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Welcome back, Commander.

A specific case of Featureless Protagonist that applies to Strategy Games. Often, it is unclear whether the Player Character is even a character at all, as even if they have a specific role, they might have absolutely no development at all. The Player Character may be referred to only by a rank or title, or even never referred to at all if the game gives mission objectives in third person.

They aren't present in any combat location. Even if the game covers the entire world or even universe, there is generally nowhere the enemy could attack to kill them. As long as any friendly units are alive, the player is assumed to be among them.

Additionally, even in low-tech settings, troops have absolutely no hurdles in receiving or understanding your orders and will often not do anything at all without them.

All in all, it's almost as if the player was a Hive Mind made up of their troops rather than their commander.

Contrast Hero Must Survive, which might be what happens when you invert this trope, wherein a Hero Unit can play the role of the player's direct avatar on the field. See also Protection Mission, for when it's implied that a location you're protecting happens to house you as well.


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  • In Dune II and its sequels the player is an unnamed "strategist" employed by one of the three houses, in the cutscenes the house leaders and mentats will sometimes address the camera to give you instructions or threats.
  • Warcraft: Orcs and Humans and II used these, though it was subverted in the backstory of Warcraft II, where we find out that the Orc commander of the first game, who is given the name Orgrim Doomhammer, became the warchief and is the boss of that game's orc commander. The human commander was likely Lothar; in the novels, he was the one with the high rank, but the protagonist was his second-in-command, Turalyon (also a hero in Beyond the Dark Portal).
    • According to Blizzard, the player in Warcraft II is none other than Memetic Badass Varok Saurfang (going by his role as Orgrim's second-in-command), though in the novelization Orgrim's second-in-command is named Tharbek (never seen before or since).
    • Unlike StarCraft, which adds snippets of backstory to the players' roles, the retconned identities of the Warcraft ones are the subject of fan speculation.
    • Warcraft III on the other hand never refers to the player commander in-story, and canonically the hero units led their armies on their own.
  • Most games in the Command & Conquer series use this.
    • Command & Conquer: Tiberian Series:
      • In Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn, you were supposed to be a "telegeneral", looking over the battlefield and ordering your forces from a computer screen - just like playing a real-time strategy game. All the cutscenes, where GDI command, Nod, or Kane hacking GDI videolinks were video communication shown on your screen. Later games moved away from this, and the Commander was actually in the scene. The "telegeneral" (at least for GDI) is implied to be General Solomon in the sequel, as it was noted he commanded the last mission against Nod.
      • This is actually explicitly shown in Command & Conquer: Renegade, the FPS. At one point we see a screen displaying what is essentially Tiberian Dawn gameplay with a commando arriving near a GDI base, before zooming in on that screen and it cuts to a full 3D rendition of that same base, zooming in on the commando that you play as. Throughout the game, you get orders to kill a certain unit or blow up a building, just as you (a player) might give to a commando by left-clicking in the RTS.
      • However, in Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun, the person commanding the forces of each faction is explicitly established as a Player Character in cutscenes, respectively Michael McNeil for GDI and Anton Slavik for Nod. The expansion Firestorm goes back to the non-entity roots, with the player explicitly getting orders from Slavik in the Nod campaign and a General Cortez in the GDI one, McNeil being (presumably) disposed of by having his command ship crash in the opening act of the latter campaign.
      • Command & Conquer: Tiberium Wars continues this. Kane's Wrath appears to do so as well, though in the finale who you're playing as is finally revealed: LEGION, a new AI based off of the rogue CABAL from Tiberian Sun.
    • The FMVs from the Command & Conquer: Red Alert games are seen from the point of view of a specific character, who was simply referred to as "Commander" (or your current rank, as you tend to get promoted several times in the Soviet campaigns) and not given any characterization beyond that and sometimes being referred to as male. These commanders have an unusual amount of interactions and developments for a character that never appears on screen, says anything, or gets a name — the Soviet Commander in the first game nearly gets executed, and may or may not have gotten a promotion to Chairman in the original game's Soviet ending, and the Allied commander in Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 apparently hooks up with Tanya in the original game and with Mission Control in the expansion. Side materials do little to alleviate this, either - the Allied commander from the first game is only ever referred to as "Field Commander A9". The original Soviet one doesn't even get that (though a separate commander in the expansion packs is given the similar "Field Commander S7" designation).
