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No Sneak Attacks

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"Wherever the characters go, the villains can always find them. Chances are they're asking the guy in the street. But don't worry — despite being able to find the characters with ease anytime they want to, the bad guys never get rid of them by simply blowing up the tent or hotel they're spending the night in. (Just think of it: the screen dims, the peaceful going-to-sleep-now music plays, then BOOM! Game Over!)"

The villains will never go for a sneak attack that is really any good. Some things include:

Killing the hero when he's asleep is dishonorable — A villain would never have the common sense to simply sneak (or teleport) up to the hero while he's asleep. Common sense would tell you that a villain could easily win by waiting until the hero is asleep and then killing him.

I must never attack from behind without some sort of warning sound — It never occurs to villains to sneak up behind the hero and blast him into oblivion on what is supposed to be a normal day when the hero is off guard. If the villain attempts to attack from behind, he will always make some sort of noise, like a yell, to warn the hero to dodge or be pushed out of the way.

This is near-universal in video games and tabletop roleplaying games, because it wouldn't be very fun if enemy ambushes gave players no chance of defending themselves.

This trope is related to Mook Chivalry, except it applies to all villains.

A subtrope of Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?. Contrast the Combat Pragmatist, who'd strike In the Back gleefully.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Ah! My Goddess: Mara, the demonness and arch rival to the goddesses, has demonstrated an ability to seal away Belldandy and/or her powers. It never occurs to Mara to sneak in at night or sneak up from behind and do this.
  • Code Geass:
    • Nina tries (repeatedly) to kill Zero (yelling "Euphemia's revenge!!" incessantly),
    • Some Britannian soldier tries to assassinate Suzaku, the latter of which would have worked if it weren't for Suzaku's "Live on!" command
    • Suzaku's attempt to kill Charles, which involves charging in like an idiot and making a long speech about crimes and despair and whatnot. There's some sadly unexplored hilarity in the fact that Charles was invulnerable by that point.
  • In Fate/stay night and other related works, this is justified when it comes to the Assassin class of Servants. Being in an RPG Mechanics 'Verse, Assassins have a trait known as Presence Concealment, which prevents others from detecting their mana signature, allowing them to sneak around and scout in enemy territory. However, the efficiency of Presence Concealment usually plummets whenever the Assassin prepares to go for a sneak attack, allowing the target to deflect or avoid the attack quickly enough. It isn't much of a problem against normal humans, given how Servants have Super-Speed and can kill them the moment they register that they're being attacked, but this also makes performing sneak attacks against other Servants practically worthless. Since the Masters of the Grail War often like to keep their Servants by their side as an invisible Guardian Entity, it's not easy at all for an Assassin to get the drop on other Masters.
  • Averted, at least for the most part, in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. If the bad guys' goal is to kill the heroes, rarely do they actually make their presence known before they start attacking. If they can off their targets without a fight, they will take that option. The heroes have to stay on high alert at all times, as they could be attacked at any time and in ways they can barely even imagine. For instance, Part 5 has someone who can emit an odorless poison gas that induces Rapid Aging. Knowing the heroes are on a train but unsure of where, he boards the train and quietly emits the gas over the entire train, knowing the gas will fill every gap and reach them no matter where they are.
  • Averted at the beginning of the "Magical World" arc in Negima! Magister Negi Magi: Negi and his group arrive at a Gateport coincidentally at exactly the same time Fate Averruncus and his group do. Fate is initially willing to let Negi leave without noticing him, but when Negi begins to detect his presence, he impales Negi out of nowhere with a giant stone spear. Only by the timely actions of the other heroes does Negi barely escape death.

    Fan Works 
  • Actions such as stealing Yugi's puzzle while he's asleep are regularly suggested by the Only Sane Man on the Evil Council on Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series. Then they are shot down by Marik who can't abide by any plan that doesn't involve playing a children's card game first.note 

    Film - Live-Action 
  • In The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, violating this trope is Cesare's job. If you think it's unfair that he kills you in your sleep, don't worry: he kills you in his sleep, too.

