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The Fettered

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"All these years I thought it was power that brought responsibility. It's not. I was wrong. It's responsibility that brings power. It's knowing what needs to be done that brings strength. And courage."
Peter Parker, Earth X

Responsibility, honor, and justice. The Fettered believe in these ideals and willingly bind themselves to them, and in so doing draw strength to face whatever challenges arise. When their morals, values, and loved ones are put in danger, they rise to defend them with Heroic Resolve.

It's common for a Fettered character to be a police officer, paladin, soldier, or other law enforcement/martial profession focused on bringing peace and justice to the world, but they can just as easily be a pacifist whose code forbids them from fighting. The latter will have a hell of a time with this. In ensembles, they are often The Hero who rallies their allies with the strength of their conviction and vision. One thing all fettered characters share is that they can often motivate others by virtue of their ideals. In fact, the Messianic Archetype is almost always The Fettered. Choice and freedom are important aspects of a Fettered character; while they freely choose to adhere to a code, the temptation to desert it is always present, but placing their trust in these ideals serves to give them and others the strength to stand firm.

Choosing to live by these ideals is never easy and has tangible drawbacks. If they put their faith in an unsound moral code, or obedience in an authority that is less morally upright than they, there will be a reckoning where they must choose To Be Lawful or Good. If they don't or choose wrongly, then they'll suffer a Heroic BSoD and turn into a Fallen Hero. The moral code itself usually really compromises their ability to deal with threats permanently, with things like Thou Shalt Not Kill, or being obliged to help the helpless when a more pragmatic attitude could save more total lives. Heroes who are aware of this may take it to the extreme and develop Samaritan Syndrome, or grow despondent when Being Good Sucks. A danger many Fettered face is the Psycho Supporter, who takes up the "task" of protecting the fettered from hard choices. Only rarely will The Fettered be clever or flexible enough to use a Zeroth Law Rebellion and Take a Third Option, as most think too rigidly to consider such "rules lawyering" as acceptable.

Fettered people aren't always good guys. Some Blood Knights, most Noble Demons, Ubermenschen, most Knight Templars, some Lawful Evil villains, and even sociopaths adhering to a code can be Fettered as well. This trope is less about morality than about following a code strictly and drawing strength from it.

The Fettered is the counterpoint to The Unfettered; both share similar insane levels of willpower and inner strength but have radically different world views. An exercise to the reader is whether the Übermensch is Fettered or Unfettered, which will give one an excellent idea of where a work stands on a certain Sliding Scale — if the Übermensch is the Unfettered, then the work is much more likely to be Cynical. If the Übermensch is the Fettered, then the work is most likely Idealist. If both are the Übermensch, the scale breaks.

It should be noted that unlike the Unfettered, the Fettered can become embodiments of an ideal (Except perhaps for Freedom) if their moral strength is strong enough. This, in turn, can lend strength to those who follow their cause and help fight despair. Still, beware the Broken Pedestal.

The Fettered character's greatest strength is also their greatest weakness. The minute someone devotes himself absolutely to an idea or moral code or what have you, anyone who knows about said devotion can use it against them and try to force them to break their vows.

The values held by the Fettered, if taken freely, may constitute a Heroic Vow.

Common characters who are fettered: many Determinators (if not The Unfettered), Knight in Sour Armor, Officer and a Gentleman, Noble Demon, The Stoic, All-Loving Hero, Card-Carrying Villain, The Snark Knight, and Honor Before Reason. Contrast Blind Obedience, which may seem like being fettered but lacks the necessary self-awareness. The Principles Zealot is when being the Fettered has Gone Horribly Right.

