We all know The Chessmaster: Theyve got a plan ready to go months in advance, with every detail jotted down. If that plan fails, theyve got backup after backup already in place.
Then you've got this guy. The Opportunistic Bastard doesn't have a plan, or at least not a clearly outlined one. He may have a vague goal that he's working towards, but when it comes to getting there, he's winging it. Other times the Opportunistic Bastard doesn't even have that going for him and just latches onto other people's schemes in the name of making as much short term profit as he can. The evilest ones often choose to align themselves with a Big Bad that can offer them a share in his power and a lot of rivalry may ensue regarding who will get the biggest share from the others.
As the name suggests, characters like this excel at grabbing onto the opportunities that others present. Unlike The Chessmaster, who often fails when things don't go according to plan, the Opportunistic Bastard typically rolls well with unexpected results, exploiting every new circumstance to his own advantage. Where they tend to suffer is in the long term—a good opportunist can keep his head above water on any given day but is ultimately going to crash and burn because they lack the vision to stay in it for the long haul. A particularly capable Opportunistic Bastard might actually be able to give the impression of being a Chessmaster, due to their ability to adapt to new situations, but even then, they are liable to paint themselves into a corner due to their lack of forethought.
Opportunists of this type are usually motivated only by their own self-interest. If their actions do benefit someone else, it's either accidental or because that person belongs to the select group of people that our opportunist actually cares about. Similarly, they are rarely loyal to any cause larger than their personal self-advancement, or at best, the well-being of themselves and a select group; if an Opportunistic Bastard has an ideology, it is likely to be ill-defined, self-serving, and/or shallow. As a result, this character is liable to be an antihero at best, and outright villain at worst. Unlike The Starscream who has a pretty clear goal and lives for the moment that he will manage to become the new Big Bad, many of these opportunists will gladly take over and become a Dragon Ascendant if it so happens, but in general do not have such grand visions and just try to grab as much as they can without caring about the status quo.
Hierarchically they could be anyone from a minor character to the Big Bad himself. Some of the less ambitious can be Creons if they are fine with someone else getting the lion's share as long as they get their piece.
Compare/contrast The Chessmaster. Related is Gambit Roulette, where someone (who may be The Chessmaster or this trope)'s plan seems to partly involve events that happen randomly, which the guy shouldn't be able to see coming. See also Manipulative Bastard and Xanatos Speed Chess. Can easily become a Wild Card. Likely to be a Dirty Coward or to suffer from Chronic Backstabbing Disorder. Might belong to Les Collaborateurs or even become The Quisling. Always personifies the 12th of The Thirty-Six Stratagems.
- Enigmatic Minion Char Aznable from the original Mobile Suit Gundam is a competent planner, and is able to stay a step ahead of most people, but he's more of a short-term opportunist than a long-term schemer, and more often than not is flying by the seat of his pants. He has the vague goal of "eliminate the Zabis" but no real plan for doing it—instead he just hangs around with them, hoping to get the chance to murder them. He hangs around with Garma Zabi and is able to betray him, leading to his death in battle. He then just bounces around from commander to commander and mission to mission until the very end of the show when he's able to take a shot at Kycilia Zabi, who by then (no thanks to Char) is the only Zabi left. He spends most of Zeta hoping the AEUG will force the world to follow his father's philosophy without him having to lead it; when things go south, he abandons the cause after his defeat by Haman Khan. Even in CCA, when he does take power in Neo-Zeon, it's not through planning—he just waits until everybody else with a claim to the throne (Haman Khan, Glemmy Toto, Mineva Zabi) is dead or in hiding, and declares himself leader.
- Madara Uchiha had a plan with an actual claim to Chessmaster status before his resurrection. However, he was returned to life with a series of mishaps: his former apprentice having hijacked his old plan and him being revived by the dark Impure World Resurrection technique rather than the true resurrection he expected, and since then has been trying to improvise his way to victory. Madara proceeded to wait for an opportunity to break free of the caster's control before finding his apprentice Tobi had already revived the monstrous Ten-Tailed Beast with no intention of sharing that power with Madara. Then Madara tries to regain control of the situation using his back-up plan but eventually got Out-Gambitted from Tobi. Further Madara sits and waits for until the Alliance weaken Obito sufficiently, in order to have Black Zetsu force him to revive Madara.
- Sasuke Uchiha is no better; his role as an antagonist is a series of him merely betraying a more ambitious and powerful villain and hijacking their resources or achievements for his own use. First Orochimaru, then Tobi and then Kaguya. At the conclusion, he finally executes his masterstroke, waiting until all of the most powerful threats amongst the heroes and villains had eliminated each other, with only Naruto to stop him.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Arguably, Kyubey. While the Incubators do have a goal in mind, they are shown to exploit new circumstances to try and manipulate girls into contracting (best example: he waits until Mami is literally dying in a car crash before appearing) and invoke Exact Words, Literal Genie and You Didn't Ask to conveniently hide the (multiple) uncomfortable facts of being a Magical Girl. Also, he tends to cut corners while granting wishes as a means of conserving energy; making the phrasing of each girl's wish essential.
- Malty of The Rising of the Shield Hero has a habit of jumping on any opportunity for amusement, revenge, or personal gain without considering the consequences fully. As this usually comes at the expense of her comrades she makes a lot of enemies while gradually increasing the potential rewards if she succeeds. This escalates from getting a better Hero while stealing Naofumi's money to killing her sister to gain the throne, killing her family to gain the throne, and finally killing her family and the Heroes for the world.
