparently succeeded to the Chapel seat in the Guns by shooting his Evil Mentor in the back, rather than being penalized by either organization. Though it turns out Master C isn't quite dead. Of course, it's possible he covered up that he'd been the one to do the shooting rather than owning up to the murder and Master C let him get away with it because he thought it was funny. Probably not, though; it's not like the most deadly assassins in the world are going to believe one of their number went down to a stray bullet. And the Eye and Guns are both made of crazy and believe that Asskicking Equals Authority.
  • In X/1999, the Sakurazukamori is a clan of assassins with only one member at any particular time. The fate of the Sakurazukamori is to choose to die at the hands of the one they love most who then takes their place and repeats the cycle. Yes, it's a weird series with so many masochistic characters that want to be killed.

    Comic Books 
  • Age of the Wolf: In advanced werewolf society, it's an accepted custom to challenge the female Alpha in a Duel to the Death and take her place if successful. The main villain of the final arc is introduced when she takes out a half-dozen challengers.
  • In the epic Low Fantasy series Artesia, this is common in the Highlands of Daradja. The eponymous Queen Artesia gains her crown by killing her erstwhile king and lover, Branamir of Huelt.
  • A kid-friendly version in Asterix and the Goths, where every Goth chieftain is doped to the gills on magic potion and spends their time beating the other chieftains with large wooden clubs and declaring themselves ruler over all the Goths to general hilarity (as a Batman Gambit by Getafix, who knows they won't invade Gaul with all the infighting). Since none of them die, they just get back up and start plotting anew.
  • The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers: In the Fat Freddy's Cat comic "Animal Camp", the Cat is tossed in with a pack of bloodthirsty dogs. When the leader of the dogs, Beelzebub, charges at him, the Cat fluffs up so much that Beelzebub drops dead of a heart attack, and the cat is proclaimed king of the dogs.
  • De Generaal: The entire Running Gag of this comic is that De Generaal ("The General") wants to take over the fortress and become general himself, but he keeps on failing.
  • Green Lantern: The only way to become Agent Orange of the Orange Lantern Corps is to kill the current holder of that title. Since the orange light becomes weakened if used by multiple people, There Can Be Only One at a time. Be warned that if he should kill you instead, You Will Be Assimilated.
  • This is Iznogoud's entire motivation and modus operandi: as Grand Vizier, he'll take over if the Caliph dies, hence his oft-repeated Catchphrase "I want to be Caliph instead of the Caliph!"
  • This is how Frost Giant society works in The Mighty Thor, befitting a race that values might over everything else. They are pretty serious about it too: when Loki's father Laufey is revived, he's less upset about being killed by Loki than he is by the fact that Loki didn't take his place afterwards.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics):
    • Lien-Da and Kragok murdered their father Luger in order to become Grandmasters of the Dark Legion. Of course, Kragok ended up double-crossing his sister and taking leadership for himself.
    • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder must run in the family — quite some time later, after Eggman's reorganized the Legion into his Dark Egg Legion with Lien-Da's ancestor Dimitri as Grandmaster, she eventually double-crosses him too and leaves him for dead so that she can become Grandmaster again.
    • And Dr. Robotnik, before he became the Big Bad, was the head of the Kingdom of Acorn's military — a job he got by throwing the previous holder of the title into the Zone of Silence (not murder, but close enough). And when he took over the Kingdom, he jump-started his coup by doing the same to the King.
    • There's also Robotnik's nephew, Snively, who got tired of being humiliated and set things up to kill Robotnik. Snively barely had time to actively run Robotropolis after Robotnik was killed when the Freedom Fighters confronted and defeated him, taking back their city for good.
  • A non-lethal variation occurs in the Star Trek graphic novel Debt of Honor by Chris Claremont and Adam Hughes. Starfleet lieutenant Jamie Finney, who acts as a liaison officer on Commander Kor's Klingon ship, recommends caution in an unclear tactical situation. Khadri, a female Klingon officer taller by more than a head responds by insulting her as coming from a "coward's race" and threatens her, to which Finney reacts by knocking Khadri out with a flying kick.
    Kor: Most impressive.
    Finney: Her challenge left me no alternative, commander.
    Kor: And you rose to the occasion, Lieutenant, like a Klingon. I salute you. Of course you realize your victory entitles you to assume Khadri's status and position aboard the Revenge.
    Finney: Commander! That really isn't necessary—!
    Kor: Oh, but it is. In fact, I insist, as a means of binding our regrettably ad hoc alliance more closely together.
  • Thanos Rising: After serving with a crew of space pirates for several years, the Captain finally has enough of Thanos' pacifistic ways and tries to kill him in a duel. Thanos kills the captain quite easily and takes over his ship.
  • The Transformers (Marvel) has a lengthy chain of Decepticons assuming command aftter killing the former leader. Bizarrely, Starscream, who wanted to kill and replace Megatron since day one, never got the chance to do so.
    • At the end of the original limited series, Megatron and the Decepticons were left crippled and helpless. Shockwave turned up while the Autobots were celebrating their victory and blew everyone away, deemed Megatron incompetent, imprisoned him and assumed command.
    • Megatron eventually escaped and reclaimed his leadership position... only to lose it again, when Shockwave preyed on his paranoid fear of the (then-presumed-dead) Optimus Prime. Megatron blew himself up and Shockwave again took command.
    • Ratbat, essentially the Decepticon supply manager, showed up on Earth to ensure that Shockwave was using Decepticon resources efficiently (It Makes Sense in Context). Shockwave ends up presumed dead fighting the Autobots because Ratbat doesn't want to waste gas fishing him out of Earth's atmosphere. Ratbat assumes command.
    • Scorponok, a powerful Decepticon leader in his own right, arrives on Earth around that time and operates independently for a bit, eventually jockeying for supremacy with Ratbat. Scorponok eventually shoots Ratbat in the back and assumes full command of the Decepticons on Earth.
    • Back on Cybertron, Megatron eventually returned and reclaimed command of the Decepticons there. After Ratchet caught him in an exploding transdimensional portal, Thunderwing assumed command.
    • Scorponok fends off assassination attempts by Megatron, Starscream, and Shockwave, only to bite it fighting Unicron. In addition, Thunderwing (who'd been MIA since he'd stolen the Creation Matrix) was killed by Unicron as well. Bludgeon, up until now a basic grunt, assumes command because Megatron, Starscream, and Shockwave are all MIA, and no one else left on Cybertron is qualified. (Shockwave and Starscream decided to steal the Ark and leave the dying planet, inadvertently taking Megatron with them.)
    • Bludgeon lasts into the subsequent G2 series but is killed by a rebuilt Megatron, who stays in charge until the series is canceled.
    • The Marvel UK series complicated things further, thanks to its post-Movie future timeline, the Galvatron from that timeline traveling to the present day of the comics, and featuring several Decepticon leaders on Cybertron jockeying for position and getting killed off.
    • Hilariously subverted by Tracer of the Decepticon Military Patrol squad. He covets the position of squad leader, but he genuinely respects the current leader, Bombshock. So his method of attempting to gain control of the squad is trying to figure out a way to get Bombshock promoted.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): Ares becomes the new ruler of the underworld by murdering Hades.
  • X-Men:
    • The Shi'ar Imperium apparently have this written into their laws, as the Earth-born mutant Vulcan is able to claim the title of majestor from D'Ken by killing him after (and we're talking right after) marrying into the Shi'ar royal family. Presumably this only applies within the royal family itself and the Shi'ar don't crown any old assassin that comes along.
    • Fabian Cortez of Magneto's Acolytes is a big fan of this tactic. His very first story sees him attempt to kill Magneto in a bid to replace him as mutantkind's preeminent revolutionary leader, and later after he finds his attempt was unsuccessful (and Magneto comes back) Cortez flees to Genosha, where he kills off the island's current president and appoints himself the new leader of Genosha (which lasts for about five seconds or so before the X-Men, The Avengers, and Exodus all converge on Genosha to kick his teeth in).

    Comic Strips 
  • Dilbert:
    • Dilbert once did this by accident. Having landed on top of an Elbonian resistance leader (after being deliberately launched there by the other side via giant slingshot), he is appointed to be the new leader. He negotiates an end to the civil war and goes home.
    • After being promoted to Co-CEO to help break the tie between the main CEO and other Co-CEO, Dogbert immediately votes to fire the main CEO. He then orchestrates the death of the other Co-CEO, leaving him in charge of the company.

    Fan Works 
  • In Star Trek fanfic Choose a captured Kirk exploits this Klingon attitude to escape. He realizes that the unusually cerebral Klingon commander doesn't have his crew's trust. A few well-chosen words in the hearing of the Klingon first officer is enough to trigger the festering tension into open mutiny.
    Aboard a Klingon ship, mutiny – mutiny in a specific form – was a way of life. If one of the factions gained enough power, the leader of said faction was perfectly within his right to kill his superior officer and replace him. Not only within his right, but practically expected and encouraged. Survival of the fittest was a completely literal maxim in the Klingon culture. Which made good paranoia fuel for anyone who got the chance to tap it.
  • In the fanfiction of A.A. Pessimal, it is implied that the Discworld Guild of Assassins works this way. The current Guild Master is Lord Downey. He is aware that his predecessor (literally so) went dangerously insane and had to be removed. So far so canonical. But at Vetinari's prodding, a Very Mature Student called Joan Sanderson-Reeves was accepted to the Guild. She has worked her way up to the status of Dark Council Member and has the favour of Ladies T'Malia and de Meserole. She is also a far better poisoner than Downey. And she always pours the tea at Dark Council meetings. This makes Downey extremely nervous.
  • Ages of Shadow: The fourth Himinion claims the title by poisoning and then murdering his predecessor, Boaz. However, since this blatantly violated the rules that Jade had put into place — and since Boaz was her favorite disciple and personal protege — she proceeds to messily kill this arrogant bastard when he shows up to claim his prize.
  • Always the Quiet Ones: Upon finding a bunch of sports equipment in Fluttershy's house which actually belongs to Rainbow Dash, Pinkie surmises that Fluttershy may have gotten rid of Rainbow Dash to take her place on the sports teams at school.
  • Invoked with the Trope Namers in A Changed World. Captain Kanril Eleya realizes that Klingon Captain Krell is more interested in gaining glory by trying to destroy her ship (which would be hilarious to watch, considering Krell's in a 2270s D-7 and Eleya is in a Galaxy-class starship) than in letting Eleya provide aid, so she points out to Krell's first officer Korlok that the captain has gotten them all temporally displaced 140 years into the future and is otherwise being a moron.
    Korlok: Krell, son of Mok'tar, as first officer I, Korlok, son of Yonko, stand for the crew, and I say that you are unfit to serve as captain. You have put this ship at foolish risk and gotten us all lost and forgotten, and I challenge you for command!
    Birail Riyannis: We're gonna need popcorn.
  • Child of the Storm: Lucius eventually kills Baron Von Strucker (after drugging him for the means to control the Winter Soldier) and seizes control of HYDRA by force.
    • General Lukin pulls this in Chapter 12 of the sequel Ghosts of the Past when his Mask of Sanity slips off and he executes President Volodya, becoming (through his patsies) the de facto ruler of Russia.
  • In DC Universe fanfiction Daughter of Fire and Steel, General Zod seizes control of the Kryptonian Council by barging into the council chambers and shooting the leader in the chest.
    Dru-Zod: "This council has been disbanded."
    Ro-Zar: (outraged) "On whose authority?"
    [Zod guns the Council leader down]
    Dru-Zod: (seething) "My own."
  • In one Knights of the Old Republic fanfic, "Destiny's Pawn: Leviathan", Saul Karath isolates Carth from the rest of the crew after the initial "interrogation" and casually re-extends his offer to make Carth his right-hand man in the Sith Fleet. He knows full well Carth wants him dead and tries to sweeten the deal with the offer of a Klingon Promotion.
    Saul: The practice of apprentice killing mentor is not limited to Dark Jedi. I fully expect you to kill me once you are settled in, but I'll have the comfort of knowing I have a competent officer running things — which is more than I can say for my current crop of groveling idiots.
  • Ami from Dungeon Keeper Ami was bestowed the title of Empress Ami, Ruler of Avatar Island by the Light Gods after she slew the self-proclaimed Emperor Zakeros and beat the Avatar. She later has problems with subordinates who think they can get into her inner circle by murdering their superiors.
  • This is the way Gringotts goblins operate in Have Chrome, Will Travel.
  • In Supergirl story Hellsister Trilogy, Brainiac assembles an army of villains and appoints himself leader. Then Darkseid kills him off and declares himself leader. No one contests his claim.
    Brainiac's metallic hand was already raised. "The decision for leader is mine," said the robotic being. "But you are correct. We do not need two—"
    That was as far as Brainiac got.
    A blinding bolt of light shot through his chair and body, melting a great hole in his midsection. The lights in his eye-pieces sputtered and died. His upper section toppled over, banging onto his feet and rolling to a stop. His lower torso and feet remained seated.
    Both Luthors gaped. So did most of the people in the room.
    A newcomer had arrived. Many of them recognized him.
    "He was incorrect," said the new arrival. "We did not need him. Now you have me."
    Luthor of Earth-One swallowed. He couldn't force a smile, but he did try to be casual as he said, "Pleasure to have you back."
    The new leader began to address his troops.
  • The Infinite Loops portray the Gryphon Lands on Equestria as this, though it's nuanced a little.
    Gilda: So, we're arranged into... well, prides or packs, the meaning is the same. Your village is a pack, your county is a pack formed of the village higher-ups, and so on up to Imperial level. You can move up in two ways – either by election, which is sort of a contest of strength of mind, or by combat, which is a contest of strength of body. Elections are kinda recent, historically speaking. Anyway, you can only challenge either way within a pack. So if Joe Average Gryphon wanted to become Emperor, he'd start at the village level. If he won there, he'd be a member of the county pack, and could move up there, and so on.” Gilda coughed. “I have an unfair advantage. I'm... sort of a member of the Imperial family. That counts as a pack, too. Mind you, the pack leader usually has a band of sworn talons who he can have kick the arses of any potential challenger, so he doesn't have to spend the whole day fighting. In practice, successful challenges involve those sworn talons either stepping aside or getting whupped en masse – and either way, we as a species tend to be alright with that.
  • The Reapers of Project Horizon (Recursive Fanfiction of Fallout: Equestria) work like this. As of chapter 18, two of the protagonists, Rampage (Immort Sociopathic Hero) and Blackjack (Idiot Hero protagonist), have earned the title, though the latter did it by accident.
  • A Rabbit Among Wolves: Jaune accidentally takes control of the Vale White Fang branch after he accidentally stabs Adam in the throat.
  • In the The Victors Project, many of the Career Victors from Districts 1 and 2 get selected as tribute by killing or incapacitating the prior favorite to be chosen as that year’s tribute.
  • Done accidentally by Ishida Uryuu in the Bleach fanfic The World In Black And White. During the ryoka invasion, various butterflies result in him killing Mayuri in a one-to-one fight, which about half the Twelfth Division was watching via the surveillance system, leading to the 'Kenpachi rule' being invoked, much to Ishida's shock.
  • In With this Ring... (Green Lantern), Remoni wants to fight and kill Carol Ferris -who at the time was the Queen of Zamarons- to legitimize her claim to the Zamaron throne. Carol sidesteps the issue by saying Remoni can have the throne.
  • Along Came a Spider has an odd variation as well as an aversion. Candace Liao is forced to assassinate her sister Romano in order to stop her from attacking the St. Ives Compact and Federated Commonwealth at the beginning of the Clan Invasion and distracting them from the more important battle. It's also averted when Kali, her niece, assassinates her, but is quickly taken out herself, and Candace and Justin's son Kai assumes the throne, just long enough for a treaty made before the Clan invasion to fold the Capellan Confederation and St. Ives into the Federated Commonwealth with the wedding of one of Kai's sisters to Victor Steiner-Davion.