      • When playing Yuri's faction in the Yuri's Revenge expansion for Red Alert 2, Yuri usually reacts to commands given to him, as issued by himself. He even refers to the player as "my exquisite mind". You are, essentially, Yuri's Ghost in the Machine.
      • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 lampshades it: at the end of the Soviet campaign, your co-commander suggests that they'll rename New York City in your honour: "Commandergrad", suggesting that your non-entity-Commander is actually named "Commander".
    • While you never get a name, you, as each different commander, are addressed personally by your aides in all three of the campaigns of Command & Conquer: Generals; you are also personally given promotions to higher rankings.
  • StarCraft's canon is very confusing in this aspect:
    • The Terran commanders from both the vanilla campaign of StarCraft and its expansion set Brood War are never shown or referred to outside their playable appearances. It would have made a lot of sense for it to be StarCraft IIs Matt Horner, but that's Jossed by his backstory. According to the developers, the Commander from the first Terran campaign left Raynor's Raiders about six weeks after the final mission; whether this was out of guilt at helping Mengsk, irritation at now being a fugitive, or just being tired of fighting is unknown. The Commander from Brood War was likely killed along with the rest of the UED forces at the end of the expansion, though if you're optimistic, there's still Spartan Company, the goliath mercenaries. The UED Commander being a single character is somewhat dubious, however; one mission has major revelations that your faction absolutely does not know for the rest of the campaign.
    • The mini-campaign Enslavers has you play as a commander from Alpha Squadron. Officially, Blizzard has stated that the canon path is the Commander breaking away from the Dominion and helping the Protoss. However, there is no word on the Commander's fate or identity. StarCraft: Mass Recall has the Commander in this be the same commander from Episode I (forced into Mengsk's service), but that's a fan made game and not officially canon.
    • The Protoss Executor from the first game's vanilla campaign is made into an NPC named Artanis in Brood War, whose own Executor appears as an NPC named Selendis in StarCraft II. Selendis is believed to be the Executor in the Enslavers: Dark Vengeance mini-campaign as well.
    • The Zerg Cerebrate from the Brood War missions is never shown or referred to, while the Cerebrate from the vanilla missions was killed in Tie-In Novel Queen of Blades. It is also speculated that the Cerebrate from the expansion was either still bound to the Overmind and eventually died without the Overmind there to sustain it, or was killed by Kerrigan when she replaced the Cerebrates with Brood Mothers.
    • StarCraft II takes the Warcraft III route: the player is never referred to and instead simply controls Jim Raynor, Sarah Kerrigan, or Artanis through the storylines, although sometimes the player is still addressed directly (Such as when manually targeting your own buildings with a big laser drill).
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Inverted in Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade (which was released as just Fire Emblem in the US). You have a character represented, a novice tactician who commands the units and is spoken to often. However, your sprite is just a person in a robe, with no physical features visible, and you never say anything. You can set your gender, which slightly alters some text (primarily with Sain and Florina) but doesn't change the sprite, which is of indeterminate gender. Second playthroughs give the option of getting rid of this entirely.
    • Inverted again in Fire Emblem: Awakening, where the player character is not only the Shepherds' tactician and strategist, but a controllable combatant who can be killed (though this results in a Game Over), interact with EVERY other character in the army, and is integral to the plot of the game. They even have an evil counterpart.
    • Played straight in Fire Emblem Heroes, where the Summoner is intended to represent the player, but is only interacted with by other characters in cutscenes and has no presence on the battlefield as a unit.
  • Advance Wars (an Intelligent Systems series that came to the US at around the same time as Fire Emblem) cast the player as an advisor that the COs would speak to on occasion. The advisor didn't appear on screen, however. Interestingly, all the factions treat Orange Star's hiring of you as an advisor as some sort of impressive tactical advantage... which makes it weird the whole thing gets dropped from the series in the next installment. (The COs themselves seems to be the "Player Character" instead.)
    • Honestly when is having an ally that can turn back the flow of time in case a battle goes bad NOT a major advantage?