- Dante, the Big Bad from the 2003 version of Fullmetal Alchemist. There's no question that she's a talented manipulator, able to keep most of the Homunculi under her thumb, including one who's the leader of Amestris, but despite the power and resources at her disposal, her plans are remarkably basic. Since she's not skilled enough at alchemy to create a Philosopher's Stone for herself, she kickstarts wars and tries to generate as much suffering in the world as possible, all on the off chance that an alchemist talented and desperate enough will create a Philosopher's Stone for her. Once they do that, she plans on stealing it and using it to prolong her own, already centuries old, life. Her master plan essentially boils down to spreading chaos so she can profit off of someone else's work.
- Nezumi Otoko, or Rat Man, from GeGeGe No Kitaro is frequently a headache to Kitaro and friends. Frequently seizing on to insane schemes that inevitably go wrong, Ratman often ends up causing all sorts of catastrophes and relies on Kitaro and his friends to save people from his errors. However, Rat Man is not above sheer treachery if he feels it's better for him. When the Tanuki Yokai invade, he switches sides to them instantly when he feels they'll win and assists them against his supposed friends before switching back to Kitaro's side to avoid punishment.
- Tenzen Yakushiji from Basilisk is a vicious ninja who takes advantage of the shogun succession war to seize control of the Iga clan and routinely seizes any opportunity he can get to control the war and eliminate the Koga while trying to make the Iga leader Oboro his own. Later attaching himself to the entourage of the potential heir Takechiyo, and his caretaker, Tenzen intends on using them to rule the Shogunate from the shadows himself, constantly using and abandoning those he comes across as is convenient.
- Sword Art Online: Sugou Nobuyuki admits to Asuna that he'd been researching Mind Control using FullDive for a while, and took advantage of the SAO incident to reroute 300 survivors to ALO for human experimentation. He's the same in the video game continuity; he confesses that he ended up in SAO by accident, but inherited a super account and took advantage of the situation for the sake of his research.
- In My Hero Academia, the pro hero Mt. Lady makes her debut by upstaging fellow hero Kamui Woods, delivering the final blow to the villain he'd been battling and subsequently hogging all the media attention for herself while Kamui sulks miserably on a nearby rooftop.
- One Piece: Marshall D. Teach, aka "Blackbeard", is best described this way. He wants to become the Pirate King, but being The Fatalist that he is (which the rest of the crew shares), he's content with just waiting for good opportunities to show up so that he can seize it. He used to be a humble member of Whitebeard Pirates, but when he saw his higher-up, Thatch, acquiring the Devil Fruit Yami-Yami no Mi, he killed Thatch to gain the fruit and its powers, then ran away to make his own pirate group. Some time later, when Ace (another member of Whitebeard Pirates) hunted him down, Blackbeard used this opportunity to defeat him in a duel, bring him to the Marines, and use him (Ace is a highly-wanted pirate) as a bargaining chip to become one of the Shichibukai (Seven Warlords), getting special privileges in the process. He then exploited it to sneak into the world's largest prison, Impel Down, and take a few of the powerful prisoners to be part of his crew (all while there's a Prison Riot courtesy of Luffy). It culminates in the Marineford Arc, where he uses the opportunity to enter the battle of Marineford (between the Marines and Whitebeard Pirates, who wanted to stop Ace's execution) to kill Whitebeard and gain his earthquake powers in the process. Only then can he safely declare that from then on, "this is [his] era".
- Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics):
- Patch, Antoine's Mirror Universe counterpart, was swapped with Antoine Prime when Anti-Sonic/Scourge got sick of his repeated attempts to be The Starscream and banished him to Mobius Prime. Once there, Patch decided to use the situation to his advantage to seize power and take over the Kingdom of Acorn. He came pretty damn close, too.
- Dr. Eggman has a habit of taking advantage of different situations to either advance his own plans or just because:
Eggman: Why pass up one uppity hedgehog for another?
- In issue 191, he sends Metal Sonic to attack Freedom HQ, only to discover Scourge and the Suppression Squad have taken it over and booted the Freedom Fighters out. Eggman is about to have Metal Sonic leave, but ultimately decides to have Metal attack Scourge instead.
- This is basically his entire role in the Shattered World Crisis. After his initial shock on the effects the Super Genesis Wave had, and Dark Gaia's awakening, Eggman quickly recovers and sets out to thwart the Freedom Fighters' efforts to heal the world, solely because he wants to control how Mobius is put back together.
- In Violine, Kombo endangers the heroes regularly for his greed, at one point even contemplating turning Violine and her father in for a reward. Still not a villain, though.
- Diabolik is usually the Magnificent Bastard, but sometimes he's forced to resort to this because whatever he's planning to steal is too heavily protected under normal circumstances or otherwise out of his reach.
- With Captain Dynamo's death, numerous villains are now taking advantage by targeting Tower City for their crimes.
- In particular, it is implied that the mother and daughter supervillain team Chrysalis and Synergy are taking advantage of Captain Dynamo's death (Chrysalis' former lover and Synergy's father) by having Synergy impersonate Captain Dynamo/William Warner to increase their power base.
- Nemesis the Warlock: Nemesis seizes on any opportunity to undermine Torquemada's power, but always stops short of killing him, which inevitably allows the Grand Master of Termight a chance to regroup and rebuild his forces. On more than one occasion this has led to Nemesis requiring his allies to get him out of a sticky situation. This is because Nemesis is the avatar of chaos, and also a Blood Knight who doesn't want to stop battling Torquemada.
- Ultimate X-Men: Despite not knowing Colossus is gay, Longshot manipulates the latter's overprotective nature, and also manipulates the X-Men in general by playing up the "wrongly condemned innocent" angle.
- Jaune Arc, Lord of Hunger: This is Darth Nihilus's modus operandi. Unlike Salem, Nihilus doesn't think in the long term; preferring to sit back and wait for an opportunity to present itself as the situation develops around him.