The Fettered is closely related to Lawful Stupid, for whom anybody who breaks any law, anywhere, for any reason, is the enemy.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Keith Gandor from Baccano!, while difficult to call a "good guy", deliberately and strictly adheres himself to old-age standards he feels that present Mafia families are lacking in (although he'll cheat at cards), and is thus responsible for the Gandors' Neighbourhood-Friendly Gangsters status. As Firo puts it, "He'd be great if he were in southern Italy or in the last century."
  • Legosi from Beastars is a deconstruction. For the first half of the story he, like most herbivores (he's a Carnivore) in the setting, considers eating meat one of the most evil acts a person can commit. However, basically everyone in the story tells him that his aversion to eating meat is downright foolish. He refuses to listen even when the person telling him this is a psychiatrist who specializes in severe meat addiction (a line of work so dangerous he had to leave his family for their own protection). Ultimately, his moral crusade against meat consumption almost gets him killed picking a one-on-one fight to the death with a bear over twice his size. In the end, Louis willingly offers up his leg to give Legosi the strength he needs to beat the bear, being completely unable to convince Legosi to abandon the fight. Legosi finally gives into temptation and accepts, an action he considers the worst mistake of his life.
  • In Brave10, Ishida Mitsunari is this regarding honouring Toyotomi Hideyoshi and preventing the collapse of the nobility.
  • In Code Geass Suzaku is the fettered counterpart to Lelouch. In Season 2, he gets his "lawful or good" moment when he backs out from torturing Kallen with the Refrain drug. It ultimately gets deconstructed as the show progresses and it’s revealed his morality is mostly fueled by his guilt for killing his father when he was a child.
  • Soichiro Yagami from Death Note is a police chief who is trying to capture the mass murderer known as Kira — who is his own son (he has no idea, though). As stated by Word of God, he's the only truly Good character in the whole series.
    • He even pities Kira, because he concluded that having the power to kill a human being so easily is a curse. And that, while Kira was corrupted by gaining that power, his original motivation was to do the right thing.
  • Kenshiro in Fist of the North Star. Incorruptible, protective of all children and women, intolerant of evil and dedicated to bringing hope and joy to a world ravaged by nuclear fire, a typical Ideal Hero. Anyone who knows his name cries joyful tears when he walks into town if they're a good guy. The bad guys tend to have a different reaction. Said bad guys also usually try to either talk Ken into just taking what he wants with his power or try to cut a deal with him. Their pleas fall on deaf ears with Ken, followed by a rather violent death.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Roy Mustang is haunted by the genocide he performed in a war years before the story began. He and those who serve under him are determined to do everything in their power to create a better country so nothing like that will ever happen again. In the manga and Brotherhood, Roy Mustang definitely proves his fetters; when placed in a situation where he can either help the villains achieve their goals and save a comrade's life, or deny them and let his friend die. Though Roy knows that the decision will haunt and hurt him for years, if not his whole life, chooses the greater good over his friend... as she herself wanted. Thanks to the intervention of other parties, her life is saved and the baddies force Roy to help them through Villain Override.
  • Alucard of Hellsing is a rare case of a villainous version of this or at least a Nominal Hero. He will ruthlessly destroy any enemy he comes across with little regret but is kept in check from a full-on murderous rampage due to his Undying Loyalty to his master, Sir Integra.
  • Nen users in Hunter × Hunter define this. A user who imposes restrictions on his use of power increases it. The stronger the restriction the more they increase its power.
  • Katanagatari exaggerates this trope with Ginkaku Uneri: The desert has invaded all his land. His castle is ruined; he is the only one left when Shichika ask him why he fights, he sincerely answers that he doesn’t know. Even so, he’s willing to die defending his sword only because he must defend something.
  • Medaka Box: Zenkichi Hitoyoshi willingly tries to uphold what he considers "Medaka's Justice" in helping people.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny: Appropriate considering who he's up against, but Shinn Asuka is a good testament to why these traits aren't necessarily positive. Sure he really cares about the people he's close to and wants to protect them, but his adherence to Chairman Durandal leads him to not realize when he's crossing lines he shouldn't and accept blatant lies at face value. Oh yeah, and the name of the Gundam of the man he hates the most? Freedom.
  • Dr. Tenma of Monster is basically Jean Valjean, below, with a high emphasis on emergency surgery. Alternatively, what happens if Jean Valjean and Black Jack were combined.
  • A large majority of Heroes from My Hero Academia believe in a good, fair and just society. However certain individuals like Katsuki Bakugo and Endeavor proven to be less righteously heroic. They do technically the right thing (though their methods can be extreme), but nobody is perfect especially them.
    • The Shie Hassaikai were to put it simply, a Yakuza Gang of supervillains. They were decently organized, with every one of the members wearing a type of mask. The problem was, that even though each member was respectfully powerful in their own right. The League of Villains trumps them all, in terms of unethical strategies.
  • Naruto. He fuels his determination with his will to keep any promise he ever made.
  • Negi of Negima! Magister Negi Magi tries really hard to be like this, although numerous people (especially Evangeline) have pointed out that there are situations where it just isn't practical and could lead to even bigger problems later on. After much urging, he's getting to the point where he's willing to compromise if the result will be better in the long run.
  • The entire Marine organization are the fettered in One Piece — their motto is Justice. Unfortunately, their "justice" is a terrible thing sometimes.
    • Luffy may have ultimate freedom as his goal, but he is still fettered by his loyalty to his crew.
    • A good example of a moral character would be Coby. He stood up to Marines much more powerful than him for the sake of doing the right thing. Unlike people like Luffy, it wasn't reckless courage, but moral fortitude.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Miki Sayaka is this trope, through and through. It does not end well for her.
  • Kenshin of Rurouni Kenshin is a model of this trope, where Defeat Means Friendship as well as the occasional Heel–Face Turn when the defeated party realizes Kenshin could have killed them in the first five minutes if he wasn't carefully holding back. A pity that never works for Superman.
  • All the saints in Saint Seiya had a bit of this, but Shun by virtue of his pacifist ideology would go to the point of nearly becoming a Martyr Without a Cause on several occasions. However, he twice managed to bring about a Mook–Face Turn by sheer conviction and kindness, at other times he did kill when forced to, and at times he had to be bailed out by his older brother for his pacifism. At one point he held Hades, in Demonic Possession of his body, immobile thanks to the strength of his wish that his body not be used to harm others, allowing his brother a chance to kill Hades. Surprisingly, the Aesop managed all outcomes of his behaviour in the series, never outright making him a fool for his ideals.