    • According to Olaf, advisors are sort of like the tactical equivalent of training wheels.
    • The Re-Boot Camp remake averts this, with Andy instead filling the role of the Player in the game's tutorial.
  • The Civilization games have famous historical figures as leaders that are all inexplicably alive from 4000BC to 2050AD and retain supreme power no matter what revolutions happen within their governments. If Rome overthrows its monarchy in favor of a republic, Julius Caesar is still the all-powerful head of state.
    • Supposedly the developers said that you're actually always playing as the latest in the leader's dynasty. So by 2050AD, you're actually Lincoln's great great great great... You get the idea, despite "hereditary rule" being in the game as an optional tech thousands of years after the start.
    • Averted in Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, Every faction is controlled by single leader for some 600 years, who even have some biography, and all of whom seem to be philosophers or thinkers of a kind (you hear snippets of their works after discovering new technologies, building Secret Projects, etc.). The leader was given life extension treatment, and it is even possible to give such a treatment to all your people later in the game.
      "I plan to live forever, of course, but barring that I'd settle for a couple thousand years. Even five hundred would be pretty nice."CEO Nwabudike Morgan, MorganLink 3DVision Interview
  • Humankind plays with this. In diplomacy, score screens, and such, you interact with a human avatar representing the other civilization. However, this avatar represents nothing in game, it is clearly a guiding spirit/enemy player type of deal that controls its civilization over time. You also chose such an avatar at the start of the game.
  • An interesting case comes up in Ultima III. Later games assure us that the Avatar (main hero) was indeed in that band of 4 characters who defeated Exodus. (Supposedly he was known as "The Stranger.") Yet what class and even species of those 4 is entirely variable and there is no characterization. It's possible to have all 4 characters be species that are not from Earth, or depicted in any other Ultima game.
  • Ultima VII mentions the Avatar's body is materialized from scratch each time he travels to another dimension, with his earth body (the player) being the only constant one. This serves as a catch-all justification for all variations of the Avatar's appearance or stats or virginity between games, as he is reincarnated on each visit. The Avatar is literally a God in Human Form, on top of being a Digital Avatar and the Avatar of Virtues.
  • Literally the case in the old PC game Dungeon Master (not the trope) where "you" are in fact an invisible spirit guiding a group of warriors whom you've resurrected; they do all the grunt work.
  • The Keepers in Dungeon Keeper are named, though the player's keeper is not, however they all fit the archetype perfectly, as they are non-physical entities.
    • Although they do have a physical component, the dungeon keeper's heart, and if it is destroyed they die. And of course, their ability to control their warriors is much more limited than in most RTS, unless they use the Possession spell to take a first person perspective.
  • Total Annihilation was originally conceived by Chris Taylor as being different from existing RTS games like Command & Conquer or Warcraft II because the Player Character appears onscreen and in-game as the Commander—but the Commander is described vaguely enough that it still fits this trope.
  • Supreme Commander (the Spiritual Successor to Total Annihilation) touches this a fair bit, but does have the commanders as specific characters. When shown outside their ACU, they are shown wearing face-obscuring helmets, although the UEF & Cybran commander is a male, while the Aeon one is clearly female.
    • The commanders do receive a degree of implied character development during the campaign-the Cybran commander in particular, during the ending credits of the game, has a great deal of backstory revealed. He's a clone of Dr. Brackman, the creator of the simbionts and leader of the Cybran Nation.
  • Aside from offering each race a different Player title (the Tarth "Ubergeneral," the Human "Commander," the Chch't "Hive Imperius," etc.), the Deadlock turn-based strategy games follow this.
  • Averted in the Stronghold series, where the player can choose a name and whether to be male or female. The player has an avatar in-game in the form of a warlord who hangs around the starting area. If the warlord dies, it's game over. In the spin-off Stronghold Crusader, the player can also choose between a white or Arabic warlord.
    • Stronghold 2 will actually greet you in your name if you have a common name that it recognizes. ("Greetings, Sir David!") The game also had a few easter eggs related to this, for instance you could set your name as Darth Vader and the game will greet you as such.