- In Origins, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands/Halo Massive Multiplayer Crossover, the Republic Intelligence Service's director slides into this territory. There's no evidence he or his organization knew that the Flood was coming, but boy does he take advantage of it like no tomorrow, using it as an excuse to receive ever greater power along with increasingly-unaccountable budgets. He even implies in press conferences that yes, RISE knew about this whole thing in advance to buy more credibility.
- Guardians, Wizards, and Kung-Fu Fighters has the Ludmoore brothers. While they have a long-term plan towards conquering Meridian that they're working on, they have no reluctance to adjust those plans to jump on new opportunities when they present themselves.
- The Mayor from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, who's looking to revitalize Swallow Falls after its primary (and nearly only) export of sardines suffered a market crash when "people realized that sardines are super-gross." When the Mayor's own vague plan to open a sardine-based theme park to make his town into a tourist attraction proves something less than successful, he quickly latches on to the success of protagonist Flint's new invention which produces food as a form of weather, elevating both Flint and himself to fame through some well-placed flattery and hype. When his burgeoning ambitions cause a catastrophe, he then uses what little sway he still has over his constituents to ensure that he's the first one out of town.
- Hans from Frozen who admits to not having a real plan. He first intended to woo Elsa. When he realised she was an Ice Queen, he turned his attention to her sister, Anna, intending to arrange an accident for Elsa. Then Elsa reveals her powers and runs away, with Anna in pursuit, and he tries to ingratiate himself to the public while they are gone. Finally, when Anna comes home, he tries to have her killed, then tells the assembled nobles that they got married, making him king; when she and Elsa turn up alive he tries to kill them both to cover his tracks. At no point does he have a master plan; he's just aiming to be king through whatever means are available.
- Governor Ratcliffe from Pocahontas. Openly xenophobic towards the Native Americans, he was plotting to wage war on them from the start. When John Smith is captured by the Powhatan tribe and threatened with execution for killing Kocoum (actually done by Thomas, who shot Kocoum to save Smith), Ratcliffe immediately seizes the chance to rally his men.
Ratcliffe: It's perfect, Wiggins! I couldn't have planned this better myself!
- According to Word of God for Toy Story 3, the main reason a handful of the Sunnyside toys instantly allied with Lotso and served as his henchmen when he took over the daycare center was just to claim whatever power came with the position. However, after the plush bear reveals himself to be an absolutely soulless being with nothing but sheer contempt to everyone around him, they're quick to abandon him and switch sides.
- Pirates of the Caribbean:
- While in the first film Jack Sparrow was shown to rely on the Batman Gambit quite a bit, the other films have also shown him to be quite the opportunist as well, and sometimes, it's not clear which one he is, this or The Chessmaster.
"Do you think he plans it all out or just makes it up as he goes?"
- Lord Cutler Beckett, for all his pretensions of being The Chessmaster, mostly accomplishes his goals by relying on other, more capable people of doing his dirty work for him. Whenever the opportunity arises, Beckett will make a deal with whoever seems most likely to give him what he wants, like Will, Elizabeth, Norrington, Governor Swann, Sao Feng, and even his nemesis, Jack Sparrow. However, he's just as like to betray them afterwards depending on what he considers "good business."
- While in the first film Jack Sparrow was shown to rely on the Batman Gambit quite a bit, the other films have also shown him to be quite the opportunist as well, and sometimes, it's not clear which one he is, this or The Chessmaster.
- Kraven of the Underworld (2003) film franchise has no loyalty to anyone or anything but his own ambition. When spared from death by his own cowardice at the hands of the Lycan werewolves' leader Lucien, Kraven aligns himself with Lucien's plans to seize power for himself in the vampire covens. Kraven seizes on a chance to allow Lucien's Lycans to massacre the vampire elder Amelia, and when his treachery is exposed, he later betrays and murders Lucien before taking advantage of the resulting power vacuum from the large scale battle at the conclusion of the second film to attempt to murder the final sleeping vampire elder and rule the coven. Lacking his own plans, Kraven simply ingratiates himself to whoever is in power for his own success and has no compunction taking any chance fate gives him in pursuit of it.
- Loki Odinson from the Marvel Cinematic Universe has a knack for adapting to most situations. In Thor, he originally sneaks some Frost Giants into Asgard as a prank, then capitalizes on the fallout to ruin his brother's reputation, and takes advantage of Thor's banishment and his father's coma to try to wipe out the Frost Giants and prove himself worthy of the throne. He is quick to make and break chance alliances with Thanos in The Avengers and the Grandmaster in Thor: Ragnarok so as to take over the Earth and Sakaar, respectively. After Thor temporarily frees him in Thor: The Dark World, he seizes the opportunity to secretly oust Odin and becomes the Fake King of Asgard. In Ragnarok, after Thor anticipates Loki's most recent betrayal, he points out how limiting and predictable his actions make him, which Loki takes to heart, causing a HeelFace Turn.
- René Belloq from Raiders of the Lost Ark. He's not as successful an archaeologist or adventurer as Indiana Jones is, so he usually lets Indy do all the work before swooping in to steal the artifacts his nemesis recovers. After Indy retrieves a golden idol at the beginning of the movie from a boobytrapped temple, Belloq just takes it from him by conning the local Hovitos into helping him. Later he helps the Nazis steal the Ark of the Covenant from Indy after the latter discovered its rightful location. The Novelization says Belloq's essentially made a career out of doing this to Indy, not just stealing artifacts from him but also plagiarizing an essay in graduate school and excavating a dig site while Indy spent months preparing.