    • Shun could be the poster child for this trope, especially because he represents it as visually as he does metaphorically — his armor is literally fettered, as per his mythological namesake.
  • Trigun: It's hard to tell all the time what Vash the Stampede actually wants to do, for him, but two high entries on the list are definitely 'settle down somewhere quiet with people I care about' and 'travel around freely and be left alone'. He can't do the first because he knows he can't ignore the world's problems, specifically his brother, and he can't do the latter because...he can't ignore the world's problems, so he's always getting into trouble. Also, there's a huge bounty on his head.
    • He hates it when anyone gets hurt, but he's a genius gunfighter. Apparently, he trains so hard because the better he is, the more likely he can resolve situations without anyone getting killed. Also never uses his superpowers because he can't control them, goes through hell for strangers constantly, is covered in scars under his clothes because (in a genre subversion) he's not Made of Iron... Extremely Angsty take on the All-Loving Hero, or just Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds waiting to happen?
    • In his manga incarnation, if you read carefully he consciously chose to believe in people and care about and protect the human race, everybody, on the strength of Rem's idealism. If he compromised and decided it was acceptable to kill even one person, his reason for not being like Knives would fall apart. This doesn't happen, mind, but the circumstances are pretty special. If he ever just decided someone was bad enough that they deserved to die, it would have been the same as Knives only on a smaller scale.
    • Everything Vash does, all the time, no matter what, he's doing because it would be unacceptable to do anything else. Except maybe bubble gum, donuts, and certain levels of annoying, but once we're a way into the series it would disturb Meryl enough if he stopped acting like himself that he's got obligations to be a goofball, too. He often covers problems with this kind of behavior so as not to worry people, further confusing the issue of how much he actually means anything. Ever.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman absolutely refuses to kill. Both his Rogues' Gallery (including The Joker) and his allies call him on it numerous times. Notably, Bats being the Fettered is not always portrayed as a good thing.
  • Captain America is the embodiment of America's ideals and virtues, and has throughout his run has avoided killing whenever possible (well, there was a vampire that one time, but he doesn't count). He's killed several times, but it's always been only when he has no choice and causes much angst. During World War II, he did kill people, but he was a soldier, and it's not something he boasts about. He also frets about damage to churches, and is very accommodating to accountants trying to total up superfight destruction.
  • Fantastic Four: For a villainous example, Doctor Doom, in at least some portrayals (Doom has been written by everyone at one point or another, and all of them have different opinions on him). He wants to Take Over the World. Well, fine, so do a lot of villains. However, the Noble Demon interpretation of Doom wants to Take Over the World without going against his principles, which aren't exactly heroic but do have positive aspects: always repay a debt; always keep the letter of your word (some versions also value the spirit); never exhibit cowardice (to the point of giving enemies weakened by another's actions time to recover); never back down; never accept an insult; never humble yourself before another; protect the people under your rule. The Noble Demon version of Doom will never explicitly break these, although he doesn't seem to mind bending them a bit (for example, when put in Spider-Man's debt, he "repays" it by not killing Spidey for insulting him thirty seconds later).
  • Judge Dredd: Judge Dredd is completely unwavering in his pursuit of justice, or at least "justice" by the brutal standards of the Crapsack World he inhabits. It's his entire reason for being; Dredd and his brothers were cloned from the founder of the Judge, Jury, and Executioner system, then raised from birth to be perfect law enforcers. He balks at even the suggestion of compromising on the law.
  • The Sandman (1989): Morpheus uses the rules of the Dreaming and the occult universe in general to accomplish his goals, at one point explicitly stating that the laws which empower him in some ways also bind him in others. He's fond of the word 'responsibility': responsibility for the survival of the Dreaming, responsibility to anyone under his protection, a responsibility to his son... Eventually, this is what kills him — or, perhaps, makes life so intolerable for him that he arranges his own death. It's complicated.
  • After Uncle Ben, Spider-Man's entire philosophy has revolved around using his powers to take full responsibility for the safety of New York. Sometimes to an almost unhealthy extreme.
  • Superman likewise has the preservation of human values, life, and property — all human life, people like Lex Luthor included — acting as limiters on his power. Heck, most flagship comic book superheroes tend to be Fettered.
  • The Watcher from the Marvel Universe is immensely powerful, but took a vow to never interfere, only to watch. Many times, he is depicted as being in deep internal conflict because he so desperately wants to intervene to prevent a disaster, even starting to take action at times only to remember his vow and abort his intended action before it is even noticed by the main characters. Still, the Watcher has sometimes realized his status as The Fettered can be exploited. If he suddenly shows up, savvy characters realize the only reason he'd be around is that something significant is about to go down.
  • Rorschach of Watchmen fame represents a dark fulfillment of this archetype while exploring some of its weaknesses. His moral code prescribes protecting the innocent while ruthlessly punishing the guilty, and to him, the line between the two is crystal clear, symbolized by his black-and-white mask. But problems and cognitive dissonance arise when he proves willing to dismiss wrongdoing committed by those he respects and rationalize crimes against those he does not. In the end, when Rorschach finds himself faced with a dilemma that can't be solved just by appealing to his principles, he breaks down.
    Rorschach: Never compromise. Not even in the face of Armageddon.
  • Played with by Wonder Woman in some ways. She believes in most of the ideals Superman and Batman believe in but is also not afraid to kill in situations that require it, a character trait she has had ever since the George Perez run. This is played for dramatic tension in the lead-up to Infinite Crisis where she is forced to kill the villain Maxwell Lord and is shunned by Superman and Batman for it.
  • X-Men: Professor X is this and he wants to spread his view to every other mutant on the planet. Humans may despise, mock and scorn mutantkind... but they are never to be harmed. The powers that mutants are given make them the Superior Species, but not the superior man and a balanced world where all are accepted equally is his ideal vision. Magneto, on the other hand, says something a bit different...