  • Hostile Waters: Antaeus Rising refers to you only as Captain, the only living person aboard the Antaeus. As for how were you preserved for the twenty years it spent on the seabed, the ship took one of those little brain chips that you put into vehicles and literally built you a body.
  • While you manage a space station in Startopia, the station's AI, VAL, refers to you as "Administrator" and makes comments that suggest you're a contemporary human (which is to say, you, the player). This may explain why there aren't any humans aboard, but not how you came to be there.
  • In Perimeter, you're a computer AI commander refered to as 'Legate'. After your group splits into three factions, each with mutually exclusive goals, you still command all three, taking turns. Presumably, they just duplicated you.
  • World in Conflict gives the player a name and rank on both sides (Lt. Parker and Lt. Romanov, respectively) for other officers to address him with, but little else. In the original game, your player character actually has a screen presence, despite the fact you never get a clear view of his head you can tell Parker is a white male, and at the end you learn the narrator was your character all along looking back at his career. The Expansion Pack Soviet Assault seems to abandon this for the generic commander role, though.
  • Panzer General II addresses the general in the briefing room as an actual person, who is offered smokes, drinks from the samovar, etc. They even talk of rewards for good performances in battle. Additionally, if you check your performance screen (i.e., how many awards you've won), you have a picture of you followed by a randomly generated name.
  • Empire at War and its expansion both use this, though it is kind of implied that the commander is the Droid Adviser each faction has.
    • This goes back to Star Wars: Rebellion as well.
    • The fact that the Imperial officer in the tutorial, at least, clearly threatens the player with demotion.
  • Speaking of Star Wars, this trope is successfully averted in Star Wars: Force Commander, in which the titular Force Commander, Brenn Tantor, is the player character. As a result, in certain missions, you command yourself - in one instance, your in-game avatar responds to commands as if talking to himself. Plot-irrelevant "skirmish" maps include Brenn as the generic driver of the TR-MB vehicle.
  • Taken to a logical conclusion in Battalion Wars: The Commander you play not only doesn't have a name, but seems to lack a body as well, instead leaping from one unit on the battlefield to the next. The characters who give you orders seem to acknowledge this, given that they will often order you to take control of specific units during a mission.
  • In Dwarf Fortress, the player seems to be some sort of omniscient spirit, able to set priorities that all the dwarves instantly recognize. And unlike the dwarves, the player needs no in-game food.
    • A common theory is that the player is in fact Armok, the god of blood the gamer refers to in its full title. Given the very creatively brutal ideas the community comes up with, this isn't hard to believe.
  • Sacrifice has a notable aversion, in which the player character actually exists on the battlefield itself, can only act on what's within range, and can potentially be killed by the enemy.
  • The Age of Empires manual describes the player as a sort of guardian spirit to a tribe.
    • In Age of Empires II, with the exception of the Saladin and William Wallace campaign, you personally are just some peasant/monk/young soldier who happened to strike up a conversation with someone who knows a lot about the stories, as seen in the cutscenes. It's the narrators you have to wonder about.
      • Most narrators actually do identify themselves and explain why they know what they do. The Mongol narrator mentions he was chosen to record his people’s journey from the moment they decided to leave Mongolia and can therefore be identified with the historical (if anonymous) author of the Secret History of the Mongols, a real historical text that survives today. In Joan d’Arc’s story, it is one of the first soldiers to join her. In Saladin’s, it’s a crusader soldier who was taken prisoner yet allowed a lot of freedom.
      • The expansion, The Conquerors, is a bit better: the El Cid campaign is narrated by his wife at his funeral in Valencia, and El Cid himself appears in every battle, more or less; in the Attila campaign, Attilla is, again, a character on the battlefield; and in the Montezuma campaign, it's implied that you are either Montezuma or his warrior-priest cousin (later short-lived successor and leader of the futile resistance) Cuauhtémoc (who narrates). The fourth campaign is a collection of individual historical battles, most but not all of which feature the person you're playing as a character.
  • While the original Dawn of War was rather... ambiguous as to whether the player character existed or not (just who was Gabriel talking to in the first mission?), in the Dark Crusade and Soulstorm expansions, when selecting an army to play as in the campaign, the player is pretty much told that they are the leader-hero of the faction they control. This is done even more explicitly in Dawn of War II, with the opening cutscene referring literally talking to the player and telling them that they are the nameable Force Commander in the game.