    Film — Animated 
  • Disney's Aladdin and the King of Thieves. The third movie features the Forty Thieves (as in "Ali Baba and ...") and Aladdin causes the death of one in self-defense. He's sure the others are about to butcher him when they say it can only mean one thing. The One Thing is that he's now a member, unless someone kills him, which they'll be more than happy to do if he doesn't measure up. (If that's not bad enough, the former holder of his position is Not Quite Dead, and wants it back. That can only happen one way.)

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Apocalypse Now, Willard predicts he'll be fast-tracked to Major for offing the renegade Kurtz. For a brief moment, he sits at Kurtz' desk, contemplating the opportunity to take the Colonel's place as a new god-king. The throng of natives lay down their weapons and bow as he leaves the compound.
  • Beyond Sherwood Forest: After the original Sheriff of Nottingham is killed by the dragon, Malcolm murders William of Locksley — who is next in line — in order to secure the position.
  • Attempted in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, when Harvey Logan demands that Butch fight him to the death, with the expectation that the winner would be the leader of the hole-in-the-wall gang. "Guns or knives?"
    • Subverted when Butch tells Sundance to kill Harvey if he wins the fight.
  • The Necromongers in The Chronicles of Riddick exemplify their adherence to this philosophy in their motto: "You keep what you kill".
  • At the end of Death Race 2000 (1975), Frankenstein assassinates Mr. President. In the next scene, he's shown to have become the new President.
    • In the 2008 remake Death Race, Frankenstein is an identity given to a random racer, with the idea being that everyone (including the other racers) think it's the same person all the time. When one Frankenstein is killed, someone else replaces him so that he appears to be invincible. "He's a gimmick."
  • Film/Departed although it's unclear if the hierarchy was changed much
  • In Doomsday, Eden apparently takes over running the cannibal tribe after killing Sol and presenting his severed head to the rest.
  • Drumline has a non-violent example: any player can challenge a higher-ranking one in a musical duel. Truth in Television for many band programs.
  • The main plotline for Kind Hearts and Coronets, where Louis Mazzini, the disowned grandson of the Duke of Chalfont, systematically murders his way through the family to become the sole heir to the title and estates.
  • Invoked by Edward (the actual heir) in The King's Speech, when he thinks his brother Albert wants to be king (he emphatically does not, he just wants Edward to pick up his act), calling it "positively medieval".
  • In The Man with the Golden Gun, Big Bad Professional Killer Scaramanga takes over Hai Fat's business corporation this way, by shooting him with his Golden Gun and steals the Solex Agitator as well. An assistant to Hai Fat arrives shortly after Scaramanga kills Hai Fat. Scaramanga then leaves Hai Fat's office and makes a Bond One-Liner of his own:
    Assistant: What happened?
    Scaramanga: Mr. Fat has just resigned. I'm the new chairman of the board.
    (after exiting the office)
    Scaramanga: He always did like that mausoleum. Put him in it!
  • Happens at the end of Mary Poppins of all places. Mr. Banks told the senior partner and bank founder a joke that made him laugh himself to death. The other partners later tell Banks that they're promoting him to the opened position.
  • Miss Nobody has a variation, with Sarah Jane killing her co-workers in order to get promoted to their positions. A secretary (and former friend) named Charmaine later tries to do the same to her, feeling that she'd been passed up for promotion because of Sarah Jane's meteoric rise.
  • In The Santa Clause, this is essentially the spirit of the titular rule: there has to be a Santa and when you put on the suit, you're him. It's just that Scott making the mistake of accidentally killing the last Santa that makes it this trope.
  • Scarface (1932)
    • In the beginning, Tony kills Big Louie so Johnny can become mob boss.
    • Later, Tony becomes the mob boss by killing Johnny, with Guino pulling the trigger.
  • In Shanghai Knights, Lord Rathbone plots to kill the Queen and the those in line for the throne before him in one fell swoop to make himself king.
  • Shot Caller: In the end, Jacob uses a razor blade he smuggled into the prison to overpower a corrupt guard, then unlocks the cell to Aryan leader "The Beast" so he can kill him and take over the gang after convincing the guard to falsify the death report to say that Jacob acted in self-defence.
  • Star Wars:
    • The Sith "Rule of Two" is exactly this trope. Every Sith Lord takes an apprentice. An apprentice can only become a Sith Lord himself with the death of his master, even if the apprentice is the one who kills him. He then customarily takes on an apprentice of his own and the cycle continues. Such betrayal is not only common, it's actually expected of the apprentice. If the master has become weak or foolish enough to be killed by his apprentice, then obviously it was time for a new Sith Lord to take over anyway. And if he fails to take advantage of a (real) opportunity to replace his master, he's clearly not ready to be the Sith Lord. But woe unto the green apprentice who tries too soon to take his master's place. Especially if the master is still relatively young enough to afford the time to train a new apprentice. It may not necessarily cost the apprentice his life, but he will likely learn a very painful lesson.
    • The funny thing is that, according to Star Wars Legends, the "Rule of Two" was actually made to curtail this behavior. Before it, the Sith organization practically ate itself since everybody constantly tried to pull this trope at once; the rule was instituted by the sole survivor of one such moment gone horribly bad. It was also noted somewhere that without the rule, several existing Sith apprentices could team up to kill their master... and then promptly try and kill each other. The last remaining would be far weaker than his master (only better or luckier than his accomplices), thus weakening the Sith overall relative to the Jedi.
    • In the films themselves, we have the Skywalkers: In Revenge of the Sith, Anakin (the eventual Vader) kills Dooku,note  current Sith apprentice — which, unbeknownst to him at first, put him on the path to become the new one. Then, in Return of the Jedi, Darth Sidious (Emperor Palpatine) wants Luke to kill Anakin and become the next apprentice...
    • Ironically, again according to the Legends, both Sidious and Vader would try to violate the rule themselves — Vader by explicitly taking a secret apprentice in The Force Unleashed, then Sidious by intending to cast even Luke aside and rule alone, immortal and eternally. And Darth Plagueis reveals that Sidious had taken Darth Maul as his apprentice and trained him for years before actually ascending to the rank of master himself. He then corrected the violation of the Rule of Two by murdering Plagueis. (The other Force-sensitive agents they use don't count, as they aren't trained in Sith tradition, and some may not even have been aware of it.)
    • Interestingly, it appears from the Legends that numerous Sith cults remained isolated and secret, never challenging or revealing themselves to the active Two at any given time, in case the line ever failed. For example, while it never actually played out until the very end of the thousand years of the Rule of Two, there was always the risk that the master and apprentice would kill each other.
    • In The Last Jedi, Kylo Ren takes Rey to Supreme Leader Snoke, who orders him to kill her to show his devotion to the Dark Side. Instead, Kylo kills Snoke using the confiscated Skywalker lightsaber to slice him in half and makes himself the new Supreme Leader.
    • In Solo, Han's former girlfriend Qi'ra kills Dryden Vos, a high-ranking member of the Crimson Dawn crime syndicate, and takes over his position. Then she finds out her new boss is none other than Maul.
    • In The Rise of Skywalker, Palpatine wants Rey to kill him; his explanation is that every Sith Master contains the spirits of all former Sith Masters within them, and he seems to actually be looking forward to this form of (after)life. At least that's what he says; he doesn't hesitate to try to rejuvenate himself in a different way when the opportunity presents itself.
  • In the 1939 British film Tower of London (somewhat loosely based on Shakespeare's Richard III), Richard, Duke of Gloucester (Basil Rathbone) orders the assassinations of over a dozen people who stand between him and the throne, including his own brother Clarence (Vincent Price), drowned in the proverbial barrel of wine ("a waste of good Malmsey"), and his nephews, the "Princes in the Tower".
  • It's revealed that the Big Bad in TurboKid is a robot and killed the previous warlord to take his name and title. It's easier for him to do this because he was made in his likeness.

  • An old joke uses this (or rather, our expectation of it):
    An explorer in the deepest Amazon suddenly finds himself surrounded by what appears to be a bloodthirsty group of cannibals. Upon surveying the situation, he says quietly to himself, "Oh God, I'm screwed."
    There is a ray of light from the sky above and a voice booms out: "No, you are not screwed. Pick up that stone at your feet and bash in the head of the chief standing in front of you."
    So the explorer picks up the stone and proceeds to bash the life out of the chief. He stands above the lifeless body, breathing heavily and surrounded by 100 cannibals with a look of shock on their faces.
    The voice booms out again: "
    Now you're screwed."

  • In E.E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman novels, Boskonian culture works this way. When Kim Kinnison poses as a senior Boskonian officer in order to work his way to the top and undermine Boskonia from within in Second Stage Lensmen, he has few problems playing this trope straight since the people he has to kill to do it are his enemies anyway.
    • Subverted on two occasions, in which he either has his superior court-martialled and himself promoted to the position instead of doing the deed himself, or pulls favours from the man he would otherwise have killed in order to win a side-transfer and progress his true goal more effectively.
  • In David Anthony Durham's novel Acacia, the people of the Mien have a tradition of dueling to become chieftain instead of the chieftain, but this is never used as a plot point.
  • In the Dale Brown novel Air Battle Force, Ozarov kills the Taliban leader Zarazi and briefly takes over. When Zarazi's deputy Turabi kills the usurper, the leadership falls into his hands. Also, Grzylov stages the killing and disappearance of Russian president Sen'kov and his succession line.
  • Inverted in Animorphs, where becoming captain of the Helmacrons gets the new leader killed-dead leaders don't make mistakes, but live leaders can.
  • Artemis Fowl: In The Arctic Incident, our heroes are saved by a group of goblin gangsters pulling this during a combat mission.
  • Tharkian society works something like this in the Barsoom novels. If you kill someone of higher rank than you in single combat, you get to take their rank, their stuff, and their name. Downplayed at the highest levels; the jeds and the jeddak don't have to face challengers unless their entire circle of subordinates votes that they are unfit and must prove their right to continue to rule by defeating the challenger.
  • In Paul Féval's The Black Coats this is the family tradition of the Colonel's family. Julian does succeed at this over his father.
  • The Black Witch Chronicles: It is implied that Big Bad Marcus Vogel murdered the previous Gardnerian High Mage before his term was up to take the position sooner, having already amassed enough support to make his election to the position a certainty.
  • In the Merlin cycle of Roger Zelazny's The Chronicles of Amber series, Merlin's mother "arranges" to have everyone whose place in the line of succession was closer than Merlin's end up dead so she could become shadow ruler. Not a direct example, but definitely in the spirit of the Klingon Promotion. Of course, by the time Merlin becomes King of Chaos, he's no longer under her control.
  • Conan the Barbarian ultimately becomes King of Aquilonia this way, through leading a popular rebellion against its previous king Numedides.
    • In "Iron Shadows in the Moon", Conan kills a Red Brotherhood pirate captain in a duel, which according to their rules makes him their leader. Amusingly, several of them question if this is actually the case, since Conan is not one of the Red Brotherhood and thus does not necessarily get the benefit of their laws. This leads them to argue among themselves and even go so far as to capture Conan so they can decide whether to kill him or accept him as their leader. They're pretty quick to accept him, however, when they get attacked by the titular Iron Shadows.
    • In "A Witch Shall Be Born", Conan is rescued from crucifixion by a band of desert outlaws. He then spends the next year winning the loyalty of the outlaws until it gets to the point where he can remove their leader and assume that title himself.
  • In the Deryni works, Wencit comes to the Torenthi throne by overthrowing and killing his nephew Aldred II with the aid of his nephew's wife, Charissa, Duchess of Tolan in her own right and Festilic Pretender to the throne of Gwynedd.
  • This was endemic in Discworld, particularly in the earlier books:
    • Because the number of people who can hold any rank in the Unseen University was fixed by tradition, nobody could be promoted unless a slot above them opened up through the death or promotion of a more senior wizard. As a result, creating an open slot by killing a higher-ranking wizard was the preferred means of promotion (via the "Dead Man's Pointy Shoes" rule). The catch, however, is that wizards usually have so many magic wards that they can take a full-on thaumonuclear explosion to the face, forcing them to resort to more practical means, making daily UU living for high-ranking wizards an exercise in forensics.