    Fan Works 
  • Cain: Arguably, Katsuki is a dark and twisted example of this despite his escalating villainous behavior being more fitting for The Unfettered, as he lacks self-awareness, is narcissistically dependent on the praise given to him by others, firmly assured of his self-righteousness, and the cowardice he displays, whenever he feels like trouble, is about to come to him. Due to a combination of his upbringing in a twisted hero culture cultivated in his Elementary and Middle School, the number of privileges he gains for his talents and Quirk, and the ongoing systematic discrimination of Quirkless people in Hero Society, Katsuki believes that a great hero is simply someone being the strongest guy around who can beat up pretty much anyone they don't like and villains are nothing more than weak losers who can only win by "cheating", and that Quirkless people can't be heroes as it's "against the natural order". As a result, this rigid belief of what makes a hero cultivates an extreme combination of Moral Myopia and Insane Troll Logic that causes Katsuki to use any method (no matter how heinous, cowardly, degrading, contradictory, and villainous it is) to sabotage Izuku, who he somehow sees as both an inherent, incompetent subhuman and an evil, competent manipulator, and keep the latter from becoming a hero. In that same order, he's also thoroughly convinced that he's being heroic and, again, double-thinking of Izuku deserving it for the villain he is and for his own good, and the extreme cognitive dissonance he suffers when All Might (and later his parents upon finding out) constantly tells him that what he's doing isn't being heroic at all and the consequences of his escalating misdeeds eventually falling onto him. Unsurprisingly, in the end, Katsuki's so-called "principles" are ultimately rewarded with a shattered life and reputation, hero opportunities permanently revoked, and Hated by All except for his parents, and even then, his relationship with them has been strained severely. The worst parts? He never learned a single thing and remains unrepentant of his actions since he's "the best and therefore, in the right" and has now become a complete inversion of this trope with him willingly publishing whatever he knows of All Might's secrets online out of spite despite knowing that would be put everyone at risk...along with a new window of opportunity for revenge coming from an anonymous person known as "handsofthemaster".
  • This is Mass Effect: Human Revolution's take on Adam Jensen. He is dedicated to being a good man and will go out of his way to restrain himself for the sake of others. It actually takes quite a lot to push him to employ lethal methods and tactics. Way more than just having gunmen trying to kill him. But don't push your luck or his Berserk Button...
  • Scar Tissue: After Third Impact, Asuka was so heavily traumatized and unstable that she abused Shinji for months until one day she went too far and she was so horrified with herself that she snapped out of it. Shinji tolerated anything that Asuka did to him during that time because he thought that he deserved the punishment after what HE had done to her… and because he was afraid that he would kill her if he lost control of himself.
  • Soldier of Spira, a Final Fantasy X Alternate Universe, presents Auron. The man will stoop to many, many levels to get the job done, and Thou Shalt Not Kill is not one of his restrictions, but the death of innocents does bring him grief. His one, unbreakable rule is that if he makes a promise, he will keep it. His word is his bond, and he uses his word and knowledge to hold all of creation hostage. By threatening to unleash what appears to be the Legions of Hell if Rikku dies in Zanarkand. The world, and fayth, and Lords of the Living and the Dead decide to yield. But, as one of the more dangerous Magnificent Bastards in the world, he is not above adhering to only the letter of his promise. Combine this with a truly unholy amount of willpower, and a genuine desire to protect those he cares about (if it doesn't get in the way of The Plan), and Auron is more dangerous than ever by the sheer resources he commands in his private crusade to save Spira. Not defeat Sin, save all of Spira. With all the complicated logistics and cultural boundaries to topple. He has committed himself to the job, and his every word shows his determination in all of its fettered glory.
  • The four in With Strings Attached, because they are Actual Pacifists with a crapton of power, though they'll defend themselves, and each other, if necessary.
  • In Avenger of Steel, Clark Kent is very careful, as Superman, to never seem like he's trying to order the government to do something (such as prosecuting Wilson Fisk despite the lack of hard evidence against him) since he knows many barely trust him and would turn on him the minute he starts to act like a dictator.
  • Victoria, in All This Sh*t is Twice as Weird, is much more this trope than her fellow Inquisitor Mahanon. She's the All-Loving Hero who wants what's best for everyone and tends to give people second chances they don't necessarily deserve.
  • SAPR: Ruby Rose is bound by her ideals and duties as a Huntress, and in those binds she draws the strength to inspire armies and face down challenges that every other person flees from without flinching.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • Most of the protagonists of Atlas Shrugged start out fettered by either their success or their compassion for the masses. A big part of Dagney and Hanks' character arcs is learning to become The Unfettered and let it all go for their own self-interest.
  • Marshal Tolonen in David Wingrove's Chung Kuo series.
  • In the Codex Alera series, the powerful First Lord, ruler of Alera is one of these. He has incredible furycrafting powers, but since they come from a single Fury, Alera, he is bound to do things that benefit everyone. This means he has to make brutal decisions, including, at one point, setting off a volcano prematurely, causing the deaths of tens of thousands to avoid tens of thousands of additional deaths, and provoking a What the Hell, Hero? and Amara to resign.
  • Terry Pratchett seems to love this trope. In fact, a major theme in Discworld is that you need to have some rules that cannot be broken — you can make it so hot you can bend it in a circle, but once it's broken then everything will start breaking in a chain reaction.
    • Death of the Discworld. He could relax his adherence to The Rules and become much more fearsome and powerful, as his counterpart in Reaper Man demonstrates. He refuses to do so, as "the care of the Reaper" is important to proper balance, even though The Rules do sometimes prevent him from acting and thus require Mort, Susan, or another member of his family to intervene instead.
    • Sam Vimes. He could give in to his anger at the world and become a violent, drunken thug — and he'd be very, very good at it if he did. He could stop trying to balance his devotion to law and order with mercy and become a Knight Templar. But he doesn't, because he's seen where both those roads lead and he chooses every day not to go there. He could also simply let go of responsibility, give in to the fact that his marriage to Lady Sybil has made him a noble and independently wealthy, and generally let other people worry about morality. The fact that he can't do this (and, in fact, would be much happier without both nobility and wealth) is part of why she fell in love with him in the first place.
    • Esmerelda "Granny" Weatherwax, a bad witch by inclination but a good witch by sheer force of her iron will, comes as close as humanly possible to being this and The Unfettered at the same time. "But I can't do none of that stuff: That wouldn't be Right."
    • Captain Carrot embodies this with his "personal is not the same as important" mantra, as well as his refusal to become king.
    • Vetinari could probably rule half the Disc if he had any inclination to do so, but detests war and absolutely refuses to create a second Morporkian Empire, even when offered a prime opportunity to do so in Making Money.
    Vetinari: "Even tyrants have to obey the law. [pause] No I tell a lie. Tyrants do not have to obey the law, but they do have to observe the niceties. Or at least I do."'
    • Angua is an example of the Fettered, and her brother Wolfgang is an example of what could happen if Angua ever went "off the leash." Acknowledged in this dialogue between her and Carrot in The Fifth Elephant (paraphrased): "If I went off like that, would you put me down?" "Yes." "Promise?"
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Once someone is turned by a Red Court vampire, their only hope is to become the Fettered, since the first time they kill and drink that person's blood will destroy the last remnants of their humanity. The Fellowship of Saint Giles, of which Susan is a member, is an association of fettered half-vampires fighting both their hunger for blood and the Red Court — think Alcoholics Anonymous meets La Résistance.
    • Wizards in general, again by necessity. The White Council enforces seven Laws of Magic. Violating the Laws is usually cause for execution on the spot because most practitioners of black magic become drunk on the highly addictive Dark Side. Further adding to this is one can only use magic if one truly believes it is the right course of action. So, to kill a person with magic, to bind them to one's will, to raise the dead, or look beyond the outer reaches of reality, means the human mage earnestly believes it is the right course of action.
    • The Knights of the Cross are each given a Sword with a Nail from the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ in its hilt. While wielding the Sword, they must follow certain rules. The primary rule is not to seek to kill the mortal hosts of Fallen Angels, but help the mortals find redemption and renounce the Fallen. Furthermore, they cannot judge the person. This means even if they suspect a Denarian of lying through his teeth if he renounces his dark ways and hands over his Coin, they may take the coin but not harm the man. This is even if there is a ticking time bomb and they need information. One Denarian does this very act and laughs at the perceived weakness in following these rules. Harry, the titular hero, has his own rules and admires the Knights for standing by their convictions. Harry's own rules, being much less strenuous, allows him to take a baseball bat to the man's kneecaps until the man spills his information while the Knights wait outside the room. It isn't their place to judge, after all, how one person chooses to act.