    • Chaos units seem to believe you're one of the Chaos Gods.
    • In Dawn of War II's multiplayer, this is played straight. If you're playing as the Eldar, your units refer to you as "Farseer", even if the Commander you choose, that is on the field, is a Farseer. The Force Commander still acts as if you are commanding him, and Orks refer to the player as da Big Boss of all da Boyz.
  • In Evil Genius it would be easy to assume the player's role is that of the disembodied Frau Farbissina-soundalike who (very loudly) relays the orders you give, but the tutorial makes clear you are neither her, the Genius or the henchman. Naturally.
  • In Seven Kingdoms 2: The Frythan Wars (And possibly the first one) the player does not get any real story. However, the name entered when creating the profile is used as the name of the player's King (All High for non-human factions) unit in game, giving the impression that the player is actually there leading the kingdom. However, getting killed just puts one of your generals in charge.
  • Averted (or played with) in Achron. The game makes a strong distinction between chronal and achronal entities. You are the general precisely because of your achronal nature; which makes a lot of sense since battles in the game are won or lost on the basis of who can out-time-travel his/her opponents.
  • While Heroes of Might and Magic gave players a choice of four lords to serve as their avatar, its sequel II simply stars some faceless, nameless commander loyal to either of the Ironfists (the expansion varies between campaign and campaignnote ). Who may be the same character serves the same role in the Erathia campaigns for Heroes III, alongside a few corresponding blank slates to represent the neutrals, the Nighons, the Deyjans and the Contested Lands. All further Heroes games have since done away with this, instead focusing on individuals and third-person narrative.
  • Sword of the Stars: The voice-overs will address the player using non-specific titles like "commander", "Var Kona", "my Queen", "Elder", or "Morru Qu'aan". Though in SOTS 2 you're presumably the Black when playing Liir, which is a playable unit
  • Baten Kaitos makes use of this in an interesting way; you, the player, are an otherworldly soul who shares the heart of the main character. Through this, you get to give input on in-game situations ,although you can make no changes to how the plot plays out. It makes it easier to break the fourth wall when you're just talking to your second soul, instead of asking yourself 'Do I want to jump into the pit of darkness yet?'.
  • In Total War games, even leaders refer to you as "sir", when they are people like kings or daimyos who technically wouldn't answer to anyone. On the battlefield however there is a general, though he can get his loaf sliced. The player seems to represent the spirit of their nation since your faction has a king (or equivalent) but that isn't you - in fact you can, in extremis, try to have him killed.
  • Valkyria Chronicles, post the first game, is a strange example of this. The squad does have a commander (Avan or Kurt) and possibly sub-commanders, but even if all the commanders get Hospitalized from battle, the squad will go on fighting. (This is not true in VC1, where it's a game over if Welkin is down). Furthermore, characters will affirm ("Let's fight!", "I'm doing my best!", etc) if given orders in battle, even if the commander (or for that matter, other squad members) is nowhere near them. Subtle Survival Mantra?
  • Generally averted in the campaign of Rise of Legends, where it's made very clear that "you" are Giacomo, the game's protagonist who always starts missions in the field as a hero unit. It's murkier when Giacomo is destroyed and can be re-summoned, unless you assume it was only his walker that was destroyed and has to be rebuilt. Played straight in skirmish.
  • Justified in Darwinia, as the game takes place inside a computer and the player is remotely connected to the Darwinia server. The complete lack of character for the player is mentioned in the ending by Dr Sepulaveda stating that his life's work has been saved by a total stranger.
  • Galactic Civilizations: not only do you not play much of a role, a race losing its homeworld never seems to prevent its emperor from relocating to the new capital on the other side of the galaxy. AI empires can lose their rulers to random events, but a) this can never affect the player, and b) their successor is always named Azurelas for some reason.
  • In most of the City-Building Series, you play as some sort of advisor and his descendants as your civilization expands through the ages. Besides mention in your Mission Briefing, this doesn't carry much importance, which makes things a bit stranger when you have been building your city for hundreds of in-game years.