  • The Assassin's Guild in Discworld has explicitly defined standards as to how one is permitted to inhume a client. These standards permit Commander Vimes to set up defenses around his home and office to ward them off. He gets so good at humiliating would-be assassins thanks to this trope (and so vital to the day-to-day running of the city) that they eventually stop accepting contracts for him, and instead use his defences as a test. No, not killing him, just getting to where one can draw a bead on him is considered exceptional.
  • In the Dragaera novels, one of the rules the Jhereg follow is that you cannot assassinate a target in their home. If they step one foot outside the front door? Fine. One step inside the threshold? Safe.
  • In Lady of the Lake, the last of the Witcher novels, psychopathic Bounty Hunter Leo Bonhart tries to attack his Arch-Enemy Ciri from behind, letting loose a shriek of rage when he's inches away, for her beating and humiliating him in their duel moments before. With that warning, Ciri easily dodges Bonhart's attack, and then opens his throat from ear to ear.
  • Averted in The Lord of the Rings, when Sauron does send his Ring Wraiths to attack the heroes while they sleep in the town of Bree. For most of the rest of the story, our heroes are either traveling under Sauron's radar, shacking up in well-fortified areas he can't sneak into, or pulling off elaborate distractions to keep him from zeroing in on where the ring is so he can't try this again.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire there's an order of assassins who always apologize to their victims before killing them. This is a whispered "Sorry," an instant before death, but it was enough warning for one character to avoid it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Charmed, demons have the ability to teleport in and try to kill the Charmed Ones, seemingly at will. While they do take advantage of this, they always do it when they're awake, usually in the same room, and not occupied with anything else. The idea of doing it while they're asleep doesn't seem to occur.
  • Justified in Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Rita could only get rid of the Rangers if she killed them while they were morphed; otherwise their powers could just be given to another person. Lothor would later invoke the same rule in Power Rangers Ninja Storm.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Encouraged as protocol for the Keeper in the Call of Cthulhu core rulebook. As the Investigators tend to be mere Puny Earthlings, devouring them in their sleep or when they otherwise can't fight back tends to be boring and anticlimactic. Individual pre-written adventure modules may play this straight or avert it, as the Keeper wants.
  • The Knight class in Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 Edition's Player's Handbook II played this trope painfully straight- if you attacked an enemy who was surprised, flanked, or otherwise at a disadvantage you either lost a use of your primary class ability, or, if you had no more uses of it remaining you took a cumulative penalty to saving throws. A strict reading of the rules would only apply this to the knight's own behavior, but it was commonly taken into Lawful Stupid territory by requiring the knight to not even allow their allies to use such tactics.
  • Subverted in the Forgotten Realms setting, where the assassin Entreri often does kill people by sneak attacks, and on one occasion when he does cry out when attacking someone from behind, it's because he intends for his opponent to kill him.
  • The various Warhammer 40,000 RPGs (Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader, Deathwatch, Black Crusade and Only War) seem to regard this rule as entirely optional, given that there are numerous Talents players can take to protect themselves from this (notably, the Light Sleeper talent lets you make Awareness checks as if awake while asleep; there's a whole raft of others devoted to making you better able to deal with being surprised).