      This came to an end, however, when Mustrum Ridcully became Archchancellor and proved nigh unkillable; and, Wizards being creatures of laziness, they soon came to realize a less competitive work environment is rather enjoyable. Added to this, now the senior faculty are all settled and long-standing members, they've probably realized in the old days each one of them would be a target for an up-and-comer; therefore it is in their best interests to act as a group now. It probably helps that a generation's worth of ambitious wizards killed each other off in Sourcery; the faculty originally brought Ridcully in to lead them because nobody was left who wanted the job.
    • There is also a persistent rumor that if a student Assassin manages to inhume one of his teachers, he will be graduated to full member of the Assassin's Guild on the spot. But since it is definitely known that trying to inhume one of the teachers and failing will get the student expelled not only from the guild but from life as well, no actual attempts have occurred during any of the books.
    • Also, Vetinari (maybe), although in his case he replaced the replacement of the Patrician he assassinated.
    • For that matter, back when Ankh-Morpork still had kings, there were a number of monarchs with very brief reigns. The record was King Loyala the Aargh, who ruled for all of 1.4 seconds before being killed by his successor.
    • Way back in the first book, the Thieves' Guild apparently worked like this, since the leader's Number Two apparently lost an eye to the leader's pet ravens. The narration then tells us the leader is fine with this, never begrudging a man his ambitions.
  • Deconstructed with the minotaurs of Dragonlance. The accepted way to become the minotaur emperor is to defeat the previous emperor in a duel. However, an Imperial Duel is an incredibly formalized affair, the incumbent emperor can ignore challenges if he wants to (though doing this too often/ignoring a challenger with a strong enough reputation will quickly earn an emperor a reputation for cowardice and/or corruption, not a good thing for the leader of a Proud Warrior Race to have) and if the emperor is killed outside of an Imperial Duel, that's assassination and isn't well-regarded. Doesn't hurt that the emperor's main job is to be a sterling example of minotaur values for the people to look up to and be inspired by — though he sets policy in a broad sense, most of the day-to-day running of the empire is carried out by the bureaucracy.
  • The Dune universe:
    • In Dune when it comes time for Paul to unite the Fremen tribes, he must first be recognized as the leader of the tribe he's been adopted by. But the Fremen traditionally determine leadership via Duel to the Death, so to take command he would have to kill his father-in-law, friend, and valuable general Stilgar. Paul refuses to fight, stating that it would be a waste of a good future lieutenant. He takes a third option by having the tribes swear their allegiance to him as their Duke rather than as a tribal leader, thus he doesn't need to kill Stilgar and he has the locals endorsing his claim to being the rightful ruler of the planet within the framework of galactic politics.
    • The Honored Matres are shown to work this way in Chapterhouse: Dune though without the ritual or rules that the Fremen had in their example.
  • Dungeon Crawler Carl: On the Scolopendra floors of the World Dungeon, there are NPC towns and villages, and killing the mayor results in becoming the new mayor. Even if the town guards were standing right there and watched you do it. Carl becomes the mayor of a third-floor town, but unfortunately, he didn't know how the mechanics of it were supposed to work; it's only later that he discovers the loot box containing the emblem that he could have used to command the mayor's underlings.
  • This is how the Empire of the East (in Fred Saberhagen's trilogy) keeps its various lords and satraps subservient to the Emperor, apparently; they are so busy competing with each other for their various positions that they never think of allying and overthrowing the Emperor himself. The Emperor tacitly approves of the practice, as several characters note; he will readily accept the service of a Lord who gains his position by disposing of his predecessor since the former occupant was obviously not worthy of the seat in the first place.
  • In Jack Chalker's Four Lords Of The Diamond series, the four planets of the Warden Diamond, as a dumping ground for all the sociopaths, criminals, scum, villainy, and political opponents that the interstellar human empire decided weren't worth killing (or mindwiping) use this method for their internal hierarchies. On the one planet where this is frowned on, it still happens if you can frame or con someone higher up the chain of command to make them look bad so they get jailed, demoted, or transferred for being stupid enough to fall for it.
  • Gor:
    • In Raiders of Gor, Tarl Cabot kills a pirate named Surbus in a tavern brawl. At the (surprisingly considerate) request of Surbus's slave-girl, whom he had been about to kill, Tarl allows the dying man to see the sea with his last breath, which causes his loyal crew to acknowledge Tarl as their new captain.
    • In Tribesmen of Gor, our hero has made the desert march to the hellish salt-mines in Klima. Every man there is a salt slave, with the leader being one Tz'shal who advises the new arrivals that anyone who wishes to be first at Klima need only kill him. Of course, he who did so would then have to watch his own back, as well as inheriting not just the power over the salt-mine but also the responsibility.
  • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Hagrid describes how the gurg of the Giants who was sympathetic to their overtures of wanting giant allies in the fight against Voldemort was beheaded and replaced by a gurg backed by Death Eaters.
  • It's mentioned in Horatio Hornblower that while there are a handful of duels throughout the series, it's illegal for a junior to challenge an immediate superior to avoid this rather obvious problem.
  • The Hunger Games: In Mockingjay, Finnick reveals that President Snow used this trope to get control of the Capitol. He poisoned his rivals and superiors and then drank from the same glass (to ward off suspicion) before downing poorly-made antidotes. That's why he wears roses, to cover up the smell of his chronically bleeding gums.
  • Hurog: In Dragon Bones, Ward's father gained the inherited title of Hurogmeten by killing his own father and disguising it as a hunting accident. He now fears that Ward, his first-born son, will in turn kill him to gain the title. Subverted with Ward, who is a Gentle Giant and resorted to Obfuscating Stupidity to seem less of a danger to his father.
  • According to R.A. Salvatore writer of The Icewind Dale Trilogy, this murder-based hierarchy, from among Houses to within families, is what keeps dark elves Always Chaotic Evil.
  • The early Roman Empire is depicted this way in I, Claudius, albeit with the murders carried out by proxy rather than in person. Livia, after killing everyone higher up the line of succession, poisons Augustus so Tiberius can succeed him; Caligula succeeds by having Tiberius smothered; and at the end, Agrippina poisons Claudius to clear the way for Nero. The only Emperor who DOESN'T succeed this way is Claudius himself, who had nothing to do with Caligula's murder. (Historically, it's doubtful if Augustus and Tiberius were murdered or not, though Claudius probably was.)
  • It All Started With Columbus proposes that Aaron Burr would have had a better shot at obtaining the presidency if he had shot Thomas Jefferson instead of Alexander Hamilton, though "it would, however, have established a bad precedent for vice-presidents."
  • In Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, the Gentleman with Thistle-down Hair believes that once he and Steven kill the king of England, it will be a simple matter for Steven Black, a black manservant in 19th century England, to become king. This is often how things work in Faerie, and the Gentleman never really troubled to make a distinction between his opinion and reality.
    • Comes back at the end of the book when Stephen kills the Gentleman with Thistle-down Hair and inherits his Faerie kingdom.
  • The Laundry Files has a few short stories that show this as the inevitable conclusion of working at the Laundry, a vast entity of the civil service that no one's allowed to leave (mainly because of their line of work). It's dead man's shoes all the way up, and some folks underneath take pains to vacate the shoes of the one above them...
  • This is standard operating procedure among the Boskonian Space Pirates of the Lensman series, as their hierarchy is built on power and intimidation. If you can't keep your underlings from killing you and taking your job, you clearly weren't doing that well at it in the first place.
  • Happens on the planet of Surebleak in the Liaden Universe all the time. If you want to be in charge of a territory, you have to off the old boss.
  • In The Machineries of Empire, it's a respected tradition among the Shuos that the easiest way to get a promotion is to assassinate your superior. For this reason, the position of Shuos hexarch used to change hands astonishingly often until Shuos Mikodez got the job and proved too apt at Assassin Outclassin'. Mikodez himself won his seat by helping his predecessor retire to breed cockatiels.
  • Among the Magelords of the Mageworlds series, ritual dueling is Serious Business, with the victor gaining authority over the loser along with the loser's rank and titles, if they hold any (duels between high-ranking Mages are often to the death considering how high the stakes can be, but if one combatant is skilled enough to subdue the other without killing them, that works too). However, it's made explicitly clear that such duels are very formal, and must be officially declared, carried out in front of witnesses, and conducted according to strict standards of honorable combat — a breach of any of the above, the duel's results aren't valid and no power changes hands. This serves as a plot point several times in the third book.
  • The Seguleh from the Malazan Book of the Fallen have a lineal rank structure among its warrior caste. Every ranked warrior is given a number with the lowest numbers indicating the best fighters. To progress through the ranks you have to defeat everyone ahead of you one rank at a time. If the current holder of a rank is unavailable, you wait till he/she returns or is declared dead. This trope gets inverted as you get to the top ranks as at those positions the fights are merely a test of skill rather than a fight to the death and actually killing your opponent is considered to be extremely bad form. If you show yourself to be a superior fighter the current rank holder will give up the position willingly since for the Seguleh leadership, Asskicking Equals Authority is a religion. A full inversion occurs when it comes to the top position of the One. The position cannot be challenged for and is a lifelong appointment. When the position becomes vacant it is offered to the current Two and if he/she declines, the offer is passed down the ranks till someone deems him/herself worthy of accepting it.
  • In Maledicte, Maledicte's lover systematically kills or tricks Maledicte into killing everyone between himself and the crown, so he can take the title for himself. This is also part of his scheme to totally screw with Maledicte since he's now the man Maledicte must kill to complete her quest.
  • Market Forces by Richard K. Morgan. Executives of the mega-corporations that control the world compete for promotion in road duels. You don't have to kill the person you're challenging, though a lot of that depends on the corporate culture of whoever you're working for. The custom came about during a time of economic crisis. The economy was fluctuating so badly there was no means of telling who was competent or not, so executives were being laid off just because they were late for work. One executive tried to beat his rival and ended up running them off the road.
  • Quantum Gravity has Demons settling almost anything by fighting, although this only becomes apparent from book two onwards. The most ruthless example comes in book four; Lila had asked Teazle to search Demonia for certain artifacts, and later learns he resorted to killing the heads of countless families, not to mention angry successors, as the only way of finding the things is to claim the treasure by Klingon promotion.
    • when she later took over the empire he had raised, she called a meeting of the family heads. The discussion was punctuated by several attempts on her life, and on their failure she promptly, without a backwards glance, ordered the heirs to all the deceased summoned to continue.
  • In Redwall novel The Taggerung, killing the previous Taggerung means you get this title. Considering the Taggerung is supposed to be the greatest warrior, this isn't easy. Gruven Zann claims to have accomplished this, and it's eventually "confirmed." Ruggan Bor, who also wants this title—and unlike Gruven, has the chops to back up his claim—promptly cuts off his head.
  • Septimus Heap has a rare heroic example. Alther Mella became ExtraOrdinary Wizard by wresting the Akhu Amulet away from his Evil Mentor DomDaniel, who then fell off the roof of the Wizard Tower in a Disney Villain Death. Unfortunately, DomDaniel was immortal because of the Two-faced Ring, and returned for his revenge.
  • Shades of Magic: People win the throne of White London by killing the previous monarch, which they can do with outside assistance (like an allied archmage) or through indirect means (like poison). Its world is starving for lack of magic and its citizens eagerly cannibalize each other, sometimes literally, for power.
  • In the novel StarCraft: Ghost: Nova, the eponymous character is an extremely-strong telepath / telekinetic (she can almost literally go nuclear). She runs afoul of a gang leader in the Tarsonis ghetto. After figuring out that she's a very person, he threatens to kill little children if she doesn't work for him. Before that, she "predicts" that he'll be killed by one of his lieutenants (after reading the mind of one doubting lieutenant). Years later, Nova is tracked down by a Ghost Academy recruiter. When the gang leader (who has gone insane over months due to the abuse of a telepathy blocker) is about to shoot him, Nova mind-controls the doubting lieutenant and has him shoot the leader in the head. So, in effect, this is a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. The lieutenant becomes the new leader. Trouble is, there isn't much of a gang left after the crazy former leader has killed many of his subordinates for slightest faults (even imagined ones). Also, the gang headquarters is in the process of being raided by Confederate forces. To top it off, this is the day the Zerg invade Tarsonis. Nova barely makes it out alive.
  • The Star Trek Expanded Universe specifies that challenging a superior and taking their position by beating them in a fight is only acceptable under specific circumstances. The superior must have demonstrated cowardice, incompetence, or other dishonorable behavior, and the challenger must be qualified for the position.
    • The Mirror Universe novel Rise Like Lions has this happen to change the leadership of nations three times during the course of the story. In two cases, it's the Klingons, who apparently roughly keep to the rules mentioned (with the rather important provisos that you could pretty much always accuse the Regent of incompetence since something is always going wrong somewhere in the Klingon Empire, and that the Klingons apparently regard any Klingon who can get in a position to formally challenge the Regent as qualified). It's a bit less clear how Damar got away with killing the previous leader of the Cardassian Union by shooting him in the back of his head during a speech to the public and then taking over the Union since this is both illegal and the sort of thing that sets a bad precedent.
    • Invoked in Diane Duane's Star Trek novel Doctor's Orders, in which a Klingon starship shows up after Kirk inexplicably vanishes on an alien planet. Not wanting to explain this to an enemy, McCoy (who Kirk put in charge just before he went missing) instead claims to have killed him in a duel and taken command.
  • Star Wars Legends: In the X-Wing Series novel The Bacta War, the captain of the Lusankya refuses to surrender, despite his ship being heavily damaged and outnumbered. He orders his men to crash the Super Star Destroyer into the planet Thyferra, which would kill all 250,000 people on the ship, millions more on the planet, and destroy the sole source of one of the galaxy's most effective medical products. One of his Lieutenants shoots him, promotes himself to Captain, and accepts the surrender offer.
  • Subverted in The Stormlight Archive when Shallan is accepted into the Ghostbloods, who believe she murdered her mentor to take her place. It's clear that she's being accepted because she impressed them with the skills demonstrated in carrying out actual missions, and she's specifically warned that while killing your superior is not technically forbidden, it's frowned upon and should not be considered a reliable method of advancement.
  • In the Sword of Shadows series, the generally accepted way to succeed the Surlord of the city-state of Spire Vanis is to off him (though if you're not of noble blood, you probably won't keep the title very long). In the later books, it becomes a plot point that Surlord Penthero Iss chose his own successor, his commanding general Marafice Eye. Since Eye didn't kill Iss himself or arrange for it to be done (in fact, Iss was killed almost incidentally during the rescue of an important prisoner), and is a commoner to boot, he has to fight tooth and nail to keep his throne once succeeding to it.
  • The Children of the Light in The Wheel of Time have a ritualized dueling ceremony entitled "trial by the light," in which the loser's rank and property are forfeit to the winner. Galad uses this in conjunction with surviving a military Everybody's Dead, Dave shortly beforehand to skip virtually the entire command structure and go from an unspecified junior rank straight to Lord Captain Commander.
    • One of the two ways of becoming a Blademaster is to kill another Blademaster in fair single combat. The other is to have a panel of five Blademasters unanimously vote to accept you. Guess which way is used by every character who became a blademaster over the course of the series (though none of the characters in question did so with the sole intention of becoming a blademaster).
    • Though the Forsaken are more or less equal in standing to one another, one among them is elevated to serve as the Dark One's right hand; this lucky individual earns the title of ''Nae'blis'' and gains limited authority over the others. Three guesses as to how the title can change hands.
  • This is how the draconic monarchy works in the Wings of Fire series, with daughters challenging their mothers for the right to be the queen of each clan. The entire plot to the series is in fact set up when the queen of one clan is killed by a human, leaving her daughters to fight amongst themselves over who has the right to be queen now, and setting off a continent-wide war in the process. The exception is the Rain Wings, who, largely being Actual Pacifists, have a "rotation" of queens, and when one is challenged, they compete in non-violent ways for the position.
  • In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, this is how Dorothy Gale becomes the Witch of the East. She's accidentally killed the old one and is given her silver slippers. She then goes inside her house to change clothes, what she's wearing having been damaged in the tornado. In Oz, witches, and only witches, wear white, usually trimmed with the color of whatever area of Oz is under their jurisdiction. The East's color is blue. Dorothy changes into a white and blue dress and the silver slippers, not knowing that, as soon as she steps out of the house, she's taken over the job of the woman she just accidentally killed.
  • Subverted in Prince Roger: A Boman war-chief is "anointed in the blood of his predecessor", but the actual appointment is by consensus of the war-band, and the killing of the predecessor is in part a punishment for incompetence and in part an insurance against cliques forming and leadership becoming uncertain.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel:
    • Lilah Morgan does this to her boss in the premiere episode of Season 4. With the permission of the Senior Partners, of course.
      Linwood: This is outrageous! Are you actually telling me that you went over my head?
      [Lilah touches her palm-pilot; a blade whips out of the backrest on Linwood's chair slicing quickly and neatly through his neck]
      Lilah: Just under it, actually.
    • Wesley became Illyria's de facto consort after shooting the first one.
  • In a late Season Two episode of Babylon 5, Vir and Londo receive a prophecy that both of them will become Emperor of the Centauri at some point in the future, with one of them being the other's successor. At the end of the episode, they're each visibly wondering if the other is going to kill him for the title. In the following season, it is revealed that Vir takes the throne after Londo's assisted suicide.
    • In another example, both of them follow the reign of the mad Emperor Cartagia, who died at Vir's hand as a result of Londo's plotting.
  • Battlestar Galactica: Zarak, believing Adama has been derelict in his duties by becoming too close to the rebel Cylons, leads a mutiny to give himself a Klingon Promotion. It doesn't end well for Zarak, as he and poor Mr. Gaeta who'd been trying to keep everyone alive ends up in front of a firing squad.
  • Deconstructed when Blackadder's cousin MacAdder announces he'll kill the Prince Regent and take his place. Blackadder points out he'd simply be arrested for regicide.
  • Defied in Breaking Bad, when Mike warns Walt, after the latter has arranged the murder of drug lord Gustavo Fring, that "Just because you killed Jesse James, don't make you Jesse James." He is, in the end, right. After taking over Gus' meth operation, Walt's drug profits take a huge nosedive, and it's not long at all before Walt has alienated or murdered most of his co-conspirators (including Mike himself), and Hank and the DEA catch up with him and force him to go on the run.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Faith kills Mr Trick, and then goes directly to the mayor to point out he now has "a job opening".
  • This trope is an inherent rule of the Carnivàle universe. One of the rules of being an Avatar (no, not that one; or that one) is that one generation's Avatar can only claim the full measure of his power after personally murdering the previous generation's Avatar—even though an Avatar frequently serves as The Mentor to his successor, and an Avatar's successor may be his own son. Interestingly, a generation's Avatar of Light is just as subject to this rule as his generation's Avatar of Darkness, reinforcing that Light Is Not Good.
  • Doctor Who uses this a few times.
    • "Doctor Who and the Silurians": The Leading Elder Silurian is killed by the Young Silurian, who becomes Leader, apparently with no opposition among the rest.
    • The Fifth Doctor becomes President of Gallifrey by default at the end of "The Five Doctors" when Borusa's quest for immortality isn't what anyone (except the First Doctor) thought it would be. Of course, the Doctor runs off in his TARDIS... again.
    • "Ghost Light": The not-very-bright initial alien villain Josiah assumes that killing Queen Victoria will automatically make him ruler of the British Empire.
    • "The End of Time": The Master invokes this, pointing out that if the Doctor kills President Evil Rassilon he could lead the Time Lords.
  • Invoked in an episode of Farscape by Zhaan in an effort to stop an aggressive alien from attacking Moya.
  • Firefly: Heavily implied in the episode "Safe":
    The Patron: [in a calm, kindly voice] You're not a witch, are you? I'm the patron here. Do you know what that means?
    River: Yes. You're in charge. Ever since the old patron died.
    The Patron: That's right.
    River: He was sick. And he was getting better. You were alone in the room with him— [cue Burn the Witch!]
  • In an episode of the short-lived Flash Gordon TV series, Ming forces Flash and Barin to fight to the death for Princess Aura. Barin easily beats Flash (Flash isn't much of a fighter) but then turns around and throws the poisoned weapon at Ming. Ming falls over and is presumed dead. Both combatants are imprisoned, but Aura (who is currently in charge) lets them go and reveals that she had replaced the poison with a sedative that temporarily mimics death, so Ming will soon wake up. After Ming comes to, he's disappointed that Aura hasn't followed this trope, claiming she's unworthy to be a leader. In the last episode before the series cancellation, Aura and her brother have captured Ming, and he's being led to a gas chamber to be executed. As he speaks with his daughter for the last time, Aura (with tears in her eyes) tells him that it's necessary. Ming's last words? He tells her he can finally be proud of her. He doesn't die.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Daario Naharis kills his captains Mero and Prendahl to take control of the Second Sons.
    • House Bolton, House Frey, and House Tarly betray their liege lords to seize their former titles.
  • MacGyver (1985): Anyone who screws up their duties in the highly competitive and murderous assassin's guild of H.I.T. (Homicide International Trust) is subject to be killed by someone more adept at doing their job then they were.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Attempted in Luke Cage (2016). After Shades becomes a liability by questioning him a few times too many, Willis "Diamondback" Stryker decides to have him removed. So he promises Zip an opening in his gang, which he will fulfill by killing Shades. Diamondback then has Shades bailed out of police custody. Zip and two of Diamondback's new hires pick up Shades and haul him into a freight elevator, at which point Zip decides to try strangling Shades while his two henchmen stand by and do nothing. Shades manages to grab a gun, kills both of Zip's men, and then Zip after getting him to confess to acting on Diamondback's orders.
    • The Defenders (2017): After sending Elektra off ostensibly to kill Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and the Devil of Hell's Kitchen (whoever he is), Alexandra is reminding Madame Gao, Bakuto and Murakami that she's kept the Hand's most important operation running while they were so busy infighting among each other...until she's cut off mid-sentence by Elektra abruptly impaling her from behind with one of her sais.
      Elektra Natchios: His name is Matthew.
      [pulls her sai out of Alexandra's back, letting her body fall to the floor]
      Elektra Natchios: And my name... is Elektra Natchios. You work for me now.
      [She swiftly decapitates Alexandra's corpse with her remaining katana, then looks up to face the remaining Fingers]
      Elektra Natchios: Any questions?
  • Murder in the First: Sugar Cascade's second in command tries to take control of his gang this way.
  • Used for a comedic effect in Disney's Pair of Kings. Cousin Lannie would have become king of the island nation of Kinkou, had not the eponymous brother kings have been found. He keeps trying to set up their deaths (or sometimes just abdication) so he can advance to king. Once, he succeeded by making it so they were going back to Chicago, but they came back and were re-instated (It Makes Sense in Context).
  • Non-lethally subverted, by the heroes, no less, in Power Rangers S.P.D.: The season's Rangers are the "B-Squad" of the eponymous galactic police force, and after they defeat and capture the "A-Squad", who were thought missing in action but had actually switched sides offscreen to work for the Big Bad, their commander offers the entire team promotion to "A-Squad". They decline.
  • Red Dwarf's episode "Holoship" had this; the eponymous vessel had a full complement, and the only way for Rimmer to join is "dead man's boots" by defeating another crew member in intellectual combat. His opponent had fallen in love with him and she resigned from the combat to give him his dream, effectively committing suicide. When he found out, he promptly resigned from the ship and returned to Red Dwarf to bring her back to life.
  • In Smallville, Lex Luthor finally goes from Anti-Villain to Big Bad by throwing his father out a window.
    • Interestingly, the Alternate Universe version of Lionel Luthor expresses disappointment that his adopted son, Clark, has not done this to him.
  • How Clay became President in Sons of Anarchy.
  • Stargate:
    • Stargate SG-1
      • The series has the rite of joma secu, where a Jaffa commander can be challenged by another Jaffa to a duel to the death. The victor gets the commander's position. First seen in "The Warrior".
      • In "Bounty", SG-1 points out to Bounty Hunter Odai Ventrell that Netan's position as leader of the Lucian Alliance is tenuous at best and that if somebody managed to kill him they could probably take over the entire organization. Three guesses what Ventrell does next. Of course, Ventrell is never seen again after last seen pointing his gun at Netan. When we see the Lucian Alliance in Stargate Universe, there is another member of the Alliance played by the same actor with no relation to Ventrell.
    • In Stargate Atlantis, Major John Sheppard became the military leader on the atlantis team by shooting shot his immediate superior the sexist self-rightous self-important Colonel Sumner.