  • In every X-COM game. In the 2012 installment, you even talk to people who address you as "Commander". However, the game suddenly and unexpectedly inverts the trope in the Base Defense mission, during which the aliens attack XCOM HQ with the specific goal of killing you and putting an end to the XCOM project.
    • XCOM 2 takes place following a 20-year timeskip after the aliens defeated XCOM. During the tutorial mission, Bradford and a squad of Redshirts rescue you from an alien facility, but any time you're shown onscreen you're inside a bulky stasis suit that completely obscures your appearance. Towards the end of the game, it turns out you're the only person who can control a vital asset so XCOM can invade the alien HQ-wait a second.
  • It's still puzzling to think of what or who exactly you are in The Sims. You have the power to completely rebuild and refurbish your home and to take life-changing decision for everyone in your family, but you are none of them since they can die and you can't. You also have the power to selectively make the time go faster of slower for specific family members. Some kind of family spirit? As a side note, the diamond cursor iconic to the series has been called "The Plumbob".
  • In FTL: Faster Than Light, it is entirely possible to lose your entire original crew during your mission, but as long as your ship always has at least one person on board, you remain in control.
    • This may be a case of Take Up My Sword, the original crew die but the other people that they've rescued/recruited decide to carry on the mission.
  • The Panzer General Spiritual Successor Panzer Korps goes the same route as the originals: you're clearly an individual commander being given orders, and even with a few chances to disobey them, but your name is never given. In the Afrika Korps expansion, however, you are obviously playing as Erwin Rommel.
  • Averted in both Battle Zone 1998 and its sequel, where the player character (Grizzly One in 1998, Lt. Cooke in II) have the most characterization of all characters via their Captain's Log in the loading screens. They are actually commanding on the front line in the cockpit of the of the Hover Tanks. Better be sure to engage your ejection system in a safe direction when your tank is blown up, because death is an instant game-over.
  • While some chapters of Ambition have the player taking the role of a police officer, a psychologist, or a lawyer (though they're all pretty much blank slates aside from the occasional detail,) there's a few where it's not clear if you're even a real person or not (Retsupurae have joked that in these sections you're playing as "the spirit of psychology.")
  • All of Paradox Interactive's strategy games with the exception of Crusader Kings play this straight, with you playing as your chosen nation through everything except direct annexation.
  • In Machines: Wired For War, you play a experimental, semi-autonomous AI. That is all the detail given.
  • Etrian Odyssey periodically has characters and the narration address the player, who can be interpreted as one of the characters in the guild or a separate leader entity. The former can be made possible by having that particular character be in the active party at all times. Regardless of your interpretation, it's a Game Over if the active party perishes, even if there are spare members back in town, so either way the guild leader goes down with the party.
  • Nectaris gives no characterization to the player character, who is described in no more detail than "Commander of the Union Forces."
  • KanColle has the player character assuming the role of an unseen Admiral who commands every move made by their fleet of shipgirls embodying WWII-era warships, right down to micromanaging all of the equipment assigned to them. However, there is actually quite a bit of interaction between the shipgirls and their Admiral, to the point where they can potentially become close enough to get married, and some of the dialogue suggests that the Admiral is a male.
  • Touken Ranbu has the player taking on the role of a faceless and voiceless Saniwa who's traveled back to the past to take command of Anthropomorphic Personifications of famous Japanese swords.
  • In Bungo to Alchemist, the player is an anonymous Alchemist who commands famous Japanese authors against the corrupting influence of the "Taints".
  • Namu Amida Butsu! -UTENA-'s player is the unseen dōmori of Bonnō Temple, putting them in charge of an army of Buddhas fighting against the demon lord Māra's horde of kleśas.
  • In Azur Lane, you are an unseen Commander of the eponymous organization fighting against the mysterious Sirens, putting you in charge of a whole bunch of shipgirls who are the spirits (more or less) of WWII warships. That said, it is made clear that the Commander exists as a distinct individual in-universe; they can interact with and even marry the shipgirls, have actual dialogue (both internal and external) in the story chapters and side-quests they appear in, and have even managed to attract the direct attention of the Sirens themselves.
