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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 Sub-Trope is Challenging the Chief, 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 Leads to Leadership 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, that is Kill and Replace.

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Other examples:

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    Alternate Reality Games 
  • Ωmega Mart: Cecelia Dram overthrew her father and took over Dramcorp for herself, via pushing him into the Source Well (and turning him into the ethereal being that is periodically heard in Omega Mart itself).

    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) and then claiming Deikun's last words on his deathbed were to appoint him his successor. 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 by inheritance. 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 Leads to Leadership.
  • 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!"
  • In Magic Powder, the orcish clans have a very simple promotion system - you kill someone and then you get to take their spot in the hierarchy until someone else kills you. This is how Gundel became the head of the orc clans, and when he's killed in the first issue, his lieutenants immediately slaughter each other to determine who will become the new boss.
  • 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.
Birail Riyannis: We're gonna need popcorn.
  • Better Bones AU: Leopardfur, Crookedstar's deputy, poisons Crookedstar so she can succeed him as leader. She is in turn killed by her own deputy, Mistyfoot, who is disillusioned with Leopardstar's leadership and believes she can do better.
  • A Burning Flame In My Soul: A non-lethal version exists with the ruler of the hippogriffs. The ruler can be challenged for the right to the throne through three traditional contests: swimming, flying, and combat. Whoever wins two out of three is declared ruler. During the 20 year Time Skip, Princess Skystar became enraged at her mother Queen Novo at her treatment of Silverstream because of her relationship with Gallus, resulting in Novo permanently stripping Silverstream of her noble rank, and challenged her for the throne. Skystar won the swimming challenge, then lost the flying challenge, forcing things to be decided in the combat challenge, with Skystar surprising everyone by defeating her mother and replacing her as Queen.
  • 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 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.
  • Vow of the King: After killing Mayuri, Ichigo is promoted to captain of 12th Division, though it's currently a probationary appointment.
  • 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.
  • Imperium of Vader: As per the Rule of Two, Vader kills Palpatine in a duel, replacing him as both the master Sith and Emperor. In fact, it turns out that there's actually a secret clause in Palpatine's will that Vader can only be his successor if he's the one to kill him.

    Films — Animated 
  • Disney's Aladdin and the King of Thieves 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.)

    Films — 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."
  • The 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."