    • This is how Wraith promotions work. So, in "The Queen", when the Wraith "Todd" kills the Primary Queen and gives the credit to Teyla, who's currently disguised as a lower-ranking Wraith queen, Teyla becomes the new Primary. This allows Todd to take over the entire hive by giving orders on behalf of his "reclusive" queen who doesn't actually exist. It's limited in that this only works for Queens. A male can't take a Queen's place by killing her, especially since they'd lose their reproductive line.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Original Series:
      • This actually started for the franchise with the Mirror Universe episode "Mirror, Mirror". Chekov is planning to kill Kirk for treason (because he balked at destroying a helpless planet's cities, as per standard procedure), and he mentions everyone else would advance in rank. It's later mentioned that the mirror Kirk killed Pike to get the captaincy.
      • Mirror-Spock specifically mentions that he doesn't want to become captain of the Enterprise over Kirk's body, as Mirror-Kirk has many friends in the fleet, and Spock's command (and life) would be extremely short. He does, however, state that he will kill Kirk if he fails to take decisive action against the Halkans, but only because these are his orders from Starfleet Command.
      • Mirror-Spock also cautions Sulu, who rightfully points out that the order would fall on him next should Spock fail to carry out his orders. Mirror-Spock's operatives would certainly avenge his death. "And some of them are Vulcans." Klingon promotion is definitely not as simple as it sounds.
      • This actually happens very briefly in the episode "Amok Time", though not on purpose. We are led to believe that Spock has killed Kirk, and McCoy tells him that, as strange as it seems, he's in command now. Of course, Spock doesn't want to be the captain, and is planning to hand over command to Scotty and turn himself in to the authorities until he finds out Kirk is alive after all.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation is the Trope Namer and has many examples among the Klingons.
      • In the episode "Reunion," the current Chancellor is poisoned, and Picard must help investigate the murder as well as ceremonially choose the successor to the High Council. The whole reason there's controversy in the Klingons' eyes is that the Chancellor's killer used a cowardly method like poison, instead of fighting him in a duel.
      • In the TNG episode "A Matter of Honor," where Riker serves aboard a Klingon ship in an officer exchange program, the subject of Klingon Promotion comes up; it's the accepted way to remove a captain who is unsuitable for command. Later, when the Klingon captain's misunderstanding threatens the Enterprise, Riker finds a way to exploit this rule, though in a rather more humane and less bloody manner. He contrives a way to get the captain transported off the ship, then engages in a standoff so they can force the Enterprise to "surrender" and stop the hostilities. When the captain is beamed back, Riker takes a punch from him to let them save face, getting the crew's respect for understanding Klingon proprieties.
        Riker: Let me get this straight: as first officer, one of my duties is to assassinate the captain?
      • In a case of Early Installment Weirdness, in the episode "Skin of Evil", Worf actually bristles at the idea of being made head of security when Armus kills Tasha Yar. However, this may have been because he honestly felt she was more qualified for the position, not to mention being a friend that he genuinely respected.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
      • In the episode "Tacking into the Wind," the new Chancellor from TNG "Reunion," Gowron, is screwing things up during the Dominion War, mismanaging the Klingon battle efforts due to his jealousy of the glory that General Martok is gathering on the battlefield. Worf decides to challenge Gowron. He wins and becomes the next Chancellor, but almost immediately passes the torch to his friend and mentor, General Martok.
      • In "Soldiers of the Empire", Dax explains the intricacies after hearing O'Brien and Bashir talk about the trope, canonizing the caveats previously established in the Expanded Universe. Only a direct subordinate can make the challenge, and only after a severe infraction (cowardice, extreme failure, dereliction of duty). In the same episode, Worf challenges Martok for fleeing the Jem'hadar. It's a ploy not unlike Riker's, as Martok had been badly affected by his experience as a Dominion prisoner—being challenged and defeating Worf restores Martok's fighting spirit and that of the demoralized crew. Once he realizes that Worf was trying to help him, Martok declares him a sworn brother of his House.
      • Ferengi society really frowns on taking power this way, as shown in one episode. Quark is made leader of the Ferengi, and the last leader's son tries to take power this way. The capitalistic Ferengi, who would have respected him if he undermined Quark's power-base and accumulated all the real power behind the scenes (becoming The Man Behind the Man), just call him an idiot for thinking it would work. The whole thing is a setup, as the previous leader is still alive, having faked his death to test his son's worthiness to be his real successor. Needless to say, his son fails. Interestingly, Quark is impressed by Rom's ruthlessness (he helps Zek's son), even commenting that their father would have approved. Zek seems to be impressed as well... which is why he names Rom the new leader when he retires.
      • Quark managed to end up the head of a Klingon House when the former leader accidentally died while drinking in Quark's bar, and in his attempts to not get knifed, he had to play up the idea that he accomplished this.
    • Star Trek: Voyager:
      • In the episode "Coda", Janeway jokes that Chakotay could try William Telling with a phaser as a talent demonstration.
        Chakotay: Sounds great! If I miss, I get to be Captain.
      • In another episode, a Kazon boy wishes to become a man by killing Chakotay. He fails. He then explains that killing a person is the rite of passage for the Kazon. Apparently, killing a clansman is also acceptable in some cases. At the end of the episode, instead of killing Chakotay (who hopes that the Doctor can make him better), he turns the weapon onto his maj (clan leader). Before the maj's Number Two can execute him, the boy swears loyalty to him as the new maj. After a few seconds, the new maj accepts.
    • The Star Trek: Enterprise Mirror Universe episode has Mirror!Archer deposing Mirror!Forrest, who is the captain of the ISS Enterprise, then assassinating Admiral Black. Subsequently, Mirror!Hoshi poisons him, and not only moves on to Captain but also takes the recovered Prime-Universe's 23rd century Defiant and uses it to declare herself the new Terran Empress. Talk about a promotion...
    • In Star Trek: Discovery, Mirror!Connor attempts to kill Michael Burnham, who is pretending to be her Mirror Universe double, hoping that this would prevent her taking back the ISS Shenzhou and will finally get the crew to respect him. Despite him getting the drop on her, Burnham manages to kill him, which only serves to solidify her status in the eyes of the crew. And, of course, there's Lorca trying to kill Emperor Phillipa Georgiou to claim the Terran throne.
  • On Teen Wolf, the most common way for a Beta or Omega werewolf to ascend to the status of Alpha is to kill an existing Alpha.
  • Todd and the Book of Pure Evil: In the season 1 finale, Atticus, having snapped, kills his father the Hooded Leader and seizes control of the Satanic Society by force. He then spends most of season 2 proving just how inadequate he is at the position he now has.
  • Diana pulls this off twice near the end of the second V (1983) miniseries, killing both Pamela and John within a day to usurp control of the alien fleet. What makes it stand out in particular is that she's clearly breaking protocol — while intrigue and political scheming is expected among the Visitors' higher ranks, flat-out murdering superiors in cold blood is not. Neither target even saw it coming.
  • In The West Wing episode "Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics", it becomes necessary for political reasons to remove the ambassador to Bulgaria (he's having an affair with the Prime Minister's daughter). To remove him requires a sequence in which the ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia is promoted to be ambassador to Paraguay, so that the ambassador to Paraguay can be promoted to be the ambassador to Bulgaria, easing out the troublemaker. President Bartlett is quite keen on the plan because, as he comments, "Hey, I like this. Of course, if everybody keeps moving up one, then I get to go home."