  • Sparhawk, the protagonist of The Elenium and The Tamuli series by David Eddings, is fettered by honor and loyalty — as were all of his similarly-named predecessors. He is the hereditary Champion of the sovereign of Elenia and a Knight of the Pandion Order, and no matter what the enemy does he will only proceed with a course of action that is true to the oaths he has sworn. Even his most personal rival describes him as a "basically gentle" person. He's also not too many steps below being an actual god, but he refuses to abuse this fact.
  • Emperor Leto Atreides II in God-Emperor of Dune is utterly bound by the Golden Path: the salvation of humanity.
  • The titular Captain in the Honor Harrington books will fulfill her duty and no less and takes no restrictions but those imposed by her service. If you are anyone else, stay out of the way because she will not entertain your reasons why she should let something slide. Due to seeing things in herself that scare her, she fears what might happen if she ever became The Unfettered. Contrast this to Victor Cachat, who, in service to his duty, is The Unfettered to a scary degree.
  • Journey to Chaos
    • Basilard mentions a number of things that he could or might want to do but refrains from doing them because "it would be against Guild policy". One item in that policy is "never kill the client."
    • The Leader of Roalt's Royal Guard Section 3 (Sedition Prevention) insists on averting/defying Police Brutality even when he himself considers the suspect to be "scum". This is because he believes even scum deserves due process.
    • Ironically, despite being chaotic deities, the tricksters have a number of rules that they abide by. For instance, Tasio would love to help his "bestest friend", Eric, more often but Helping Would Be Kill Stealing. At the end of Looming Shadow, he remarks that he could, easily and on his own, deal with multiple enemies, including the Big Bad of the series. He doesn't because that invalidate a large chunk of the chaotic belief system.
  • Labyrinths of Echo: Sir Shurf Lonli-Lokli is the former Mad Fisher, a Drunk on the Dark Side magical maniac who made a lot of noise and destruction back in the already chaotic War of the Orders. His borderline Lawful Stupid current persona (born as a counterweight against the Fisher), however, makes him an indispensable servant of the law — handling paperwork, accumulating and juggling data almost on par with the buriwoks, mentoring rookies, and dealing very efficient death to his and his colleagues' enemies only when there is no other choice. His abilities first earn him the snowy-white honorary garments of Truth, and after the end of the first book series, his place as the new Grand Magician of the Order of the Seven-Leaf, where he's tasked to reform the now overly restrictive Khrember Code and kick the incompetent organization into shape.
  • Charles Stross's The Laundry Files: The entity known as Angleton is explored in the third book, The Fuller Memorandum. If he were ever unfettered, the results would be very bad for everyone. Fortunately, the Eater of Souls voluntarily accepts and prefers being a human — albeit a human of vast intelligence and terrifying sorcerous skill — to being its true self, saying that it makes life more interesting.
  • Jean Valjean of Les Misérables spends most of his time on the run from the law, but it doesn't stop him carrying out attention-drawing rescues and paying off prostitutes' debts should the need arise. However, Inspector Javert uses his commitment to justice much more than Valjean does to morality.
  • Gandalf and the Wizards in The Lord of the Rings are fettered by his charge not to interfere with Free Will, save for the treacherous Saruman. The Stewards of Gondor are fettered by the charge not to claim the crown for themselves but to keep it in trust. And even Denethor keeps this Heroic Vow. It is not clear what he would have done had Aragorn arrived before he died, but his nature indicates he took this charge seriously at least when he was in his right mind.
  • Zack State, the Sociopathic Hero of The Mental State, manages to be both this and The Unfettered at the same time. Despite going to great lengths to get what he wants, he does so by sticking to his own philosophies about people. He never harms the truly innocent, he uses temporary punishments to reform the misguided, and he inflicts continuous and unending punishments on those he determines as being 'irredeemable'. He never kills anyone, except in situations in which any form of punishment would achieve nothing (this only happens one time, when his enemy was a psychotic street thug with a predilection for violence). The only time his morals are called into question is when he is confronted by an 'Irredeemable' who also happens to be a good person at heart. He tends to regret having to punish them.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Percy Jackson, who makes a point of never permanently killing his opponents even though as a child of Poseidon he can easily kill just about anyone he likes. At the end of "The Last Olympian," Zeus gives him the opportunity to become a god himself, but he refuses.
  • Jean Tarrou, from The Plague has an Existentialist worldview that tells him to always do everything to save lives despite the apparent meaninglessness of such acts in the uncaring, absurd universe.
  • Shatter Point is all about Jedi Master Mace Windu struggling to come to terms with his status as the Fettered while fighting to end a brutal genocidal conflict on his home planet. Mace's Foil, Kar Vastor provides a mirror image while Mace deals with the constraints of the Jedi Code seemingly presenting him with To Be Lawful or Good choice after choice.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire
    • Ned Stark is utterly wedded to acting honourably, even if it puts him at a disadvantage. At the very end, he drops his honor for the sake of his family, but by then it's already far, far too late.
    • Played with in the case of Stannis Baratheon. On the one hand, he is a very honourable character, claiming the Iron Throne because he feels it is his duty, despite his relatively small force. However, his absolute devotion to the law and lack of charisma means he is disliked by most of the Seven Kingdoms, though those that know him well, like Ser Davos, greatly respect him. On the other hand, when it comes to the methods he is willing to use in order to complete his mission, he has a tendency to turn into the opposite of this trope — he has his own brother assassinated to ensure victory for his side, and he would have used a child as a Human Sacrifice if Ser Davos hadn't intervened.
    • Roose Bolton, one of Ned Stark's bannermen, is willing to stretch, bend, or even break the rules, but only does so when no one else is able to tell the tale. While he is definitely a sadistic monster, he fetters himself because he understands that openly sadistic monsters don't last long in Westeros.
    • Although she is not officially considered a knight because of her gender, Brienne of Tarth is nonetheless completely devoted to the ideals of chivalry, consistently striving to be a brave and just person who protects the weak and the innocent. She sticks to these principles even when doing so puts her in danger.
  • The Stormlight Archive:
    • Dalinar Kholin. He has dedicated himself to following the ancient Codes of War which have been forgotten for centuries, and ends up giving up his Cool Sword to a rival that tried to get him killed to save the slaves responsible for making sure he didn't get killed because he promised them he'd free them and it was the only thing his rival would accept in trade.
    • All Knigths Radiant as a whole have this built-in. To progress further, and thus unlock more magical power, they have to make more binding Oaths, and not upholding the Oaths means their power lapses. This being said, how much the Oaths fetter them depends on the order — a Windrunner like Kaladin loses access to his powers if he uses them without intending to help someone, while a Dustbringer like Malata can even directly aid the enemy who intends to destroy the world without lapsing.
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: According to Dr. Jekyll's recorded thoughts he, after going back and forth between the benevolent but conflicted Dr. Jekyll and the evil Mr. Hyde — upon realizing that Hyde has killed someone and is now, should he ever rise again, a fugitive "thrall to the gallows", he welcomes as never before with sincere belief and the support of fear Doctor Jekyll's restriction... buut it's not over.
  • Guy Crouchback in Evelyn Waugh's Sword of Honour. The point of the trilogy was that he was the only one who was honorable.
  • The Sunne in Splendour: Richard of Gloucester, the future Richard III, is this early in the book. He takes honor and loyalty very seriously, standing by his more pragmatic older brother Edward IV when it would benefit him not to and yet questioning Edward when he does less than honorable things or works with less honorable counselors. Even when he ruthlessly seizes the throne after Edward's early death, he does so by acting as a Rules Lawyer. It's when he starts to let go of some of his idealism that things start to go very badly for him.
  • The War Gods: Wencit of Rum, the last white wizard from Oath Of Swords (and sequels) is forced to recruit all sorts of unlikely characters to take out the henchmen of the evil wizards he fights because he won't use wizardry against non-wizards. He took a vow where his magic may only be used in self-defense or against dark wizards only when they've been read the equivalent of Miranda Rights asking them to desist in the use of Dark Magic. The Oath is sworn to a thousand-year dead empire with him as the only survivor, and he's still trying to enforce their law.
    • Which has not, however, stopped him from informing the evil wizards he fights that if they ever try to attack Leeana with magic again, he will raze their entire continent to the bedrock. And then do it again just to make sure nothing has survived.
  • In the serial superhero story Worm:
    • The villain Marquis is said to have derived a great deal of psychological strength from his rigid code of conduct.