- A Song of Ice and Fire:
- Bronn intends to rise in the world anyway he can, and attaches himself to anybody who can do that for him. Starting out as a simple sellsword, he first latches onto Catelyn Stark's retinue transporting Tyrion Lannister to the Vale, for the possibility of a reward. He then proceeds to quickly switch sides from Catelyn to Tyrion, championing him in a Trial by Combat, thus becoming the right-hand man of one of the richest and most powerful men in the Seven Kingdoms. He stays on for a while, accumulating riches, titles and a knighthood, before eventually refusing Tyrion's request to champion him again in the trial over Joffrey's murder because Cersei Lannister offered him a marriage into a powerful noble house with no risk to himself. Seizing any opportunity that came his way, Bronn went from an ordinary mercenary all the way to the Lord Protector of House Stokeworth.
- Lord Walder Frey, head of House Frey and Lord of the Crossing, only reacts to the plans of others and only openly aligns with anyone when he believes it will serve his best interests. In the backstory it's established he didn't join Robert's rebellion against the Targaryeans until it was all but confirmed Robert would be victorious, earning him the nickname "The Late Lord Frey." In Game of Thrones he only joins Robb's war with the Lannisters when Catelyn grants him generous enticements, including a marriage between Robb and one of his daughters. When Robb breaks his marriage vow, Walder happily latches onto Tywin's side when he offers Walder's son Emmon the position of new Lord of Riverrun. Lord Walder then proceeded to butcher Robb and most of his bannermen when they were defenseless and assumed themselves safe under Lord Walder's roof; a pragmatic move that made Lord Walder one of the most powerful, and despised, men in all of Westeros.
- Brown Ben Plumm, the commander of the sellsword company the Second Sons. Prior to his promotion, Ben first works for Yunkai as another mercenary defender. However, after Daenerys defeats his company and causes their leader, Mero, to disappear, Ben becomes the company's new leader and joins Daenerys against his former employers. He stays with her until she conquers Mereen at which point, believing she can't win against the newly reformed Yunkai forces and having found out she can't control her dragons, he abandons her and again allies himself with Yunkai. When he believes Daenerys is about to become a Dragon Rider, however, Ben plans to sell out Yunkai again and realign with Daenerys. He's also a man who notices golden opportunities when presented with them. At a slave auction, he tries to buy Ser Jorah Mormont and Tyrion Lannister. The former he plans on killing and presenting as a "wedding present" in order to get back into Daenerys's good graces. The latter he plans on selling for the bounty on his head, which includes a lordship in Westeros. Eventually Tyrion is able to talk Ben into allowing both him and Jorah to join the company, but only after convincing him he can give Plumm vast more riches as Lord of Casterly Rock than he can as a head on a pike. Ben is a man of no loyalties who will backstab anyone if the odds aren't in their favor, and who is driven by a lust for riches and self-preservation above all else. Plumm believes that successful and long-lived sellswords like himself are opportunistic bastards at heart, and those that aren't tend not to be very long-lived.
- Petyr Baelish manages to be both this and The Chessmaster. He concocts elaborate plans, plots and counterplots like The Chessmaster; yet, never misses a beat when one or more of them get disrupted, and adapts to gain something from it so quickly and smoothly that it appears to be Just as Planned, even though a large chunk of the original plan actually got bolluxed up to a fare thee well. Most of his plots are, in fact, aimed at nothing more or less than causing more chaos, because a destabilized realm allows for more upward mobility for a suitably flexible and opportunistic man such as himself to ride on. So, it doesn't matter too much exactly how things become disorganized, just that they do become messy. Heck, he'll even make plans to counter other plans of his... just to keep others confused as to what he's actually aiming at acquiring.
- Marillion, a bard, shows what can happen if you only have the skills to partially follow through. He manages to Butt-Monkey his way into Catelyn's entourage at the same time Bronn spots his chance to make good. From there, he successfully becomes the court minstrel of the Eyrie when he flatters Lysa Arryn enough. Unfortunately, Marillion's an unlikable Slime Ball who manages to make himself so thoroughly disliked by most of the nobles of the Vale that, when he is made into The Scapegoat in a scheme aimed at facilitating a regime change, nobody cares to look too hard into it, let alone question it, especially before his actual and very convenient death. There are hints that some Vale factions may be poking into the events surrounding Marillion's judicial murder for their own opportunistic reasons (since they are being fairly discrete), but this does him absolutely no good now.
- Aurane Waters is chosen to be Cersei's Master of Ships for little more reason than because she finds him attractive, but when she's imprisoned he takes the opportunity to abscond with nearly the entire fleet, freshly built at ruinous expense, and uses it to become a pirate lord.
- Obadiah Hakeswill, Richard Shape's Arch-Enemy from the Sharpe series is a toadying sadist of a British drill sergeant with his only goals being his own profit and enjoyment. Hakeswill relishes bullying the men in his command, but throughout the India Trilogy, he is quick to desert the British whenever he thinks he has a better shot with the local rulers. He deserts and betrays the British no less than three separate times there and murders the colonel who could have exposed him. In the Napoleonic Wars in Spain, Hakeswill returns and continues attempting to weasel his way up in rank before he takes a chance to desert the British and captains a group of Bandits where he opts to Rape, Pillage, and Burn for for fun with no greater goal in mind.
- Cavilo from The Vor Game is the leader of a mercenary company who has no qualms about betraying her employer if she gets a better offer from someone else. After capturing her at the end of the book Miles gives her a "Reason You Suck" Speech about it.
You should have stuck to your original contract. Or your second plan. Or your third. You should, in fact, have stuck to something. Anything. Your total self-interest did not make you strong, it made you a rag in the wind, anybody's to pick up.