    Video Games 
  • The 1999 Alien vs. Predator makes the AI-controlled Aliens much noisier than usual, constantly shrieking and hissing as they close in on you. Given how fast they move and how highly damaging their attacks are, them audibly warning you of their presence was about the only way the Marine's campaign could've been playable at all.
  • In Arcanum, assassins will not only stand and announce themselves, but converse with the player before attacking.
    • Lampshaded after you learn more about the assassins, their history and their "code of conduct".
    • Likewise, several people who hang around in the bars may randomly turn out to be assassins - but it will only be determined if you choose to talk to them.
  • In Assassin's Creed: Revelations, enemies finally appear who use the same tactics as Ezio, with one exception. When they appear out of nowhere, they yell something like, "Die, Assassin!" before stabbing him. This, naturally, gives the player a chance to dodge the sneak attack. That, and the Scare Chord just before they strike. It's possibly justified by Ezio's supernaturally heightened senses.
  • Averted in At Dead of Night - Jimmy prefers to get the jump on you, hiding around corners and behind walls. There's a recurring mechanic where you can hide from him in a wardrobe; he'll search the room, and then leave. If you didn't hear the door closing, he's faked his leaving and is actually in the bathroom, waiting to spring out and nail you if you leave the wardrobe.
  • Borderlands 3: Tyreen gains teleportation powers early in the game. While she does constantly use them to throw Mooks at you, she only ever seems to do it a dozen or so at a time, rather than teleporting her entire army (said to number in the billions) and overwhelming the heroes. At one point she also uses her power to abduct Tannis -No explanation is given as to why she couldn't pick the heroes off one a time this way, or how they could possibly defend against it if she did.
  • Subverted in Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, where if the player uses the action button on the bed to sleep before bolting all the doors, they don't get to wake up, they merely get a game over.
    • A bit of Fridge Logic sets in when you notice that the player character wakes up before getting attacked only if you bolt the doors.
  • An Enforced Trope in Civilization VI when Canada is involved — surprise wars (wars which are declared without a preceding denouncement to represent a worsening of diplomatic relations) cannot be declared on Canada for any reason, and vice versa.
  • Played with in Diablo 3, when the demon lord Azmodan attempts a sneak attack on a keep by ordering his forces to burrow into its foundations and attack it from below... then sends the keep's defenders a telepathic message gloating about his impending victory, giving them chance to rally and prepare for the attack just before it hits.
  • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind's Tribunal expansion kicks off when you are attacked by Dark Brotherhood assassins in your sleep. However, for whatever reason, they wake you up before attacking, giving you a chance to fight back. Considering these assassins are supposed to be among the best (and most amoral) killers in the region, their making a noise when attempting to kill you - every single time - seems quite odd.
  • The End Times: Vermintide and Vermintide II are thoroughly Sound-Coded for Your Convenience: an enemy winding up to attack from behind makes enough noise for a split-second warning, and each special unit spawns and moves with a distinctive sound — even the Gutter Runner, ostensibly an elite assassin, loudly whispers to itself before it pounces.
  • Fallout 2 is a subversion in that you can involve yourself in the affairs of the bad guys in quite a few ways before the final confrontation, including prank calling them, giving them a chance to build some kind of profile about you. The only person who is assured to care about you in the end is the last boss.
  • Subverted in Final Fantasy VII when Sephiroth kills Aeris from a sneak-attack, with no warning.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Very noticeable in Fire Emblem: Awakening. Several enemy characters have the ability to teleport - the Valmese sorcerer Excellus and the Grimleal sorcerer Valdar being the two most notable. Alright... well, those two are both important, so maybe they just don't want to expose themselves to the risk of an assassination attempt gone wrong. Fair enough... except we're also treated to a common Risen assassin teleporting in after a mission to try and kill Chrom. None of the villains ever think to try this trick on the numerous occasions that pop up where a hero character needs to be assassinated.
    • Justified in Path of Radiance. At one point, King Ashnard and the Black Knight are conspiring to kidnap the heron princess Leanne. Ashnard asks why the Black Knight doesn't just use his Warp Powder to teleport in and grab her. The Knight explains that using the powder drains his strength, so he can't use it in situations that would leave him vulnerable (presumably this also prevents him from using it to launch a sneak attack on the heroes' camp in the middle of the night). But played straight in Radiant Dawn, when the Begnion Senate creates a Rewarp Staff that does the same thing with no drawbacks. They don't seem to realize the advantage this gives them and the most they use it for is to drop by Daein Castle for some Evil Gloating.
  • Played With in Mass Effect 2. In the opening cinematic, the Normandy SR-1 detects the Collector ship, but does so too late. Played straight again with attempts to destroy Shepard's body to prevent the Lazarus project and again when the Reaper IFF beams the SR-2's position, leading to another Collector surprise attack. Played straight in the Arrival DLC - indoctrinated humans subdue Shepard, then keep them alive (but sedated) until the Reapers arrive. Shepard's cyborg body adjusts before the Reapers get there, allowing them to delay the arrival until the third game.
  • For the most part, the Mega Man Battle Network series follows this trope until it is subverted in the fifth and sixth games when some of the enemies finally get smarter and begin targeting Lan and Megaman (mostly Megaman) when their guard is down.
  • In the second Neverwinter Nights expansion, a reversal of this occurs if you agree to aid a group of formians (intelligent centaur-like ants) in wiping out a drow base. The game will take control of your character and have a cutscene where you just stroll in through the door and call attention to yourself. Not very wise if you're playing a less-than-direct-assault character.
  • Typically played straight in No More Heroes (and all of Travis's other games), but in the first game, one of Travis's enemies has the idea to attack him as he's taking a toilet break. Travis has no real defense to this, and it requires Henry to come by and rescue him.
  • Mooks in Resident Evil 4 will actually say "Behind you, you idiot!" as they are about to attack. Admittedly they say it in Spanish, but still.
  • Averted in Sonic the Hedgehog (2006): Mephiles's original plan was to trick Silver into killing Sonic. When that didn't work Mephiles simply teleported behind him and stabbed him through the chest with a giant energy lance.
  • Subverted in Super Paper Mario. The Dragon teleports in and offs the whole party during an exposition session halfway through the game. It turns out to be a Batman Gambit on his part to help the heroes gather all the Plot Coupons.
  • The second version has appeared in relation—oddly enough—to the Spy from Team Fortress 2. In particular, the Sniper in "Meet the Spy" hears him approaching and moves to retaliate (not that it stops him from being bested and stabbed in the back anyway). Additionally, the decloaking sound was recently made much louder, which means that particularly aware foes can hear him before he strikes and fight back.
  • Averted in Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, where, after you destroyed one of their hideout, the Sabbat strikes back at you by merely ambushing you as you arrive Downtown and knock you out from behind with a baseball bat. While they do not immediately kill you while you're unconcious (because they intend to torture you first), they do prove smart enough to incapacitate you, and you are only saved by a Big Damn Hero from Nines.
  • The Sleep spell in Warcraft III puts an enemy to sleep, but attacking it will wake it up. Its main use is to interrupt channeling spells or remove a powerful unit from action for a while.

  • From 8-Bit Theater, two ninjas discuss the merits of shouting "Surprise Attack!"
    Ninja 1: Hey, they're dead, aren't they? So what's it matter, hm?
    Ninja 2: Well, there used to be six of us, now there isn't.
  • Averted and inverted in DM of the Rings, where Legolas shoots Saruman during parlay.
  • Drowtales: Syphille falls hard into this trope when she attempts to attack Quain'tana, and it gets her killed. It's averted elsewhere in the setting with the Fallen Legion, who excel at sneaky combat, and Kalki, who twice now has used this type of attack to kill someone.
  • Averted to no end in Homestuck. Bec Noir has implemented his teleportation powers for the purpose of killing characters more than once.
  • The Order of the Stick: Nale averts it a few times, stabbing Elan from behind in their first encounter and killing the chief of police without calling his sneak attack in Cliffport. He sarcastically and smugly apologizes for the breach of protocol afterwards.