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech:
    • The Clans practice a weirdly sanctioned form of this trope. If a Clan warrior believes their superior is incompetent, as a warrior they have a right to challenge the suitability of their commanding officer's qualifications to command. This usually comes in the form of Trial by Combat, and while death in trial is not the goal, it's also not uncommon, either, since losing such a trial is usually a career-killer regardless of whether you're the challenger or challenged. The catch is, though, that merely defeating or killing a superior officer is not enough; the officer above them must approve of the subsequent promotion, though seeing as how Asskicking Equals Authority among the Clans, an officer losing to their subordinate is usually evidence enough that they were not worthy of commanding that subordinate. Also, as they detest subterfuge due to Honor Before Reason, Clan warriors will not simply backstab or assassinate a superior officer in a clandestine manner to advance themselves as a general rule, and those who do are considered dangerous aberrations by the rest of Clan society, often hunted down as no better than bandits and pirates. Klingon Promotions in Clan society are done above board, thank you very much.
    • It's never been conclusively proven, but something like this is very heavily implied to be the reason that the second commander of Wilson's Hussars, Michael Langstrom, died suddenly in battle after his continued incompetence, blatant cowardice, and endless blame-shifting led to the destruction of most of the unit. In response, it's widely believed that his own executive officer, David Wilson, blasted The Neidermeyer in the back to spare the remnants of the unit from his disastrous bungling and let them escape with their lives. To no one's surprise, the surviving Hussars have stated that even if Wilson ever publicly admitted to killing Langstrom himself, none of them would ever testify to such before a tribunal—they hated Langstrom that much.
  • Champions. The VIPER organization has often allowed its members to advance by murdering their superiors. For example, in the 5th Edition Viper: Coils of the Serpent supplement Redstone became Commandant of the Vancouver VIPER’s Nest after killing the former Nest Leader.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • For drow of the Forgotten Realms setting, treachery is an acceptable method of achieving advancement, provided the assassin does not get caught. No different from any other culture perhaps, except that it's oft-cited conventional wisdom and the word of their goddess Lloth. This doesn't apply only to individuals, but to whole noble clans as well. If one noble family becomes extinct, every lower-ranking clan moves up in the hierarchy.
      • The twist, however, is that any noble who survives can report the murders. Which usually leads to every other noble clan teaming up against the offenders to punish their "crimes" (and protect their own skins). As a result, attacks on the castles of noble families rarely leave any survivors. But drow are opportunistic bastards, so in the days and weeks following the "mysterious disappearance" of an entire clan, there are frequently some Cousin Olivers appearing in "random" other families.
      • The drow princess Liriel Baenre discusses this system (and drow society in general) with a couple of curious surface dwellers in the novel Windwalker. She uses the example of a renowned master swordsmith and an up-and-coming rival, and notes that there are two accepted ways for the younger smith to get the older one's position — he can genuinely dedicate himself to becoming more skilled (which usually takes years of effort, planning, and more than a little magic) or he can kill the other smith (which also usually takes years of effort, planning, and more than a little magic). Liriel notes that although the stereotypical image of drow is that they would prefer the second way, in actual practice that's not always the case.
    • Devils are often promoted this way in the armies of Hell; most sources state that all of them are either Starscreams or potential ones, and their leaders encourage it. (In fact, the original ruler of Stygia, Geryon, was stripped of his position because he showed loyalty to the Overlord of Hell, something that has no place in this society. Of course, what did you expect from Hell?)
    • 1st edition AD&D Player's handbook
      • In order for a 13th or 14th level Assassin to advance to the next higher level, they had to kill the Assassin character of that level.
      • At any given time there are only 9 12th level druids, three Archdruids (13th level), and one Great Druid (14th level). In order to advance to that level, a druid has to face one of the druids (or the druid) of that level in combat. If the loser survives the combat, they lose one level of experience.
      • There are only three monks of the 8th level and only one monk of level 9-17 at one time. In order to advance to those levels, a monk had to defeat the monk (or one of the monks) of that level in hand to hand combat. If the loser survives, they lose a level of experience.
  • Magic: The Gathering has a card named Goblin King, the flavor text of which explains their political system.
  • Numenera: In the Underwater City of Ahmas, where society is essentially a giant gladiatorial arena, the most expedient way of becoming king is often to fight and kill the previous king, as the current monarch did when he took the throne.
  • One Night Ultimate Werewolf added the Assassin and Apprentice Assassin roles in the One Night Ultimate Vampire expansion. If both are in the game, the Apprentice Assassin only wins if the Assassin is killed.
  • Pathfinder:
    • The hierarchy of Hell works in this manner by design. Insofar as the devils are concerned, someone not willing to do whatever needs doing to become ruler is not fit for rulership — and a ruler who cannot keep his followers from overthrowing him was a weak ruler to begin with.
    • In Classic Monsters Revisited, the sidebar discussing crimes and punishments in gnoll society notes that the traditional "punishment" for regicide is to ascend to leadership of the slain chieftain's band.
  • Rolemaster system game Spacemaster, Privateers campaign setting. In the Jeronan Empire military, lower level personnel fight duels (sometimes to the death) to rise in rank.
  • In the Star Fleet Universe, whose origins spring from the original Star Trek TV show, this is how the Federation views the Klingons, but sourcebooks dealing with the Klingons say otherwise. As stated in #4 of Ten Myths About the Klingons in GURPS Klingons:
    Klingon warriors fight (for practice) all the time in all manner of duels and other contests. All warriors, Klingons or otherwise, are a very competitive group constantly on watch for any weakness in their enemies or rivals. But it would be foolish for any professional military force to operate this way. You might see the best engineer in a generation die in a meaningless duel in the Academy just because someone with half of his IQ had twice his cunning. Officers with two decades of combat experience might be killed by junior ensigns half of their age who have no clue how to run a starship or command a battalion.
  • In the Star Fleet Universe fiction story Mutiny on the Demonslayer, Commodore Jark Valgan attempts to assassinate his superior, Admiral Korvik, so as to take his position. Valgan is an ethnic Klingon.
  • Traveller. In the Third Imperium's history, there was a period where naval admirals would kill the current Emperor and take the title themselves. They were called the "Emperors of the Flag". In 2nd Edition MegaTraveller, Archduke Dulinor assassinated Emperor Strephon and tried to take his place, but failed.
    • The "Right of Assassination" was established centuries earlier after Porfiria, chosen by lot by a secret meeting of the Imperial Moot, assassinated and succeeded Cleon III, who was the Third Imperium's equivalent to Caligula. However, ascension by assassination still required the approval of the Moot, which the Flag Emperors and Dulinor did not have.
  • Warhammer:
    • The Skaven, and how! The entire race is built around the concept of backstabbing = good, and they follow it with gusto. There's probably not a single Skaven who is not planning to off his superior/tormentor/brother. Higher up in the ranks you have to get creative, as demonstrated when Grey Seer Thanquol of Gotrek and Felix fame offed his competitor for the position of army general with an accident involving a loaded crossbow and an exploding donkey.
    • Pretty much the way the Greenskin army hierarchy works — if you want to be the Warlord, you need to kill the old Warlord. Ogres follow a similar style of leadership, with the added expectation that the winner eats the loser alive to cement his claim.
    • Attempted by Malekith, would-be third Phoenix King of the High Elves, when he poisoned his predecessor and killed the council of princes that selected the king. Long story short it didn't work, which is why Malekith has since been the exiled Witch King of the Dark Elves on another continent. The Dark Elves, incidentally, also use this trope heavily, all the way up to Malekith who has kept his position of head honcho for millennia by being tougher, meaner and more vicious than his entire kingdom. Malekith also serves as something as a control mechanism on this trope: anyone who wants to try getting a promotion needs Malekith's approval first, or they'll find themselves deposed no sooner than their superior lies dead.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Ork hierarchy tends to work this way: if you succeed in killing the previous Warboss, the former officeholder clearly didn't deserve the job. This trope is so important to the orks that it's part of their actual biology. An ork that does well in fighting will naturally grow in size, allowing him to boss around smaller orks and challenge orks at his own size. Winning makes him even bigger and lets him boss around orks at his former size and losing will (if it doesn't kill him) make his rival bigger and capable of bossing over him; either way the hierarchy is preserved. It should be mentioned that, to orks, the notion of a smaller ork challenging — to say nothing of defeating — a bigger ork in a scrap for leadership is literally inconceivable (i.e. not only physically impossible but something an ork is incapable of thinking about), which explains why it's never happened.
    • The Dark Eldar are a particularly stellar example as literally the only method of advancement within the Kabals (the paramilitary organizatons most Dark Eldar belong to) is to kill the person holding the desired title. Orks may simply intimidate other Orks into servitude with their superior size and bash the skulls of anyone who disagrees, but this trope is so fundamental to Dark Eldar society that Archons (Kabal leaders) have to hire strictly neutral Incubus bodyguards from outside their Kabal because none of their subordinates are trustworthy. Not surprisingly Asdrubael Vect, the leader of the most powerful Kabal and de facto overlord of the Dark Eldar, encourages this sort of behaviour to maintain his position, although it is also implied in the Path of the Dark Eldar novels that he prevents the backstabbing from totally destabilizing Dark Eldar society.
    • Chaos factions of all kinds, as well as some of the more psychotic Imperial Space Marine chapters, have this trope as well. The Horus Heresy short story Inheritor reveals that this is how the titular character, Eliphas (the Chaos hero unit from Dawn of War: Dark Crusade), earned his epithet: he killed his Chapter Master during the Word Bearers' purge and took command of his Chapter. Lorgar said that Eliphas hadn't earned his new position, he had merely "inherited" it.
    • This is both averted and played straight with the Moritat. The Moritat are a death cult, but it's considered taboo to kill a fellow Moritat unless you have a damn good reason. The singular exception is the leader of the cult, the High Reaper. She will take one apprentice and groom him/her as her replacement. How does (s)he gain the rank? Take a guess.