- Benna Murcatto of Best Served Cold is an amoral snake of a man who latches on to his talented elder sister Monza while she uses her skills in strategy, tactics and combat to bring them to higher positions. Benna's role seems to be deciding who to betray and when, while charming his way into the good graces of others. When they're taken in as kids by the mercenary Nicomo Cosca, Benna has him deposed when he realizes Monza is more popular than Cosca. when they attack a city known as Caprile, Benna takes the chance to 'lose' Monza's orders to spare the populace to benefit him further. Finally, it's revealed Benna was going to double cross their current employer, Duke Orso, if Orso hadn't acted first to kill Benna before he got the chance.
- Harry Potter
- Lucius Malfoy is a Smug Snake of an opportunist, latching onto anything that will either help his ambition or help him save his own hide. He doesn't usually have a plan either—he'll let somebody else do the thinking, and try to benefit from their work. In the backstory, he joins Lord Voldemort for the power involved, and also because its racist cause adhered with his prejudiced mindset. After Voldemort's power is shattered and the Dark Lord disappears, Lucius abandons his master and pretends his deeds were because of brainwashing, allowing him to escape justice. Perhaps the best example of Lucius's "planning capabilities" is how he orchestrated the opening of the Chamber of Secrets. He simply plopped Tom Riddle's diary into Ginny Weasley's lap, let Tom Riddle do all the work, and sat back, taking advantage of the chaos for his own ends. When Lord Voldemort returned to power in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Lucius goes back to Voldemort to avoid incurring the Dark Lord's wrath, and once again carries out Voldemort's will. Throughout the series, Lucius only has one consistent loyalty and that's to his family. Eventually, when Voldemort's cause endangers his son's life, Lucius defects from the Death Eaters for Draco's safety.
- Wormtail is a humbler example as a Dirty Coward and chronic backstabber who just looks for the biggest shadow to crawl and live in. First he "befriended" the Marauders at Hogwarts because they were popular, then he betrayed them as an adult, becoming The Mole for the Death Eaters in the Order of the Phoenix because Voldemort was gaining more and more power. Wormtail sold out his "friends," the Potters, and their one-year-old son to their deaths, just to secure his position, then after that backfired, he went framed his other "friend" Sirius and went into hiding. It speaks volumes of Wormtail's level of cowardice and self-interest that he was willing to live as a rat for over a decade, just on the off chance Voldemort returned and he needed to offer Harry up as a sacrifice to get back in his good graces. It's only when he has literally no other option that he seeks out Voldemort and helps him return to full power, just to have the protection of someone powerful again.
- In the Ciaphas Cain books, Cain himself rarely goes into a situation with a concrete plan for how to tackle it (or even, at times, a complete picture of what he's actually getting into), but he has a remarkable tendency to find and exploit any advantage that could possibly give him an edge when he's in the thick of things. Interestingly, he's one of the rare few examples of this trope who's self-aware enough of just how shallow his motives run and who has enough of a conscience to actually beat himself up over it in quieter moments (that is, if we take his own account at face value).
- Sylvester, the narrator of Twig, is fundamentally this, but tries to act as The Chessmaster, often to his detriment. A twelve-year-old Tyke Bomb created with the ability to plot but not the ability to strategize, he has severe difficulty setting realistic goals and is often distracted by other objectives which he makes up on the spot, such as getting himself and his fellows official badges or making sure that the Villain of the Week respects him as an adversary. Even if he has a goal in mind, he'll often try for everything at once and get nothing.
- Esketra from Dark Crusade. She has no qualms about using her good looks to her advantage, first seducing aspiring general Javro and then, when her city is overrun by the Dark Crusade, living in comfort as the lover of leader Orted Ak-Ceddi. And she would betray anyone if she thought it would help her. Unfortunately for her, women are immune to her charms and there is one that really wants to get her Revenge and righty suspects that Esketra would be able to convince Javro to forgive her.
- Flashman: Flashman himself is a British soldier with no loyalty to anything but himself. Constantly roped along into adventures despite his intentions, Flash will seize on any opportunity, betray anyone and do whatever he has to in order to stay on top. Flash almost never goes into his adventures with a plan, instead preferring to seize on opportunities as they present themselves, always eager to end up with wealth, women and to make himself appear to be a hero.
- Land of Oz: Oscar Diggs, a third-rate carny and con artist from Nebraska, ends up getting his hot air balloon caught in a storm. The storm lands him dead-center in the world of Nonestica, in the capital city of Oz. The king and queen recently died, the only heir is their infant daughter, the four arch-mages ("Witches") have secured territory and are threatening all-out war. Using a combination of carnival tricks, Steampunk gadgetry, and sheer bullshit, Diggs manages to bluff the people into thinking he's more powerful than the Witches, making the four stand down in an Enforced Cold War. From there, he is able to sell the true heir to the throne into slavery (bespelled as the wrong gender!), and weasel his way into becoming a de facto God-Emperor with unquestioned rule. It was working pretty well until Dorothy blundered into Oz and set off a chain reaction that exposed him as a humbug, and Ozma was able to free herself.
- Blackadder: The various incarnations of the title Edmund Blackadder will take any chance that offers itself to make money and gain influence, with the exception of the First World War incarnation, who is more concerned with getting out of the trenches. And even he qualifies as he chose to become a soldier of fortune as an easy and safe way to make money and travel around the world and only kill enemies with weapons too primitive to be considered weapons. Actual plans made by Blackadders tend to spiral into chaos during the first 25 minutes of the episode, but spontaneous opportunities are seized, exploited, and turned into admittedly temporary profit. Most obvious when his Regency incarnation had swapped places with the Prince Regent in order to duel the Duke of Wellington; when Wellington shot the "butler" and killed the Prince Regent, Blackadder effortlessly replaced him and ended up as King George IV.