    • The superhero Panacea, Marquis' daughter, has strict rules about how she'll use her powers, for what turn out to be very good reasons. Her power is essentially the ability to change and manipulate living matter however she pleases with a touch... and she uses it exclusively for healing wounds. She also swore that she would NEVER use this power to alter someone's brain, as she feels that altering someone's mind or personality is fundamentally wrong, not to mention the potential consequences if she were to make a mistake. She is ultimately forced to break that taboo to heal her adoptive father's brain damage. While successful in this, the fact that she did so serves only to break her spirit in turn and send her down a self-destructive path.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Helo from Battlestar Galactica (2003) is the complete opposite of Cain who is The Unfettered. He never forgot to be human and not stoop to the level of a barbarian or animal due to his situation.
  • Deconstructed with M.M. in The Boys (2019). He was The Reliable One with a strict moral code, but said code ends up serving as a massive roadblock to the team's success in Season 3. Homelander's psychotic issues and, you know, being indestructible forces Butcher to start considering dangerous & illegal means to take the Supe down because there is no legitimate way left to reign him in. Marvin's fetters prevent him from following Butcher, and they end up getting further tested when Butcher recruits Soldier Boy to help take down Homelander, both because Soldier Boy appears to be a violent murderer and, more importantly, he killed MM's family. This ends up forcing him into 10-Minute Retirement.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy tries to stop Willow's Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the Trio, as they are human criminals who should be judged by human laws. No doubt she had in mind her previous experience with Faith, who believed that being the Slayer meant she was above the law.
    Buffy: Being a slayer doesn't give me a license to kill. Warren's human.
    Dawn: So?
    Buffy: So the human world has its own rules for dealing with people like him—
    Xander: Yeah, we all know how well those rules work.
    Buffy: Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don't. We can't control the universe. If we were supposed to, then the magic wouldn't change Willow the way it does. And we'd be able to bring Tara back...
    Dawn: And mom.
    Buffy: There are limits to what we can do. There should be.
  • Despite being as nominal a hero as you can get, Dexter still qualifies as the Fettered, at least initially, due to his strict adherence to the Code of Harry, of which the two most important rules are "don't get caught" and "never kill an innocent". He becomes increasingly lax about the Code as the series goes on, however.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Doctor makes a point of not going back in time to change events in his own past. This varies depending on the Doctor. The First Doctor was quite adamant about changing history while the Tenth Doctor dared history to stop him. Eleven did so but only when he could Trick Out Time and thereby avoid damage.
    • It's possible and easy to do, but it damages space-time — it's like choosing not to drive a car when you're worried about your contribution to global warming. In "Earthshock", even though he could pop back in time to the bridge of the doomed freighter in order to scoop up Adric and get him out of harm's way, he refuses. He has already witnessed the destruction of the freighter with Adric aboard. How much of this is obeying legalistic/moral "law" and how much is literal physical law (we've seen really nasty metaphysical consequences from people crossing their own personal timeline and changing their own past before in the show) is up for discussion, as the Doctor rarely makes it completely clear when he refers to not breaking the Laws of Time which aspect he's referring to. Though it's worth noting that, in "The Waters of Mars", after actively choosing to outright change something he believes cannot be changed, his personality takes a very dark turn shortly after. In a sense, we watch him start throwing off the Fetters... and Evil Feels Good. At least until he gets a very rude awakening that shocks him back to his senses, as he realizes that You Can't Fight Fate.
      • The best example of the Doctor being this is in the 10th Doctor's final Heroic Sacrifice in "The End of Time". He can either sacrifice his current incarnation and save the life of an old man trapped in a room that's about to be flooded with radiation, or he can let the old man die. The Doctor shouts and rages against the unfairness of being "rewarded" with regeneration after all the good he's done, but he never once even contemplates saving his own skin. Even when the aforementioned old man tells the Doctor not to save him, then begs him not to, then shouts and screams at the Doctor to walk away and save himself, the Doctor still refuses to let it happen and chooses to take his place. "Wilf, it's my honour" — and he means every iota of both of the meanings of the word "honour", both that his honour was at stake if he didn't try to save Wilf, and that he feels honoured being called on to save a dear friend as his final act in that body.
    • A straight example is the Last Centurion, who must suppress the memories of what he has been for the sake of his own sanity and carry on as though he is just plain old Rory Williams — until things get really bad.
    • The Doctor outright acknowledges the fact that he has many self-imposed behavioral rules (not just time travel no-nos) in the Series 6 episode "A Good Man Goes to War". When Kovarian assumes that "the anger of a good man is not a problem" (apparently, she never heard what he did to the Family of Blood), he's quick to correct her.
      The Doctor: Good men don't need rules. Today is not the day to find out why I have so many.
    • The Time Lords could be seen to act like this as one of them can easily go From Nobody to Nightmare. The Doctor often criticised them for refusing to interfere, however considering earlier in the Classic Series they did seem more ready to interfere, this could be seen as a case of Strawman Has a Point.
      • This is taken up to another level in the web animation "Death Comes to Time" (generally considered non-canon). Here the Time Lords can warp reality but don't do so out of principle. That and the fact it causes the Universe to break down. At the end the Doctor finally uses his powers to kill Tannis, though apparently dies in the process.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • This is the main factor in making the Starks the most sympathetic Great House since in the beginning they are utterly wedded to love, honour, and justice. White and grey are even their House colours.
    • A Stark in all but name, Jon Snow won't hurt an innocent in cold blood. This blows his cover when the Wildlings force Jon to kill an old man to test his allegiance.
    • Daenerys Targaryen is an interesting example. Daenerys' personality is actually more suited to be The Unfettered, particularly when things aren't going her way. But she is aware of this, and aware it's a problem. So she actively cultivates a fettered personality and surrounds herself with advisors who are also The Fettered to keep her darker tendencies in check. One reason she started to like Jon Snow is that he advised her not what to do, but what would be crossing the line.
  • Archie Hopper / Jiminy Cricket in Once Upon a Time as he is... well... Jiminy Cricket, morality and virtue incarnate.
  • Finch, on Person of Interest is this. Despite operating in a world in which he is trying to prevent a second artificial intelligence from going online, he finds himself unable to take drastic action when it would prevent that scenario.
  • The Ancients from Stargate SG-1 take this to the point of deconstruction. As a race of beings who Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence, they're effectively The Omnipotent when dealing with corporeal beings. However, the most fundamental tenet of their morality is an extremely strict set of limitations on how they can use this power. In practice, this means that despite the kind of generally good intentions and incredible power that could make them the settings Big Good, they tend to be either Neglectful Precursors (who do nothing to protect "lower" beings from a host of dangers, including some the Ancients themselves released when they were corporeal) or outright Obstructive Bureaucrats who actively block attempts to help the main characters. It also leaves them open to Flaw Exploitation, as some of the show's villains know exactly how much havoc they can wreak, and how to wreak it, without crossing a line that would make the Ancients get involved.
  • Star Trek
    • The Federation in general adheres to this trope, as do most of the main characters. Picard is probably the best example, and also provides the show's most direct reference to this philosophy when Q refers to human nobility as a weakness, to which Picard replies, "On the contrary, it is a strength."
    • The Vulcans. In present times, they are tranquil scholars who go through elaborate mental disciplines to keep themselves from feeling emotion. Although they're too often written as a bunch of sticks-in-the-mud who need to loosen up, there are several episodes across the canon which demonstrate how necessary their emotional suppression and purgative meditation is. Spock has been known to crumple steel with one fist and Tuvok once gave a psychic anger junkie way more than he ever bargained for when he demanded to see what was under that stoicism. Even Enterprise, which was widely criticized for its Straw Vulcans, showed a subset of emotion-embracing Vulcans as dangerously misguided. It's noted that their history is even worse than humanity's, and when you think of some of the things humans have done to each other over the centuries, it's easy to see why Vulcans go to such lengths to keep it from happening again.
    • Worf exemplifies this among Klingons: while other Klingons are Large Ham Boisterous Bruisers, Worf is completely stoic and taciturn in sharp contrast. As revealed in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, this is because as a child growing up on a human colony after his parents were killed at Khitomer, his aggressive nature resulted in him accidentally killing another player in a grade school soccer match. He adopted his stolid demeanor afterwards as a means of protecting those around him, which would later serve him well, both as an important Starfleet officer and an exemplar of Klingon honor.