    Video Games 
  • The usual way to victory in Armello is to kill the king and become the ruler of the land, as long as you don't die in the process. Alternatively, you can avoid this trope by being the most prestigious hero and winning by default when the king eventually dies.
  • Assassin's Creed: Odyssey features a mercenary ranking system. You go up the ladder by murdering the people that were higher up than you.
  • Command & Conquer:
    • In Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn game, Seth takes a dangerous initiative that Kane had explicitly forbidden: Attacking the United States. After shooting him mid-sentence, Kane congratulates you for your promotion.
    • Command & Conquer: Red Alert would probably have you believe you should be looking behind your back when you're "promoted."
      • The way the game was originally designed, during the moment where Gradenko or later Zhukov gets killed, instead they would be fighting to the death. A pistol conveniently lands in front of you. And then, you got to choose who to shoot — Stalin or Gradenko. This opens many worms since Gradenko was an Alliance defector.
      • In the Soviet ending, just as Stalin celebrates victory in Buckingham Palace, the tea he drinks turns out to be poisoned by none other than Nadia, with his science advisor Kane (yes, Kane) as an accomplice. After a brief struggle, Stalin's last words call Nadia a bitch. Nadia responds by shooting Stalin multiple times. Long story short, you get told you are being promoted to premier. Nadia subtly insults you by explaining that the Brotherhood of Nod will require you to keep things in Russia running while they call the shots and make their preparations, which should take until the 90's when Russia will become expendable. Cue Kane shooting Nadia in the back. Kane considers shooting you as well, but decides that you're worthy of the title Comrade Chairman as long as he is the future.
  • This is one of the quickest ways to get rid of Mr. Alden, your bothersome superior at Glover & Glover in Cultist Simulator. Send a cultist with the right aspects to kill him to claim his position.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • Morrowind:
      • Several Guilds and Factions in the game require this in order to become the new faction leader. Notably, this includes the Imperial Legion, the Fighters Guild, Great House Redoran, and the Mages Guild. The Mages Guild is actually optional, but taking the non-Klingon option leaves you co-leader with an incompetent buffoon and also means you won't be able to loot his powerful items — you can still get your hands on them without killing him, but only after the main quest is done..
      • The Morag Tong inverts it. When a new Grandmaster comes along, he is supposed to honorably execute the old one. However, in this case, the old Grandmaster is perfectly fine with stepping down and retiring if you'll permit it.
      • Great House Telvanni, a Dunmer political faction made up of ancient, powerful, and typically amoral wizards forming a Magocracy, practices this as an official means of advancement. While you don't have to be fully "evil" to join, the House firmly believes in Might Makes Right, so those willing to commit a little murder naturally thrive there. From their official rules:
        "If you steal from another Telvanni, but still live, then clearly you deserve whatever you stole. Murdering your opponents by magic or treachery is the traditional way of settling disputes. If you win, then clearly your argument has more merit. You may be expelled as in any other Great House, but most Telvanni will not care or even know about it."
    • Skyrim:
      • Ulfric claims to be the High King of Skyrim because he slew King Torygg in "a legal duel." The Empire, however, does not consider his claim valid and named Torygg's widow Elisif to the provincial throne instead.
      • Several of the Nords who oppose Ulfric do so, not because he killed the previous king, but because the duel wasn't actually a "legal duel" in the first place. Instead of an honorable fight to the death, Ulfric used the power of the Thu'um to win.
      • All the major factions have you become the leader of certain factions when the existing leader dies, although you only kill the previous leader in The Thieves Guild questline and the Dark Brotherhood, in which the leader is already dying and asks you to finish it.
      • Orc strongholds have this as their way of deciding new chieftains. Their god, the Daedric Prince Malacath, sees this as a good thing; in order to protect themselves, the orcs have to prove that their leader is strong enough to protect them all. Chief Yamarz of Largashbur is implied to be the source of the stronghold's curse as he uses his cunning to weasel his way out of problems instead of facing them head-on, leading to the local giants to attack the stronghold. He tries to kill the Dragonborn after they fight their way to Volendrung, Malacath's hammer, proving he was never worthy to be chieftain in Malacath's eyes. Gularzob is chosen to be the new chieftain after his rightful death, but he doesn't know why.
  • Escape From St. Mary's: The chemistry department has their own tradition of underlings slaying the head to take control.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, Benny gained his position as leader of the Chairmen by challenging the old gang leader to a knife fight and winning back when they were tribals.
    • You can help Benny's second in command get a similar promotion. Similarly, you can replace the heads of the Omertas with Cachino, who promises to make an effort to "run a tight ship".
    • The Independent path essentially means doing this to Mr. House.
    • Caesar's elite Praetorian bodyguards operate this way. To become a member of the guard, an applicant chooses whoever they think is the weakest current guard and challenge him to a duel. If the applicant wins, they take over the ex-guard's place. This keeps the guards on their toes.
  • Played with interestingly in Final Fantasy X, of all games, where the revelation of the Klingon Promotion is a major part of the development of the Church of Yevon. The first time we see Seymour, he has just taken over his late father Jyscal's position of Maester (roughly equivalent to some sort of sub-Pope) in the Church of Yevon. At that time in the game this can seem a bit odd since at that point Yevon is apparently a Saintly Church dedicated to stopping fiends and Sin, while having the son take his father's place smacks of nepotism. Because Seymour is established as having already been a high-level church official, however, a player can gloss over this without suspecting the true corruption at the heart of Yevon. Several hours later in the game, it is revealed that Seymour killed his father discreetly in order to get said position, cementing his status as a viable villain and adding to a strong impression that the Church of Yevon is actually a Corrupt Church. (It was Operation Mi'ihen that started said impression.) Some time yet later in the game (it varies, depending on how much Level Grinding the player had to do to defeat Evrae), it is revealed that not only did Seymour kill his father for his position, but that all but one of his peers, (including the Pope-equivalent and de facto ruler of the world), were aware of his actions and condoned them as a way for Seymour to become a Maester, thus proving that it really is Klingon Promotion at its finest.
  • The backstory of Fire Emblem Fates states that the Mad God Anankos took over the Kingdom of Valla by killing its true sovereign and his once Only Friend, its unnamed King, who was also Azura's father.
    • In Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, Mad King Ashnard became king by killing not only his father but everyone else in line for the throne. And, as Radiant Dawn reveals, quite a few innocents as well, given he did it via Blood Pact. Ashnard is The Social Darwinist, so this method is fitting.
  • At the end of the first God of War game, Kratos kills Ares and becomes the new Greek God of War. Problem is, he's not exactly a worthy successor...
    • God of War (PS4) reveals that Kratos ascended to godhood again (against his will, interestingly) by killing all the Greek gods and then killing the final remaining god — himself. Once again, one of the worst successors possible.
  • Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Killing drug lord Ricardo Diaz has the main character inherit his mansion and his gang in a very Scarface-like fashion.
  • This is pretty much how Kormir became a god in Guild Wars: Nightfall, and for that matter what happened after Grenth defeated the previous god of death, Dhuum. It's implied Grenth wasn't the first, too.
  • Halo:
    • The Jiralhanae (Brutes) have this as their only method of ascension to the status of Chieftain (who wield symbolic and very powerful hammers). However, it must be by way of a strict Duel to the Death, mano a mano. Heck, the chieftain in Halo: Contact Harvest, Maccabeus (who's a Reasonable Authority Figure by Brute standards), recalls that when he challenged his own father for the right to lead, his father was happy when Maccabeus knifed him in the neck, as it was considered the best way for an old Brute warrior to go. For bonus points, the Brute who challenges and kills Maccabeus for leadership is none other than Tartarus, The Dragon in Halo 2.
    • Though military promotions for the Elites are based solely on how many enemies they've killed, political promotions work similarly to the Brute system, as shown in Halo: The Cole Protocol, where a newly-ascended kaidon (feudal lord) easily kills three assassins sent against him. He then appears before his keep's elders and proceeds to execute the elder who sent the assassins, which is their version of a vote of no-confidence. Why? Because the elder didn't challenge him openly. The only reason he didn't slaughter the elder's entire family but had them exiled instead, was because the elder fought back at the last second, showing he had some honor left. Fittingly enough, the kaidon we've been talking about just happens be Thel 'Vadam, better known as the Arbiter introduced in Halo 2.
  • The Henry Stickmin Series has the Toppat Clan, which is implied to have more than one scenario like this.
    • It's implied that Cloudface and Randy Radman died through these. Cloudface "lost his position" because no one could understand him through the beard, and Randy Radman ran the Toppats through the Party Era, which ended because they went bankrupt. While not confirmed they were overthrown by force, it wouldn't be outlandish to think this happened.
    • A confirmed scenario is Terrence Suave, the previous Toppat Leader. Due to making pointless raids for the thrill of it and his overall reckless nature, Terrence was overthrown by Reginald Copperbottom, and is remembered as one of the worst leaders the Toppat Clan ever had.
  • I Wanna Be the Guy: Wanna be the Guy, kid? Here's a gun and a cape, so go take out the Guy. Just watch out for those spikes, and that apple that falls upward, and those eggplants, and the spike pit that stands up and starts chasing you through the level.
  • When you infiltrate the Lotus Assassins' fortress in Jade Empire, your supervisor, Master Gang, expects you to help him replace his superior Master Shin by this means. Another of Gang's acolytes points out that "if one vacancy would raise us all, two vacancies would raise us even farther." This sequence also highlights the flaw in this system, as Grand Inquisitor Jia and the Master Executioner complain about how the infighting between Shin and Gang is getting in the way of actually getting the golem army running on schedule.
  • In Jagged Alliance 2, an example done by good guys, out of the five Santos brothers, Manny, the youngest one is a failure and does not own his own bar, instead he is working in someone else's bar. However, it just happen that his employer is a wanted international terrorist, so you can kill him for cash. Once you have done so, Manny will become the new bartender.
  • Killer7: Minor characters Shinya Akiba and Hiroyasu Kurahashi rose in prominence through this. When nuclear missiles threaten to destroy Japan, they order the new leader of the U.N. Party, Kenjiro Matsuoka, to kill himself while revealing this truth. After continually mocking Matsuoka, they are promptly shot by him, only for Kun Lan to appear and revive the two as sentient Heaven Smile/zombie hybrids, while also giving Matsuoka the confidence he needs to be a great leader.
  • In Kult: Heretic Kingdoms:
    • A civil war in the criminal underworld of Kyallisar started when someone tried this.
      Sharok: I've fallen out with my old master — a slight difference of opinion.
      Alita: What did you disagree on?
      Sharok: Gozen thinks he should remain thief master of Kyallisar — I think it should be me.
    • Gozen himself encourages this kind of promotion with his own bodyguard, having a standing policy that anyone who can kill the current bodyguard gets the job. Sharok comes up with the idea of using this to assassinate Gozen — challenge and defeat the bodyguard openly, then kill Gozen himself once there's no protector. Gozen isn't actually dumb enough to have overlooked that, however.
  • League of Legends
    • This method of career advancement is not uncommon in Noxus, but none exemplify it better than Darius. He was just a common soldier until his captain ordered a retreat during a crucial battle against their sworn enemies, Demacia. Darius responded to this by lopping off his captain's head and leading the remaining army to victory. He then proceeded to enforce this upon Noxus by killing a large number of nobles he considered too weak to have the right to their positions.
    • Gangplank murdered his own father on his eighteenth birthday, seizing their pirate ship for his own. His father had never been more proud of him.
  • In MadWorld, you ascend the ranks of the gladiator game by killing those above you. Unlike No More Heroes, you don't need to be directly below their rank to gain it. Which is just as well, since you start out ranked 256th. Thankfully, killing the very first boss cuts that nearly in half, putting you at rank 198. Unfortunately, subsequent bosses ranks are much closer to each other, so you don't climb the ladder nearly so quickly after that.
  • In Makai Kingdom, Klingon Promotion also seems to be the standard method of Overlord succession in the Nippon Ichiverse. Even humans who kill a strong enough Demon Overlord (or enough) will become one. And if a Demon Overlord were to kill enough other Demon Overlords; they would become something... else.
  • As the Proud Warrior Race of the setting, it's unsurprising that krogans in Mass Effect practice this. In Mass Effect 2 you can talk to the krogan scientist in the Clan Urdnot camp to find out that he got his position by stabbing the former head scientist to death. It's never made clear if Wrex became head of the clan via this method, but given that he tells you he killed his father it seems likely.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Naked Snake (Big Boss) inherits the title of 'Boss' by killing The Boss.
  • Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor: This game deals with classic stereotypical orcs. Of COURSE you're going to see this on a regular weekly basis. Can work for or against you — in order to benefit from this trope, you need to look for opportunities to defeat enemy warchiefs whose lieutenants are under your command, while defending warchiefs whose aspiring lieutenants are not under your command. Having lieutenants under your control is vital to this process.
  • In Mitsumete Knight R: Daibouken Hen, a second playthrough of the game reveals this is part of the Backstory of no less than The Hero, Christopher MacLeod: in order to infiltrate Orcadia Empire, so he can strike at the right moment to achieve his Revenge and destroy it, he climbed to the prestigious rank of Captain of the Imperial Guard's Knights part through his own abilities, part through underhand tactics such as assassinating or permanently crippling higher-ranked people and potential replacement for them.
  • This is basically the entire premise of No More Heroes. Wanna be the #1 assassin in America? Then just go kill the current #1, as well as any other assassins ranked ahead of you.
  • Plain Sight is a game about Suicidal Ninja Robots IN SPACE murdering each other for energy. The fastest way of getting said energy? Go for the big, glowy ninja robot and kill him, gaining all of his energy!
  • Shovel Knight: This is the reason Baz challenges you to a fight; he thinks that if he kills you then he will become a knight himself. The Plague of Shadows DLC reveals that he thinks everything works this way; for example, killing a scientist (Plague Knight) will make him a scientist instead.
  • Prior to Soulcalibur V, Yoshimitsu the Second defeated and killed the original Yoshimitsu to take the latter's title and become the new leader of the Manji Clan. This was a necessary evil; the Yoshimitsu blade that is used as proof of leadership for the Manji ninja only recognizes one Yoshimitsu at a time and, being a cursed weapon that is used for good, can only be quelled and not harm its user if the former Yoshimitsu is slain and has their name taken by the newly-christened successor. Also, the original Yoshimitsu was both past his prime and fatally wounded by Cervantes between games, so he needed to test his intended inheritor to see if they were worthy of accepting the mantle.
  • StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void: Between the Tal'darim, a fanatical protoss faction, it's possible for one to climb the hierarchy by challenging and defeating a higher-ranking individual. These duels, known as Rak'shir, involve the two protoss trying to push each other into a Lava Pit, in a combat that may take hours, and are watched by thousands of Tal'darim as source of entertainment. In an interesting twist, the followers of the two duelists are allowed to psychically support their leader, so it doesn't just come down to a contest of raw strength, but also a contest of who can get more Protoss to follow them.
    • This also comes with a bit of Loophole Abuse in that you don't have to actually fight the Rak'shir duel yourself to rank up — so long as someone above you dies, you rise in rank, even if you weren't the one throwing down the gauntlet. Alarak exploited this in the fluff to jump to First Ascendant (the position directly under the Tal'darim leader, the Highlord) by setting up a Rak'shir duel between the previous First Ascendant and the Highlord where everyone above him in rank got killed.
  • Star Trek Online:
    • With the Legacy of Romulus expansion's revamp of the Klingon campaign, you challenge your ship's captain to a duel after he tries to turn over a newly captured prisoner to The Federation. Notably, this is right after you were Klingon Promoted from second officer to first officer after the first officer challenged the captain on the same grounds and lost (you later find out that she didn't even get to properly fight. The captain stabbed her in the back while they were preparing for the duel). The Klingon high command considers this highly irregular (only the first officer is allowed to challenge the captain and your promotion wasn't official yet) and requires you to win a ground duel later as a formality.
    • In the Federation tutorial:
      • The original tutorial had the Starfleet Player Character advance to acting captain of their starting Miranda-class because everyone aboard senior to them got killed by the Borg. Overlaps with You Are in Command Now.
      • Season 8 and the revamp of the Federation tutorial stage kinda-sorta does this for the Federation player: the captain of your ship is kidnapped by boarding Klingons and he tells the player to lock onto his commbadge and blow the cloaking Bird of Prey sky high. As you're pretty much the next highest-ranking officer (as part of a group of recently-graduated cadets), you're now the captain. To play this even further, play the tutorial as a Federation-allied Klingon.
    • The entire story of Chancellor J'mpok is this. In the backstory, J'mpok is furious at Martok's more peaceful attitude and confronts him behind closed doors. It isn't known what happened, but when they were done, Martok was dead and J'mpok was now Chancellor. When Martok is later revealed alive, he confirms there was a fight and what J'mpok did was fair and legal from their terms and he had no desire to become Chancellor again. When J'mpok went off the deep end, J'ula of House Mo'kai confronted him after going through a Heel–Face Turn and killed him, though like Worf, she passed leadership over to L'Rell II.
  • Star Trek: Klingon Academy deals with the potential consequences of this: The Klingon Empire circa the sixth movie was having a decline in quality commanders because people who were skilled in dueling but not in running a starship kept ending up in senior positions through this trope, so General Chang created a command school to train junior officers in shiphandling.
  • Star Wars Legends: Knights of the Old Republic:
    • Darth Malak tried to pull this off in the backstory by killing his master Darth Revan. It doesn't work as well as he had planned. He mentions when you meet him that his power base is weaker than it would otherwise be because he didn't do it right. The intention is to dispose of your master in a duel or through some clever plan to demonstrate that you're better suited to lead, while Malak just waited until Revan was distracted with something important he had nothing to with arranging and blasted him. A method which if followed consistently, would result in Sith Lords being unable to ever do anything because their apprentice would betray them the moment they looked away.
    • The Dark Side ending has you show Malak how a Sith Promotion is done properly. With a side of revenge for kicking you out to begin with.
    • The sequel reveals that Revan defeated the Mandalorians by exploiting this. Any Mandalorian could become the new Mandalore by dueling the current one and claiming his helmet, and if he was defeated in another fashion leadership went to whoever could claim the helmet and keep it. Revan found out about this and killed Mandalore in a duel at the height of the final battle. This didn't make him Mandalore, but it did remove their ability to rise again under a new leader because he stole the helmet and hid it.
  • Parodied in the Touhou Project game Touhou Koumakyou ~ the Embodiment of Scarlet Devil, when Marisa asks Sakuya if she can become chief maid by killing her. The answer is no.
  • Warcraft:
    • While this is not standard in orc society, Orgrim Doomhammer becomes warchief of The Horde by killing Blackhand, after finding out that not only is Blackhand just a puppet of the Shadow Council, but that Blackhand was involved in the death of Orgrim's best friend Durotan (Thrall's father). In fact, Blackhand's own sons carried out the assassination of Durotan and his mate.
    • World of Warcraft eventually introduced the Mak'gora, a ritual duel practiced by orc and ogre clans. Traditionally to the death or submission, it was often used to determine leadership for a group.
    • Also from World of Warcraft, the Twilight's Hammer Cult thinks the player is doing this to rise to a high position in the cult on the fast track in one questline in Mount Hyjal. What the player is actually doing is trying to get into a position where they can rescue a certain high-value prisoner who is due to be sacrificed in one of the cult's rituals soon.
  • WildStar: Then Emperor Azrion assimilated the Draken into the Dominion by killing High Clanlord Zhur in one-on-one combat. It's also implied to be the traditional means of promotion within said alien species.
  • In The World Ends with You, the only way to become the Composer is to kill the current Composer.