- Black Sails has John Silver (later to be known as "Long" John Silver) who is a self-described opportunist and will latch onto any chance to advance his position or at least keep himself from getting killed. When told that in a few months his usefulness will be gone and he will probably be killed he merely sees this as a time to make friends with his captors. Most of the other major characters have some sort of plan or goal they are working toward but Silver simply jumps at any opportunity that presents itself and goes where it takes him. This almost backfires on him in season 2 when he volunteers to join Flint on a Suicide Mission convinced that Flint has some brilliant plan to get them out of the trouble they are in. To Silver's horror, Flit fully intents to go through with the mission.
- Boardwalk Empire
- Gaston Bullock Means is a shameless manipulator and back-stabber who acts only to swindle as much money as he possibly can out of whomever he's currently conning. Means spends most of his time in season three Playing Both Sides on the Nucky Thompson and DA Daughtery power struggle, waiting to ally himself with whichever one comes out on top. In season four, he again pretends to be on Nucky's side only to sell out information about him to the FBI to save his own ass. Even when he's being raided by the CIA he spends his remaining seconds trying to extort increasingly exorbitant amounts of money out of Nucky for information on The Mole in Nucky's organization.
- Mickey Doyle, a Polish bootlegger working in Nucky's organization who has a habit of betraying anyone if it looks like he can get more power from the other side. He betrays Nucky to the D'Alessio brothers in season one, then betrays the brothers to Nucky before the season's out, then he betrays Nucky again in favor of Jimmy's coup in the second season. After that fails, he somehow manages to not only survive again but once again weasel his way back into Nucky's organization, where he stays until the final season. He finally meets his end when he attempts to betray Nucky for a third time in the middle of a Mob War, this time to "Lucky" Luciano and Meyer Lansky. At this point, Luciano is in no mood for his crap and shoots him in the throat just to finally shut him up.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- Angelus in Season 2 has no real plan beyond "screw with Buffy". It isn't until the last few episodes that Acathla arrives and gives him an actual goal to work towards, and even that falls into his general attitude of "I will be as big a dick as I can."
- The First Evil in Season 7, as revealed in "Showtime." Buffy's resurrection in the opening of Season 6 caused an imbalance in the powers protecting the Slayer line; the First took advantage of it to try to wipe it out completely.
- Game of Thrones:
- Tywin Lannister. Joffrey himself points out that during Robert's rebellion, Tywin effectively hid underneath Casterly Rock and only supported King Robert when all was decided. He effectively pulled a Walder Frey before Walder Frey. He did not see Joffrey's murder coming at all despite knowing how hated he was, but he still finds some utility to it by grooming a less psychotic king (and thus more amenable to Tywin's advice) to replace him in Tommen, and force Jaime into becoming Tywin's successor with promises to spare Tyrion's life by exiling him to the Night's Watch.
- The show version of Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish falls into this category. While the book version is adept at seizing opportunities that come his way, he predominantly relies on long-term plans to get what he wants. The show version of Littlefinger puts much more emphasis on sowing chaos explicitly for the purpose of reaping any opportunities that arise in the fallout, with the nebulous end goal of sitting on the Iron Throne with Sansa Stark as his queen. His constant betrayals and warmongering gain him substantial power in the short-term but ultimately end up coming back to bite him, first by arranging Sansa's marriage to the psychotic Ramsay Bolton he destroys any goodwill he'd earned from her, and second, trying to turn Sansa against Arya results in the exposure of his crimes and subsequent execution.
- Justified lends itself to characters of this type by its very premise. With all the competing families and gangs, there will always be those looking to exploit the chaos to their own advantage. Some of the more notable include:
- Johnny Crowder, Boyd's power-hungry cousin, who never missed a chance to improve his own position at the expense of others. Whether it was backing Boyd against Devil's internal coup, blackmailing Colton Rhodes about his drug addiction, providing the US Marshals with information, or manouvering between genuine power players like Boyd, his Uncle Bo, Wynn Duffy, Nicky Augustine, Hotrod Dunham, and Mr. Yoon, Johnny would grab at any chance to make a profit or increase his chances of taking over the Crowder family. Even after gaining control of Hotrod's organization in Season 5, he doesn't have a plan, beyond "hurt Boyd as much as possible", which leads to his defeat at the hands of his chessmaster cousin. Driven by greed and revenge (he held Boyd responsible for his crippling), and superb at playing the odds, Johnny could survive almost any situation, but the conclusion was never in doubt.
- Season 5's Daryl Crowe Jr. is described as such by his right-hand man, Jean-Baptiste, who comments on Daryl's penchant for finding employ with someone else and then making their business his. He did this to the Muchado family's sugar smuggling operation in Florida. After coming to Kentucky he first tries to take over his cousin Dewey's brother, leading to conflict with Boyd Crowder, then hires himself out to Boyd as an enforcer. Most recently, while on a job for Boyd in Mexico, he and his brother Danny have sabotaged Boyd's operation in an attempt to weaken Boyd enough that he will not have a choice but to offer Daryn an equal partnership. If anything, this unpredictability, and general lack of attention to detail makes Daryl more dangerous, as nobody can really anticipate how he'll try to take advantage of the situation, only that he will.
- The same season gives us Mara Paxton and Sheriff Nick Moony, both of whom bounce back and forth between working for Boyd and working for Lee Paxton (Mara's husband) based on whoever seems strongest at the time, in an attempt at getting the best possible position for themselves. Moony had a history of this sort of behaviour long before Season 5, selling out Doyle Bennett to Boyd, Tillman Napier to Boyd, and then Boyd to Paxton, all based on who was offering the most at any given time. His refusal to just pick a side in the Boyd Crowder/Lee Paxton war is what ultimately gets him killed.