    Mythology & Religion 
  • Celtic Mythology: In ancient Ireland, many, many legendary High Kings came to power by killing the previous king. It would probably be easier to list the ones that didn't.
    • The four brothers Ér, Orba, Ferón and Fergna killed their cousins Luigne and Laigne in battle and ruled as High Kings together for half a year, before Luigne and Laigne's brother Íriel Fáid killed them in another battle.
    • Íriel's son Ethriel was killed in yet another battle by Conmáel, his cousin once removed, who then became High King.
    • Conmáel was killed in battle by Tigernmas, grandson of Ethriel.
    • Eochaid Étgudach was killed in battle by Cermna Finn, who was later killed in battle by Eochaid Faebar Glas, son of Conmáel.
    • Fíachu Labrainne became High King by killing Eochaid in battle to avenge his father.
    • Eochu Mumu, grandson of Eochaid, killed Fíachu, and was himself killed by Fíachu's son Óengus Olmucaid, who was later killed by Eochu's son Énna Airgdech.
    • Rothechtaid mac Main, grandson of Óengus, killed Énna in another battle.
    • Queen Macha Mong Ruad was killed by Rechtaid Rígderg, whose father had been killed by Macha's father.
    • Rechtaid was then himself killed by Úgaine Mór, foster son of Macha.
    • Úgaine Mór was killed by his brother Bodbchad, who held the throne for less than two days before Úgaine Mór's son Lóegaire Lorc killed him.
    • Lóegaire Lorc ruled for two years before his brother Cobthach Cóel Breg murdered him, and had his son Ailill Áine poisoned for good measure, and forced Ailill's son Labraid to eat his father's and grandfather's hearts (and a mouse) before exiling him.
    • Decades later, Labraid eventually got his vengeance by burning Cobthach to death inside an iron house.
    • After a few more decades, Cobthach's son Meilge Molbthach killed Labraid and became king.
    • He was then killed by Mug Corb, a grandson of Rechtaid, who was in turn killed by Óengus Ollom, a grandson of Labraid.
    • Then Irereo, son of Molbthach, killed Óengus, became king, and was killed by Fer Corb, son of Mug Corb.
    • Connla Cáem, son of Irereo, killed Fer Corb and actually lived long enough to die of natural causes.
    • And then his son Ailill Caisfiaclach was killed by Adamair, son of Fer Corb, who was in turn killed by Eochaid Ailtlethan.
    • Eochaid died in battle against Fergus Fortamail, grandson of Óengus Ollom, who became king until Eochaid's son Óengus Tuirmech Temrach killed him.
    • He died of natural causes and was succeeded by his nephew Conall Collamrach, who was killed by Nia Segamain, son of Adamair.
    • Nia Segamain was killed by Énna Aignech, son of Óengus Tuirmech Temrach.
    • Énna was killed by Crimthann Coscrach, grandson of Fergus Fortamail.
    • Crimthann was killed by Rudraige mac Sithrigi, who died of plague, and was succeeded by Finnat Már, son of Nia Segamain.
    • Finnat Már was killed by Bresal Bó-Díbad, son of Rudraige, who was then killed by Lugaid Luaigne, son of Finnat Már.
    • Lugaid was then killed by Congal Cláiringnech, brother of Bresal.
    • Congal was killed by Dui Dallta Dedad, grandson of Lugaid.
    • Dui was killed in battle by Fachtna Fáthach, grandson of Rudraige, who later fell in battle to Eochu Feidlech.
    • After this there are a few successions not involving violence, before getting back to business as usual with the king Eterscél Mór being killed in battle against Nuadu Necht.
    • And then Nuadu was killed by Eterscél's son Conaire Mór.

    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 Leads to Leadership 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 also important to note that challenging someone's leadership in Clan society doesn't have to be because you want the position. It's possible that you can challenge a leader because they're terrible in that position, and you want them out of it. If you win, you can then take the position yourself, or let someone else take it. A Trial By Combat is specifically about removing the leader in question, not strictly about taking their place.
      • That said, Alaric Ward pulled this off to the letter against his commanding officer, Seth Ward. While Alaric was being lectured about his failure on the battlefield, an assassin attacked him with a poisoned knife. Alaric killed the assassin, but then grabbed his knife and used it to murder Seth, claiming the assassin had killed him and stepping into his now-vacant position.
    • 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. Furthermore, all backstabbing is on hold whenever a group of Dark Eldar is on a realspace raid for slaves - but as soon as everyone is safely back in Commoragh, everyone is fair game again.
    • 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.


  • 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 she 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, as the Nine openly discuss plans to Kill and Replace Ten.
  • The Perry Bible Fellowship: "Boss" has a mafia don alerted to his underlings plotting to kill him by a pet parrot. He retaliates.
  • 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 
  • In the Club Penguin Shutdown episode "The Girl", the Tuba Gang Leader asphyxiates the Purple Republic's leader by then to death. He ends up becoming the group's new head, since none of the other members bothered to take the former leader's place.
  • 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'' (though this time he's prepared for and welcomes Rhinox's scheming, which allows him to obtain a legendary artifact of power against the organic).

    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.
  • John Gotti became the Gambino crime family's boss in 1985 after assassinating Paul Castellano for lacking street cred and being too greedy with the rank-and-file mafiosinote . Aware that murdering Castellano without the Mafia Commission's approval would be risky, Gotti got around it by soliciting the support of mobsters both within the Gambinos and in the other families except for Genovese family boss Vincent "Chin" Gigante, who tried to have Gotti killed several times in retaliation for assassinating his boss without authorizationnote .


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?

4.67 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / KlingonPromotion

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