  • The Adventures of Dr. McNinja:
    • This is Frans' plan to become the President. As Gordito -and later the Doctor- points out: "That's ... not how our government works." At the end of the arc, Dr. McNinja points out another hole in the plan: Frans isn't an American citizen and wasn't born on American soil, so he wouldn't be eligible for the Presidency anyway.
    • Later the Vice President tries to assassinate the President, but gets caught. And then the President is tricked into making King Radical the new VP and he manages to succeed.
  • This is how the drow change their current Matriarch in Corner Alley 13.
  • Drowtales: Princess Snadhya'rune and her sisters killed their mother by forming a demon-summoning group on the outskirts of the Drow capital Chel, sending it in open war on the city, and burying their mother alive during the chaos while pinning the blame on the one sister who stayed loyal. The sisters used body doubles of the queen to rule from the lesser thrones, but they argue over actual policy. They've been fighting for the queen's throne ever since.
  • Turns out in at least one universe of Dragon Ball Multiverse, the Saiyan hierarchy works like this. Case in point: when no one believed Bardock about his visions of Freeza destroying the Saiyan race, he forces the issue by challenging King Vegeta for the throne and winning, making him the new king and giving him the authority to order them to attack Freeza.
  • In a Patreon-only Dumbing of Age strip Galasso tells Conquest that only when she is willing and able to do this will she be a worthy heiress to his 'empire' (read: pizza parlor). Becky, who watched the whole conversation, briefly raises a knife before deciding 'naw'.
  • Evon: Maximus The Cruel, fresh from charging himself up on dark magics, executes a coup d'taut within The Cabal, killing (former) Big Bad Sevarian The Powerful and forcing his dragon, Ferneris The Gray, to run for his life. The rest of the Cabal's inner circle quickly falls in line.
  • Homestuck has a race of aliens known as trolls with classes based on blood color. At the very top is the Tyrian blood caste and there are only two alive at a time: the current Empress and the Heiress who needs to kill the Empress for her place on the throne. And for good reason: there is only one lusus that shares the tyrian blood of the Empress/Heiress and they fight not just for the throne but also for control over this monster, who can easily wipe out the entire race save for those of tyrian blood if he isn't properly maintained.
  • Megatron in Insecticomics is actually annoyed that his second-in-command, Firestorm, refuses to ever try this no matter how much he tries to provoke it. He claims that he sometimes orders her to shoot him just to watch her overly-loyal brain break from the Logic Bomb.
  • Averted in Kevin & Kell: Kell intervenes in a fight between Herd Thinners CEO R.L. and Executive Frank Mangle. R.L. and Mangle are seriously injured and, because she was the "last man standing" (as it were), she is promoted to CEO of Herd Thinners. And later on, R.L. reveals he let her keep the position uncontested to make repairs to the company while he recovered from his injuries, then promptly fires her with his connections to the board of directors and shareholders. Many of Kell's supporters quit on the spot with no regards to their hard-earned positions, and would go on to work at Kell's new company.
  • Looking for Group: The appointed king of The Empire is always the elf who is closest to the Royal Crown when the last wearer dies by any means. Hence a fallen hero who uses the most depraved means of assassination is immediately worshipped because the crown is at his feet. And then subverted when Richard fucks with ALL the nobility (Royal Crown becomes an Artifact of Doom).
    Richard: So alone... Excluding the civil war I created.
  • In MSF High, if you can beat up the hall monitor, you become the new hall monitor.
  • In Nebula, Jupiter actively believes in this trope: he wants to kill Sun so that he'll get Sun's job as leader of the solar system. Whether or not it'd actually work out that way is irrelevant, since it's pretty clear that the chances of him managing to wound Sun, much less kill him, aren't exactly high.
  • In The Order of the Stick, this is how Redcloak becomes the supreme leader of the hobgoblins. Unwilling to take part in the painful, humiliating, and time-consuming initiation rituals, Redcloak is informed that he can become leader by killing the current leader, so he immediately kills the hobgoblin cleric who has been leading the initiation ceremony. However, it turns out that guy wasn’t actually the supreme leader, but the real supreme leader, seeing how powerful Redcloak was, chose not to press the issue.
  • In Pacificators, the Spanish Princess Belinda poisoned her father for the throne.
  • Done with numbers in this Penny Arcade strip.
  • The Ninja Mafia in Sam & Fuzzy is ruled by an emperor and his ruling council (which the emperor selects when crowned). One of the council is elected new emperor if the emperor dies. It's never stated outright but implied pretty heavily, that traditional succession often involved an incumbent stealthily assassinating the sitting emperor. In addition, if (in an extremely unlikely scenario) someone were to assassinate both emperor and the entire council, the assassin becomes the new emperor.
  • In the Sluggyverse, the anthropomorphic incarnations of the holidays can be killed by mortals (or each other, or aliens). The slayer, by "right of caste", then becomes the new personification of the holiday. Bun-Bun the killer rabbit accidentally became the Easter Bunny by this process. In order to stop being the Easter Bunny, he set out to kill all the other holidays. Once in possession of all their powers, he could then change the rules. But he was defeated in the end by Mrs. Claus.
  • Swords: The Sword Tapir defeats Joyeuse in the final round of the Swor'nament...and according to a past royal decree, since Joyeuse was Queen of Hiltshire at the time she was defeated, that meant that the Sword Tapir was now the new king of Hiltshire. After her initial shock, Joyeuse takes the loss of her title in stride, deciding to leave Hiltshire and go find Harpe instead.
    Joyeuse: What.
  • Ashton does this in Winters In Lavelle; killing the dragon prince grants him the deceased monarch's land and status "by rite of blood." Though, the killer probably would have been executed instead, except he was also a dragon.

    Web Original 
  • This is how Dorf Quest deals with gods: A sufficiently powerful mortal may challenge one in a duel in order to gain his or her godhood. In addition, it takes ten years to get properly used to these new powers, during which the new god is (relatively) easy prey. It has been established that the turnabout rate is quite high, although there are also four gods who have never been defeated.
  • This was The Nostalgia Chick's plan to get the presidency of Kickassia: kill The Nostalgia Critic.
  • RWBY: When Sienna Khan refuses to start a war with the humans on the grounds that the White Fang are vastly underpowered, Adam Taurus kills her and takes over. Justified in that he was already a high-ranking member of the terrorist group with the majority supporting him, effectively making Adam the leader. Though after attempting to set off a series of bombs with his own followers in the blast zone and later abandoning them to be arrested, the White Fang turn on Adam who slaughters them all.
  • Played straight in The Salvation War's first book with Hell: other than Satan, the demon hierarchy works this way... which suits Satan just fine. However, as things go to hell Colonel Keisha Stevenson (US Army) inadvertently becomes a participant by gunning down a Hell village's lord. She is far more benevolent than him, but presumably abdicated the position once Civil Affairs troops arrived.
  • SCP Foundation, SCP-507 ("The Reluctant Dimension Hopper"). Document 507-3B is a list of the Alternate Universes SCP-507 has been to while in Foundation custody. In universe 7F2-WA3-193, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by his Vice President in order to assume the Presidency. Over time this became a standard procedure in which any qualified candidate could become President by assassinating the current President.
  • And it may be how the ruling clique at Whateley Academy works in the Whateley Universe. More than one student has speculated that Team Kimba could become the new Alphas just by beating down the current Alphas and laying claim to the position. And Team Kimba has already demonstrated they can do it if they want to.