  • Sunless Sea makes use of this trope; you have a bunch of nameless crew members, in addition to your named crew. You are one of your crew members; as long as you have at least 1 crew member remaining, you're assumed to be that crew member, but if that last crew member dies, it was you.
  • In Plants vs. Zombies, you play as a house owner whose lawn is being attacked by zombies. With the aid of your neighbour, Crazy Dave, you plan a line of defences against the horde of undead, but the player themselves is never present on-screen.
  • Moonbase Commander has four organizations whose handlers simply call the player "commander" or a nick-name, there's no character, just a title given to the player.
  • MechCommander has the player first as one of the eponymous MechCommanders, a role that is something akin to a tactical officer. We see one in the intro, Commander Harrison, but that isn't the player since Harrison commands Ricochet Lance and you are given control of Zulu Company. You are only ever addressed as 'sir,' but since this is the military that's no indicator—Colonel Reese is addressed as 'sir' as well. The best we get is the game's manual, which has extra notes from Harrison that seem to suggest you're a junior commander.
    • The sequel is mostly similar, with you still being addressed as only as 'sir,' except this time by your equally nameless mercenary company. Your bosses will call you 'mercenary' or 'commander' instead.
  • Despite it being an RPG, in OFF you are referred to with your name, your pronouns (game asks you if you are male, female or non-binary at the beginning) and "the puppeteer" to reflect your status as the one who controls the Batter. However, some of the characters address you. In the endgame, the Judge even calls you "the one who lies beyond the eye of the cat".
  • City-Building Series:
    • In Pharaoh, you are the leader of a small city at first, but it's always stated you're descended from the previous level's leader (you can build yourself a mansion whose main purpose is to accumulate a small amount of money each month so it will be available in following missions), then as time goes by you hold ever-increasing ranks (with the pre-game exposition referring to you by that rank) until you become the pharaoh (interestingly enough, the mission where you become pharaoh has you fight armies that contest your rule... and corresponds with an actual usurper).
    • In Zeus: Master of Olympus, you are the leader of various Greek city-states and never referred to by name or gender, which makes exposition incredibly awkward.
      • In the Odyssey campaign, you play Penelope's cousin, who she asked for help running Ithaca in her husband's absence.
      • In the Bellerophon campaign, the player is either Iobates or his unnamed wife, since the narration refers to their daughter Stethenoboeia.
      • In the Atlantis campaigns, the player is usually the child of the current ruler of Atlantis, again without name or gender. While this works when Atlas in the narrator (he always refers to you as "my child"), it's a lot more awkward when the narrator says "the child of king Atlon".
    • In Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom, the player is the latest in a long line of city administrators who survive changing dynasties despite previous loyal service because their skills are recognized as useful to the new rulers. A Song dynasty mission puts you in the shoes of a general who takes the throne.
  • In most origins in Battle Brothers, you're the leader of a mercenary company, but have no avatar in nor party members neither the retinues, and are only refered as "Captain" in events. A notable exception is the "Lone Wolf" origin, where the Hedge Knight (the sole starting party member) is also the Captain's avatar, and his death is an instant game over.note 
  • In Krush Kill n' Destroy on the Survivors' side the player is referred to as the Commander and on the Evolved's side they are referred to as Takamhom.
  • The playable cities in Frostpunk are run by Captains, featureless absolute rulers whose faces never show up in any images in-game, never suffer ill effects from hunger or sickness or cold, and don't actually count towards the population tally.
  • Rimworld has characters called "Pawns" building a colony on a hostile planet. The player decides which tasks the pawns should prioritize, how they should build their base, and so on, but it's not clear where the orders are coming from from the pawns' perspective.

     Non Video Game examples 
  • In Citadels, the player can choose to play as one of 9 characters (assassin, thief, magician, king, bishop, merchant, architect and warlord) to aid the building of their city. However, these characters don't necessarily represent the player themselves, as the cards are shuffled every round, and the players may have a different role every single turn.
  • The miniatures wargame Dux Bellorum invokes this trope — the highest-level troop choice models the king/jarl/theign/warlord's companions, but not explicitly the king/jarl/theign/warlord himself. The only nod towards the leader having an effect on game play is that if the companions unit is destroyed, the player can no longer distribute leadership points to units in the army.
  • The board game Risk.