    Pro Wrestling 

  • Older Than Feudalism: In The Bible, Jesus Christ makes it very clear that if He wanted, He could stop His own crucifixion in any number of ways, but refuses to do so because He accepts His responsibility to fulfill the word of God and save mankind.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Changeling: The Lost, Pledges can make a Fettered character very powerful indeed. The strength of the boon is proportional to how committing the task and how strong the punishment if you fail are. In its most powerful form, it can turn a mortal with no prior martial skills into a master of kung-fu if pledged to fight to the death for you under pain of an inescapable and painful demise.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The Book of Exalted Deeds has a ruleset called the Sacred Vow. By taking a sacred vow, one could gain measurable in-game benefits. Taking vows at all requires a feat, and each vow has to be selected as an additional feat. Of particular note is the Vow of Poverty, which in a game that is focused on gaining equipment to become more powerful, would have to provide no small amount of benefit in order to be worthwhile — even with all the bonuses it piled on, it still isn't worthwhile past around level 6, because even awesome bonuses to various stats don't make up for lack of versatility. So it's only good for classes that can already be highly versatile without gear like metamagic rods or boots of teleport or antimagic torcs. So... useful on druids.
    • Paladins are not only Always Lawful Good, but they must adhere to a Code of Conduct that includes "respecting authority, acting with honor (not lying, not cheating, not using poison and so forth), helping those in need (provided that they do not use the help for evil or chaotic ends) and punishing those who hurt or threaten innocents." Any paladin that commits a grievous violation of this code loses all of their paladin abilities. The Code of Conduct was removed in 4th Edition for a couple of reasons: first, to open up the class to paladins following non-Lawful Good gods. And second, because Killer Game Masters often used the Code of Conduct to force unwilling Paladins to fall, setting up no-win scenarios that required the Paladin to commit a violation or citing the slightest misstep as an excuse.
    • Inevitables, Lawful Neutral sentient machines from the plane of Mechanus, are also bound by the quest they were designed to fulfill the second they are created. If they don't die in the process, they're disassembled upon completion anyways. They do go a little in the other direction when it comes to actually fulfilling that quest, however.
  • In Exalted, each type of Celestial Exalted has access to their own version of Righteous Lion Defense, a Charm that runs on this trope. It works by making a single emotional bond the Exalt has completely inviolable; they can't act against it themselves, and no one else can ever persuade them to do so, even with Mind Control Charms. Solars pick an Intimacy related to an all-encompassing ideal, Lunars pick one related to protecting a specific person, place, or thing, and Sidereals become absolutely devoted to carrying out a specific long-term plan (and can change to a new one when the first plan is complete).
    • Similarly, each Perfect Defense comes with one of the Four Flaws of Invulnerability, a condition based on one of the four guiding Virtues that you must fulfill if you wish to use the charm in the first place. If you choose Compassion, you can only use it when defending something you have an Intimacy towards; if you choose Conviction, you can't use it if you're going against your Motivation.
    • One passage in the Alchemicals book indicates that there are Soulsteel Caste secret police who refuse to let Clarity numb their empathy even as they do horrible things for the good of Autochthonia — because they're afraid that without that awareness, He Who Fights Monsters will kick in.
  • Genius: The Transgression: the Peerage exists mainly to instill a good healthy sense of fetters in Geniuses. They're much better at not getting people killed or having machines explode from Havoc if they bear in mind that they have obligations. You'd do this too if you had seen what The Unfettered were like in Genius.
  • Magic: The Gathering: In the "Shards of Alara" block, this is what best describes how the Bant (white-aligned) shard's "Exalted" mechanic works. In-story, Bantians gain magical sigils that represent past heroic deeds, as well as a bond of duty to the one who conferred the sigil, such as a lord, kingdom, or even an angel. In gameplay, if a creature attacks by itself, creatures with Exalted will confer a small stat pump to it. If a player controls several exalted creatures, this can get very painful, very fast. Magic as a whole is this. Lead designer Mark Rosewater has emphatically stated over the years that "restrictions breed creativity."
    • Yahenni of Kaladesh is one of the few Black-aligned Fettered in the game. They could survive almost indefinitely — a few aetherborn have the ability to drain life from others to survive, and Yahenni is one such. But they don't. Yahenni extends their life exactly long enough to help overthrow Tezzeret's Consulate police state, throws one hell of a Penultimate Party, and Dies Happily Ever After, rather than extend their life at the cost of others.
    • Although present in other colours, this is primarily a White-aligned trope.
  • In Scion the characters are this, gaining power from their Virtues, Legend, and sometimes their Fatebindings. However, in trying to resist following their virtue, they can potentially go crazy.
  • Sentinels of the Multiverse: Legacy is a duty-bound support hero who instinctively restricts his strength so as to minimise the amount of mayhem he creates. Of note, when he becomes The Unfettered, you end up with Iron Legacy, an unstoppable tyranny machine who can crush entire hero teams in three rounds.
    • Oddly enough, Wager Master is one as well. He may come up with the most ridiculous possible rules for the games he plays with heroes, but once the rules of a game are established, he will stick by them to the letter. This has led to him losing due to Exact Words more than once, and while he's a very Sore Loser, he won't try to take back his offers once he's lost.
  • In Unknown Armies from global level up, players can take on the powers of particular archetypal characters by certain behaviors. For instance, a person wishing to become a powerful fighter may stop shaving and start camping in the wilderness and hunting his food with his bare hands to become an avatar of The Savage. This makes him stronger, tougher, and eventually able to speak with animals. On the flip side, all archetypes have particular taboos that cut avatars off from their powers for a limited time and weaken their link to the archetype — in game terms, decreasing their skill. Savages, for instance, cannot deceive people or have more than the most basic technological skill. Certain archetypes can only be channeled by one sex.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Word Bearers are fanatics who live their lives by the Words of Lorgar, by which they achieve mastery over chaos. Or maybe, are deluded becoming its slaves. Either way, they are fettered.
    • The Eldar are also pretty good examples of the Fettered — the discipline provided by their codes keeps them on the straight and narrow.
    • Some Inquisitors and many loyal Space Marines also qualify.
      • More specific example: Zahariel in Descent of Angels, whose main motive in any circumstance has a 99% chance of being Duty.
    • The entire Tau race, with the Ethereal caste providing the fetter. Without it, they were on the verge of destroying themselves. With the Ethereals, they have conquered a significant area of space (still nothing compared to anyone), have a sort of Warp Drive Lite (99% less likely to lead to your horrific death at the hands of a daemon and only 7 times slower).