    Western Animation 
  • On Adventure Time, Word of God says that Marceline became the Vampire Queen by killing the previous Vampire King.
    • As of "Frost and Fire", Flame Princess has become Flame Queen after usurping her father. She also is running a better ship as well, judging how she enforces a "Tell the truth" rule as well.
  • In the C.O.P.S. (1988) episode "The Case of the Crime Convention", Big Boss implies that he isn't the first Big Boss and that he supplanted his predecessor after eliminating him.
  • Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines: In "Who's Who?", Klunk takes command of Vulture Squadron when Dick Dastardly gets amnesia.
  • Futurama:
    • The throne of the planet Trisol works this way, with the end result being each Emperor only rules for a short time before he's drunk. Did we mention the beings of Trisol are living water who sleep in bottles? And "a short time" means he's usually done away with the night after his coronation?
      • In fact, the longest reign of any emperor was one week. In the palace's portrait gallery, there are empty frames after Fry's portrait labeled "Fry's Assassin" and "Fry's Assassin's Assassin".
        Fry: Well, at least my assassin gets what's coming to him.
      • Hell, this scene ends with a panel opening the wall, and a straw coming out to (unsuccessfully) try to drink him.
    • Also from "Lrrreconcilable Ndndifferences" while referring to Lrrr's king cape:
      Grrrl: Nice cape. Where'd you get it?
      Lrrr: What, this old thing? I murdered my father.
  • On Jimmy Two-Shoes, it's established that Lucius became ruler of Miseryville after freezing his father solid. As it turns out, this is how every Heinous took control of the town.
  • Played for laughs in Justice League Unlimited. Shayera confesses to her romantic rival Vixen that she is unsure of Earth ways of rivalry; "It's not like I can poison your water or something. *sigh* I miss Thanagar." As Vixen leaves after their workout, Shayera casually tosses her a water bottle. Vixen pauses for a moment, claims she's not worried, then disposes of it.
    • Used when Lex Luthor took over Gorilla Grodd's Legion of Doom Expy after the latter's failed plan to turn the entire world into apes. Basically, Luthor admits he was planning on biding his time before taking over, but Grodd's plan is so stupid, he might as well do it now, and does.
  • Kaeloo: Discussed in the episode "Let's Play Gangster Poker", where Mr. Cat becomes a gangster and hires Stumpy to work under him. Stumpy tries to formulate a complex plan to kill Mr. cat so he can become the boss instead, though he never gets the chance to carry it out.
  • In Metalocalypse Offdensen makes it very clear to Melmord that this was the only way Melmord would become sole manager of Dethklok: he'd have to kill Offdensen first. Melmord fails and dies instead.
  • In the season 1 finale of OK Ko Lets Be Heroes, Darrell successfully manages to become the new manager of Box More, after he exposes Lord Boxman's latest activities to his investors and they let him shoot his father out of a cannon towards the sun. Boxman actually survives the ordeal (with light burns) a few months later.
  • Robot Chicken: The sketch "Not So Smurfy" has The Smurfs competing in Gargamel's Smurf Hunger Games to replenish their crops that were ravaged by a gypsy moth infestation. When Papa Smurf ignores Sassette's suggestion to convert the smurfberries they won into preserves to prevent another shortage, Sassette murders him and takes his beard, claiming herself to be the new Papa Smurf.
  • In Shadow Raiders, that's the policy for the rulership of planet Bone. although we discover near the series' end that Femur couldn't entirely stomach killing his brother, the king at the time, and merely imprisoned him on the Prison Planet in order to take the throne.
  • In the Star Trek: Lower Decks episode "wej Duj" ("Three Ships"), Klingon lower-deck helm officer Ma'ah spends most of his scenes performing menial tasks for Captain Dorg, but agreeing with Captain Dorg that the Klingon Empire has become soft allows Ma'ah to fill the recently-vacant position of second-in-command (empty because of a failed attempt at the Klingon Promotion). When Captain Dorg reveals that he's been providing Pakleds with Klingon weapons and sending them off to fight Klingon battles in secret, Ma'at points out that this is a massively dishonorable act that will eventually backfire and weaken the Empire further (Klingons always fight their own battles). Ma'at then uses his position as second-in-command to obtain a Klingon Promotion, taking charge and preventing further subterfuge that could destroy relations with the Federation.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars has some violations of the Sith Rule of Two: it starts simply with Dooku taking Ventress as an assassin/pseudo-apprentice, and then trying to take her out when Palpatine realizes she might become too strong, then Ventress creating her own "apprentice" in Savage Opress to try and get rid of Dooku, and then Opress betraying both Ventress and Dooku and then teaming up with a not actually dead Darth Maul. Palpatine is forced to step in personally to cut the numbers back down to manageable levels by killing Opress, and Ventress goes into hiding.
  • In nearly twenty-five years of being in various Transformers series, Starscream accomplished this exactly once in The Transformers: The Movie by declaring himself leader of the Decepticons after having a severely damaged Megatron dumped into space alongside other defeated Decepticons. And mere hours later Galvatron (a reformatted Megatron) came back to do the same thing to him.
    • This is, essentially, how the Decepticons work. The same for the descendants, the Predacons. The Beast Wars Megatron even points out after an attempted assassination by Tarantulas that he's ok with treachery. It's incompetence he hates.
      • When Rhinox is infected with a virus that turns him into a Predacon, he immediately starts plotting against Megatron... and nearly succeeds. Rhinox is really smart. Trying to make him ruthless is probably not a good idea. And then Megatron goes and does it again.

    Real Life 
Naturally, this can happen in Real Life, even in our so-called enlightened modern era, but it's generally more of a historical phenomenon.
  • Older Than Feudalism: The kingdom of Assyria decided its inheritance of the throne by just having a civil war, where the princes were invited to attack each other and the last one standing would become the new king.
  • This was par for the course in The Roman Empire:
    • Relatively few Roman emperors would be succeeded by their children, at least in part because of this phenomenon. Often, it was considered politically expedient to do this, because the Emperor's children were crazy or incompetent. In fact, Imperial succession was technically not hereditary and involved the Emperor appointing his eventual successor — sometimes it worked (e.g. the era of the "Five Good Emperors"), but often it didn't (because the Emperor would appoint his crazy or incompetent offspring as his heir). The Praetorian Guard kick-started the trend when they killed Caligula and all his possible successors other than Claudius to ensure he would be Emperor. However, you also had a lot of competing interests — there could be as many as six different claimants to the throne at any one time, and there were some years where more than one emperor was overthrown in succession — 69 AD saw four emperors, 193 AD saw five, 238 AD saw six, and there were 25 different emperors between 235 and 284.
    • Republican Rome had a variant — if you successfully prosecuted a Roman Senator in court, you obtained their rank. Cicero in particular advanced his political career this way, making a habit of suing people who were higher in rank and destroying them in court.
    • The rex Nemorensis was the chief priest of the goddess Diana at a shrine near Lake Nemi. At least according to legend, this priest had to be an escaped slave, and obtained the position by killing the prior priest in ritual combat. They would hold the position only as long as they could defeat all new claimants. If this method of selection wasn't entirely apocryphal, it had ceased by the early Empire.
    • The Byzantine Empire was happy to continue this tradition, with its vague system of succession meaning that it was common to become Emperor by killing or deposing the previous one. One notable example is Basil I, a peasant who was good with horses and invited to the court by horse-racing fan Emperor Michael III (a.k.a. "Michael the Drunken") — he convinced Michael to depose his co-emperor Bardas (claiming Bardas wanted the throne for himself), then murdered Michael and became Emperor outright, beginning the Macedonian dynasty.
  • The Visigoths had 35 kings between 395 and 720 AD, eleven of whom were murdered by their successors. The Visigoths had an Elective Monarchy, but Gothic law also said that a new king should be elected immediately after the previous one dies, in the same location as his death — and who could be closer to the dead king than the guy who killed him?
  • Akechi Mitsuhide is often accused of having tried to do this in assassinating Oda Nobunaga in the Honnō-ji Incident in 1582. Historians differ as to whether he had this in mind during the assassination (some claim he did it to prove his loyalty to the Emperor and prevent Nobunaga from flouting his authority), but he definitely did try to consolidate power as the Shogun. He lasted eleven days before he was himself deposed and killed by the forces of Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
  • Crown Prince Dipendra of Nepal kind of did this in 2001 when he became the perpetrator of what became known as the Nepal Royal Massacre. He murdered the King and Queen and several other relatives. This made him King — except he then turned the gun on himself. (Or at least that's the official story.) He was extremely grudgingly crowned king while he lay in a coma in hospital, since there was apparently no provision for disbarring him from the succession without the reiging monarch's explicit order, then died after a three-day "reign". This led to the reign of Dipendra's uncle Gyanendra, who was fortuitously absent from the party at which the shooting occurred and thus able to jump several places in the line of succession. Many people considered this highly suspicious, but whatever the truth of it he ended up being The Wrongful Heir to the Throne and lasted less than five years before being deposed, after which the Nepali government did away with the monarchy entirely.
  • During the Middle Ages, the Abbasid Caliphate saw this happen routinely. At least one caliph ruled for only a day before being assassinated. Rulers eventually started a tradition of sending their sons into exile to cut down on the random dethronings.
  • The Ottoman Empire tried to prevent this for a while when the sultans would imprison their heirs in a Luxury Prison Suite in Kafes (literally "the Golden Cage"). These future sultans, however, would grow up in the confines of the Cage and often turn out even crazier (and stabbier) than their predecessors.
  • During The Mexican Revolution, one day (19 February 1913) saw three people being President. Francisco Madero started the day as President. However, Madero had already been taken prisoner by the forces of General Victoriano Huerta, along with several members of his cabinet. One of the cabinet members, Foreign Minister Pedro Lascuráin, was convinced by Huerta's men to talk Madero and the vice president (José María Pino Suárez) into resigning, with promises that Huerta would spare them and guarantee their safe passage to exile if they did so. Madero and Pino Suárez agreed (seeing little other choice), leaving Lascuráin next in line and therefore president. He was president for just long enough to appoint Huerta Minister of the Interior—next in line after Foreign Minister—before he resigned himself (by some accounts, after only 15 minutes as President, though some give him a whole hour in office), giving Huerta the presidency. What turns it into this trope is that Huerta, for his part, had Madero and Pino Suárez killed three days later on the way to their ship. (This act is widely believed to have doomed Huerta's regime by making Madero a martyr to democracy and a useful rallying point for opponents of Huerta, rather than the somewhat divisive and kind of disappointing figure he had been during his actual presidency.)
  • Dingane, the half-brother of Shaka Zulu, became the second king of the Zulu Empire after conspiring with another half-brother (Mhlangano) and a member of a rival tribe (Mbopa of the InDuna) to murder Shaka in 1828. Then he murdered Mhlangano, assumed the throne, and ordered all of Shaka's supporters and his royal kin executed.
  • The "Five Dravidians" refer to a succession of five Tamil kings who ruled parts of southern India and Sri Lanka around the beginning of the first century BCE — and all five took power in this way. King Valagamba was ousted (although not killed) and replaced by Pulahatta; who was killed and replaced by his Chief Minister, Bahiya; who was killed and replaced by his Prime Minister, Panya Mara; who was killed and replaced (after lasting eight years — he was the only one to last more than three) by his Chief Minister, Pilaya Mara; who was killed and replaced by his Chief Minister, Dathika; who was killed and replaced by Valagamba, who took back his throne.
  • There are a few interesting traditions that arose out of attempts to preempt a possible Klingon Promotion:
    • The Medieval French slogan "The King is dead; long live the King" evokes an immediate transfer of power from one King to another, implying that a legitimate successor has always been in the works. The tradition migrated to Britain, where the modern Parliament officially ratifies the monarch's successor (through the Act of Settlement 1701 and subsequent amendments; they fought a war to get there).
    • The British Army instituted rules against duelling other officers in the 17th century, as a way of preventing them from challenging senior officers to duels on trumped-up matters of honour, then moving up in rank after they win.
    • The American Political System doesn't allow this, mostly through the operation of the Constitution, but partly by tradition. The one time this could have happened was during the Watergate scandal, when Richard Nixon's vice president Spiro Agnew resigned (for unrelated offenses), meaning the next in line to be president was Speaker of the House Carl Albert — a Democrat. In theory, Albert could have called for Nixon's impeachment, blocked any vote to confirm a new Vice President, and if Nixon was thus ousted, become President himself despite being from an opposition party. Albert refused to do so, finding such a maneuver inherently undemocratic (and also believing that Nixon could beat impeachment, at least at that time) — he instead moved quickly to have Republican Gerald Ford become Vice President. Albert would later claim that if he couldn't do that before Nixon resigned, he would have appointed a Republican Vice President and immediately resigned himself.
      • It could happen, theoretically, if a vice-president were to murder the president and get away with it.
  • In the animal kingdom, animals who practise polygamous breeding habits like lions, elephant seals, or elk have this. A male controls a territory and has breeding access to all the females in it. A new male comes in and fights for the territory: if he wins, he now controls the territory and can breed with all the females. Such fights aren't always to the death, but it's not uncommon and even if it isn't immediate, injuries inflicted in the fight combined with being forced out of what's usually prime territory can result in the loser's death.


Video Example(s):


Empieza el matriarcado

The Professor makes a checkout call to the band. Berlin claims that things are running smoothly, but the Professor knows that they are not. Nairobi, another member of the band, had enough of him, attack him and take over leadership of the band.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / KlingonPromotion

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