- Marvel Cinematic Universe:
- Turk Barret tends to take dirty jobs rather than spearhead any plans himself. This is why he'll betray criminals to dangerous bosses, like selling the Russians out to Fisk, or ratting out Chico to Cottonmouth.
- In Jessica Jones (2015) Malus refers to Dr. Kozlov as such, citing he stole Malus' drugs to develop the combat enhancers for the military.
- Hernán "Shades" Alvarez from Luke Cage (2016) is always try to get in the graces of someone with more power than him, be it a corrupt guard at Seagate or Diamondback, the latter even calls him out on it when he guessed that Shades planned on being Mariah's right hand man and Evil Mentor as he saw more potential with her than with Diamondback.
- Ashur from Spartacus: Blood and Sand decides, after he is crippled by the Gladiator Crixus, that his only goals in life are revenge and rising in power. Using his cleverness to ingratiate himself to his master Batiatus, Ashur becomes his errand boy and supporter, hoping to tie his fortunes to Batiatus's own. When he is indebted to Gladiator named Barca, Ashur quickly makes it appear as if Barca has betrayed Batiatus and arranges his death. Ashur takes advantage of Batiatus's gratitude to steal Crixus's lover, and after Batiatus falls, Ashur simply aligns himself with Praetor Gaius Claudius Glaber and uses Spartacus's rebellion to get Glaber to assign him his own private squad of enforcers with which he terrorizes Capua. Ashur uses his intelligence and lack of morality to make himself invaluable to those he serves while simultaneously using their favor to push himself higher.
- Stargate Atlantis: Todd is a Wraith who is noticeably more pragmatic than the rest of his vampiric ilk, constantly forging Enemy Mine alliances with the Atlantis expedition for his own benefit when the opportunity falls into his lap. While his schemes often don't go the way he intended, he's always able to adapt to new circumstances and walking away from it unscathed, usually in a more powerful position than he was in before. Colonel Sheppard is fully aware that he'd betray them in a heartbeat if he saw some benefit to it.
Sheppard: Everytime we get involved with you, I feel like I'm walking around with a live grenade in my pocket, just waiting for it all to go wrong - for that 'one thing' you forgot to mention.
"I can promise you that I am spiritually and emotionally and ethically and morally behind whoever wins."
- Cousin Greg has no discernible goal beyond keeping his job at Waystar, and proves himself to be adept at hitching rides on the shoulders of more powerful people, aligning himself with whoever seems to be in a more advantageous position at any given moment.
- Kendall's ostensible best friend Stewy is a parasite constantly piggybacking off other people's success and influence. Even his job as a private equity shark is centered around benefiting off other people's failures.
- Crowley from Supernatural has worked his way from a demonic salesman to the King of Hell by working his way into various situations, betraying those he works with and being fully willing to subvert situations to his benefit. He takes advantage of Dean and Sam's wish to kill Lucifer to aid them while keeping his involvement secret. Crowley later uses Sam and Dean to defeat Lucifer, and takes the opportunity to seize control of Hell by becoming its king. Crowley spends the next few seasons playing up and shifting alliances with various characters, always ready to seize an opportunity when it presents itself.
- Torchwood: Miracle Day had Jilly Kitizgenger. An opportunist, fast-talking PR rep, she was mostly concerned with getting work. She represented the evil cooperation and the crazy murderer/child molester even she admitted was off-putting, but her loyalties lie with whatever will get her to the top. Before approaching the murderer, she approached a doctor working with the heroes for the exact opposite goals.
- Calvin "Cheese" Wagstaff of The Wire is defined by his ambition and his utter lack of loyalty to anyone. Cheese starts out as an enforcer and lieutenant of his uncle, the notorious drug kingpin "Proposition Joe." When Marlo Stanfield begins his rise to power, Cheese promptly aligns with him for a bigger slice of the pie and betrays his uncle to his death. He then aligns with Marlo instead. When Marlo is no longer in the picture, Cheese tries to seize control of the loose alliance of Drug Dealers, basically admitting his shifting loyalties and opportunism in front of them.
- Garfield the Deals Warlock of The Adventure Zone: Balance doesn't care that he sells weapons to adventurers aiming to save all of humanity he's out for money. And a replica of Magnus's body.
- Final Fantasy IX: This trope applies to Kuja, from disc 3 onward. In the first two discs, Kuja had a true Evil Plan, but it gets immediately curbstomped the second that his boss, Garland, decides that he has outlived his usefulness. Kuja immediately goes into hiding and, with his treachery revealed, has no choice but to acquire power any means he can. He tries a few things that also fail before opportunity shines and one of the good guys taps into their Super Mode right in front of him. From that moment on, his plan is to let the heroes fight both him and Garland, and win, and then Turn Red and invoke his own Super Mode permanently. And it works. At that point, Kuja had everything he needed to take over the world, but there was one thing he didn't count on...
- Benny from Fallout: New Vegas. The Big Bad Wannabe of the game, Benny wants to seize the city of New Vegas for his own but has little in the way of actual planning ability. In the backstory, he killed the chief of his tribe in a duel to the death and supplanted him because the former leader wanted their people to remain nomadic rather than take the more profitable route of joining the New Vegas leadership. Though nominally aligned with New Vegas's "autocrat," Mr. House, Benny really craved more power and had one of Mr. House's securitrons reprogrammed to spill all of Mr. House's secrets. The securitron, Yes-Man, told Benny about a platinum computer chip that could be used to upgrade the securitrons of New Vegas into unstoppable killing-machines, and then formulated plans on how Benny could foil Mr. House's plans while hijacking the platinum chip for Benny's own use. Benny was an ambitious man who forged alliances as often as he broke them, but it's made abundantly clear that he was only a danger because he leeched off the plans of those smarter than himself, such as Mr. House and Yes-Man, for his own use.
- Dimitri Rascalov of Grand Theft Auto IV, a man with serious loyalty issues starts as the number 2 to the unstable Russian gangster Mikhail Faustin. When protagonist Niko Bellic shows up, Dimitri takes his chance to manipulate Niko into murdering Mikhail so Dimitri can take over. He then tries to have Niko killed as well by quickly allying with Ray Bulgarin, an old enemy of Niko's. Dimitri spends the rest of the game getting friendly with those who can aid his pursuit of wealth and power, and will betray anyone in an instant if he finds a better opportunity in it.
- Queen Anora from Dragon Age: Origins will manipulate or backstab anyone so long as it satisfies her two goals: remaining in power and securing the physical safety of her father, Loghain. Being a choice-based game, there are a number of options for how Anora will react if certain decisions are made. Should the Player Character, the Warden, decide to back her at the Landsmeet, she will turn against her father, the regent, to secure power for herself. However, should the Warden decide to back Alistair instead, she will betray the Warden and side with her father, despite the fact that Loghain had arranged her husband's death, conducted numerous evil actions, and in doing so risked a civil war in Ferelden even as the Archdemon led the Darkspawn to Rape, Pillage, and Burn the country. In order to preserve her political power, Anora will also go through with political marriages, such as she will to a Noble Human Grey Warden, seeing him as a popular figure. She'd even go so far as to marry Alistair, the bastard brother of her beloved, late husband, the very same man she'd also order executed for being a threat to her in another possible play through where she rules alone. Anora has no master plan to get her way and few scruples, she'll simply latch on to anyone who is most likely to give her the power she wants and do as they ask in return. The one exception to this is marrying whoever personally executes her father. That is the one thing she will not do no matter the benefits.
- Darth Malak from Knights of the Old Republic, who usurped his former master Darth Revan by ordering his ship to fire on Revan's vessel while the latter was distracted. Despite Revan apparently perishing in the attack and Malak becoming the undisputed Dark Lord of the Sith, it's also established that the other Sith don't respect him since his actions are quite contrary to Sith principles: victories are supposed to show superior strength or cunning, thus strengthening the Sith as a whole; whereas cheap shots like Malak's only encourage Chronic Backstabbing Disorder which would prevent anything from getting done.
- Sonic and the Secret Rings: Early on, the Erazor Djinn tries to shoot Shahra with a flaming arrow, but Sonic takes the hit and is afflicted with a life-draining curse. Erazor uses it to his advantage, telling Sonic he'll remove the arrow and break the curse if Sonic gathers all of the World Rings for him. As it turns out, he just intends to sacrifice Sonic in order to obtain full mastery of the World Rings for himself since he couldn't use their true power as long as their collector is alive, but settles for Shahra instead when she jumps in front of the killing blow. This ends up biting him in the ass because not only does this not give him the full mastery he desired, a rip-roaring pissed Sonic ends up stealing three of the Rings from him and using them to power up and rip him a new one.
- The Bounty Hunter Player Character from Star Wars: The Old Republic gets two opportunities to address a huge audience. They're expected to either make inspiring speeches or threaten The Republic. But instead, you can... make a sales pitch. Heck, you're never going to get a better chance than this!
Hunter: Corellia's all wrapped up. The Empire is a happy customer. I could do the same for you. Rogue Sith Lords, crime syndicates, kings, queens—I hunt 'em all. Don't be afraid, it only takes a call.Darbin Sul: Better hire this hunter before the enemy does!Darth Decimus: A sales pitch wasn't quite I had in mind.
- Peret em Heru: For the Prisoners: Professor Tsuchida discovers a sprawling underground ruin beneath the Great Pyramid of Giza. Problem is, he's not supposed to be there, and doesn't want to alert the proper authorities and have them 'steal his glory'. Good thing there's a tour group passing by he can talk into joining him, spinning it as the chance of a lifetime... when really he's just looking for free labor, and unwitting meat shields he can use to get past the booby traps inside...
- Jared from Weak Hero can't fight well and isn't even that smart; his position as Wolf's Number Two came about by him latching on to anyone that was strong and steadily pulling himself up the ladder that way. This comes back to bite him when all of his wrongdoings are exposed; he has no strength to fight back against the people seeking revenge on him, and his superficial allies are quick to turn on him.
- Hondo Ohnaka from Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. Hondo is quick to side with and backstabs anyone if he thinks he can make a quick profit out of it.
- The Transformers: Prime incarnation of Starscream tends to fall into this trope. He's not got the brawn to overthrow Megatron by force, and Megatron is cunning enough to spot and foil most planned gambits, so his best chance is seizing on events as they come up. To this end, he's ended up both working with and against Decepticons and Autobots alike... sometimes at the same time. In a subversion, he ends up growing out of the trope somewhat and seems genuinely content to be second in command (though he turns his attention to keeping that position.)
- Prince Zuko in the first two seasons of Avatar: The Last Airbender. He's hellbent on capturing the Avatar to restore his former position in the Fire Nation, but unlike his Chessmaster sister, Azula, he never has a concrete plan in place for how he's going to accomplish it. He spends most of his time tracking Aang, winging it as he goes, teaming up with anyone from pirates to bounty hunters so long as it gives him an opportunity to capture Aang. Eventually, Iroh calls him out on his lack of longterm planning, pointing out the times he's nearly died because he never thinks through what he should do after achieving his immediate goal.