    Video Games 
  • Gibraltar of Apex Legends, aspires to be the great protector among the Legends. In the past he was quite the rebel, running with a gang of street toughs. However, his once selfish and reckless ways cost him dear and the pain of losing those closest to him, had him take up responsibility for his actions.
  • The Assassin Brotherhood from the aptly titled Assassin's Creed games. Every true Assassin is expected to follow their tenets, hide in plain sight, don't kill the innocent, and don't compromise the brotherhood. You'd think this stops them from doing wrong? Not exactly. By the time of Rogue, the Colonial Assassins were not just condescending jerks but unapologetic mass murderers of thousands. Since the previous (and later titles) portray the Assassins as the "Heroes", the truth is both the Assassins and the Templars are equally good and evil factions.
    • Inverted Trope: There have been moments, where despite being bound to the creed, the Assassins have been more The Unfettered depending on the individual. In Assassin's Creed II for example, Ezio spent most of his life, doing everything in his power to get revenge on the Templars. While the Colonial Assassins, didn't even care that they caused the earthquake that devastated Lisbon in 1755. Clearly the creed isn't conscriptive in any manner, with the ends justifying the means.
  • Disgaea 2's Adell, so much. If he makes a promise, he's not going to let pesky little things like "logic", "sanity", and "horrible, painful death" get in the way of that.
    • Valvatorez from the fourth game makes a point of following any oath or promise he makes down to the letter, regardless of how silly, unreasonable, or downright dangerous it is.
  • Disgaea 3 has Raspberyl and her Girl Posse Kyoko and Asuka, dedicated demon Delinquents who staunchly follow all the rules demons are supposed to break. They have to maintain their perfect attendance record and have their own self-imposed curfew, which keeps them from joining your party full-time until they graduate.
  • Dissidia Final Fantasy presents the Warrior of Light as one. He is bound quite tightly by his loyalty to Cosmos and devotion to Light, to the point that he is perfectly willing to repeat the events of the battle between Cosmos and Chaos unto infinity. If he gets the opportunity to Screw Destiny, he's going to take it, and save Garland in the process if he can.
    • Terra chooses not to use her full power most of the time, because she's scared of losing control. With good reason too, her powers are so incredible that she was specifically headhunted by Kefka to fight for the side of Chaos.
  • Dragon Age:
    • Alistair in Dragon Age: Origins can be seen very much in this light; he has been through a great deal and yet is still determined to struggle for the ideal. This is especially true if the player decides to make him king since he will do what is best for the country. The Warden can also be this, depending on player choices.
    • In the sequel games, Hawke and the Inquisitor can be played this way as well.
    • Varric Tethras, the narrator of the second game, has become this by the time of the third game. As the game unfolds, it becomes increasingly obvious that he is very weighed down by everything which has happened, and blames himself for far more than his fair share of the events. He takes some consolation from his assorted friendships, especially with his best friend Hawke, but it doesn't ease any of his fettered feeling.
  • In Dragon Quest IX, the main character is Fettered in one key way. No Celestrian may raise arms against or harm a superior. This becomes a serious issue later in the game.
  • The Greybeards and the Blades in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim are both examples of this, though they have very different goals. The Greybeards dedicate their lives to the "Way of the Voice", meditating on the meaning of the Thu'um instead of actually using it to accomplish anything. This makes sense since the Way was created by Jurgen Windcaller, who lost the Battle of Red Mountain presumably because of the Nords' over-reliance on the Voice, and is followed by the dragon Paarthurnax, who has spent thousands of years repressing his innate desire to dominate others, and the fact that the Thu'um is incredibly deadly to anyone without the power of the Voice. The Blades are dedicated to serving the Dragonborn and exterminating the Dragons, whom they see as Always Chaotic Evil they're right too — even the "good" dragon Paarthurnax they want you to kill says it's not a good idea to trust a Dragon. The Blades will actually cut off ties with you despite everything you've done for them if you refuse to kill Paarthurnax.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Paragon Shepard. S/he's an absolute badass in every way but everything that s/he does is done to make the galaxy safer. The ending of Mass Effect 2 illustrates this point perfectly: The Illusive Man tells Shepard to save the technology from the Collector Base, which will be a huge asset in the war against the Reapers. Paragon Shepard is disgusted — the technology is Powered by a Forsaken Child — and chooses to destroy it rather than compromise his/her values.
      Shepard: I won't let fear compromise who I am!
    • Samara is the fettered as well. She's a Paladin in Space whose code tells her what she must do in all cases. Her code is so extreme that when it calls for her to kill her daughter rather than risk allowing her daughter, who has a disease that turns her into a space vampire/succubus, Samara's only resolution to the impasse is to calmly place a gun to her own temple, and if not stopped, kill herself right in front of her daughter.
    • While their specific model is very different from Shepard's, and few Turians we see genuinely live up to it to the absolute (especially the Big Bad of the first game, who has abandoned almost the entire thing), this is the Turian ideal. Turian cultural ideas prize diligence, loyalty, valour, honesty, responsibility, and self-sacrifice to such an extent that their national anthem is called "Die for the Cause", and Turian soldiers will die to the last man rather than retreat unless that retreat is absolutely necessary for the overall war effort. The big difference is that Paragon Shepard's code prizes compassion as the chief virtue and loyalty to orders and authority is only valuable so long as it supports that, while the Turian code prizes absolute loyalty.
  • Mega Man (Classic). He can fight Dr. Wily (apparently using the logic of "You'd be surprised what you can live through"), but can't Just Shoot Him, as he's fettered by the first Law of Robotics. Were he ever to apply the Zeroth Law, however... (And he came dangerously close to acting on it, too!)
  • To go with the Havik example in The Unfettered, in Mortal Kombat, Knight Templar Hotaru, leader of the elite police force in Order Realm. So obsessed with upholding the law that he'll lock up his own friends until they're old and grey for a minor infraction.
  • Planescape: Torment:
    • Vhailor adheres to the Mercykillers' creed and his unflinching belief in justice and retribution. Anything else is a secondary concern, up to and including that trifle that he's been dead for the last century or so and the fact that he's lost most of his memories. If you actually point the former out to him, his reply is essentially that while there are criminals still alive to punish he's not about to take time off simply so he can obey the laws of physics. If you take the time to describe the Final Boss' sins to him, his belief that said sins merit punishment actually makes him more powerful for that fight.
    • Fall-from-Grace as a risen demoness is the fettered by her own rejection of her old values in favor of her esoteric interpretation of the Society of Sensation's epicurean creed. Dak'kon is the fettered in his utter devotion to the religious teachings of the Unbroken Circle and his oath to continue to serve The Nameless One — made before he knew TNO could not die.
  • In Pokémon Sword and Shield, Piers, the Dark-type Gym Leader from Spikemuth, does not use Dynamaxing. Part of the reason why is because Spikemuth lacks a Power Spot necessary for Dynamaxing, but another part of it is staunch refusal: even in stadiums where Dynamaxing is possible, he will insist on battling without it and relying on the natural strength and cunning of his Pokémon. Even without Dynamaxing, he is a formidable opponent, being the penultimate Gym Leader in the game and only losing in the finals to Raihan, the final Gym Leader and rival to the Champion Leon (and even then, Raihan states that his battle with Piers was a close one).
  • The eponymous character of Sonic The Hedgehog. He has two rules, live life to the fullest and freest and have fun doing it. He will never ignore a plea for help and always acts on his personal feelings to the very end. When confronted with a villain who wishes to use dark magic to preserve her land eternally, Sonic confronts her and tells her that a world that goes on forever is meaningless and that all things have to end eventually but to be happy with the time we have left rather than despair at the inevitable.
  • Tales of Berseria has Eleanor, fettered by her devotion to the Abbey's ideals of helping and caring for her fellow man even after she cuts ties with the organization upon realizing their leadership resort to methods she finds abhorrent. This is in contrast to Velvet, whose unchecked rampage helps the world by complete accident.
  • Tales of Symphonia gives us Colette. She knows from the beginning the 'angel' is lying to her, and that she will have to die and lose her mind and memories for the world, yet she just keeps going. She also hides the fact that she gradually loses all kind of feeling and sensation so well that no one except Lloyd realizes this until she loses the ability to speak!
  • Warcraft III has Prince Arthas, devoted to his kingdom, who makes the wrong choice when faced with good vs lawful vengance at the end of the human campaign as a result of being majorly played by the Lich King
    • World of Warcraft has Tirion Fordring, the SERIOUSLY fettered. By honor, which is something only he himself can truly define, therefore he comes into conflict with his defected Death Knight partner, Darion, quite often. They even have an exchange where Darion says they should try using the Lich King's own tactics against him, which Tirion vehemently vetoes, stating that if they did, they'd be no better than the Lich King and that they would win the fight with honor or not at all.
    • Thrall can be seen as this in his battle against Garrosh (the first battle, in the Orgrimmar arena). Thrall has godlike shamanic abilities, and yet only uses melee combat against Garrosh, likely since he only wants to teach Garrosh a lesson and not really hurt him, since Garrosh is his best friend's son. In their final fight, however, Thrall AND Garrosh have both become The Unfettered and deliver a glorious beatdown to each other, with the godlike Thrall coming out on top in a Curb-Stomp Battle when he finally uses his full power.
      • It turns out that using magic in a traditional orcish duel is forbidden, Thrall loses his status as the World Shaman as a result.

    Visual Novels 
  • Miles Edgeworth of the Ace Attorney franchise. More so following the events of the first game.
    • The Judge from the same series. Normally he's a punching bag, letting the prosecutors push him (and the defense) around, but he's sworn to uphold the law. When someone pushes too hard on those limits, he makes it clear that they are not the real power in the courtroom. There's a reason he's known for delivering the right verdict.
  • Moe Mortelli from Daughter for Dessert, despite being kind of creepy, has a sense of honor, duty, and justice, and he will not deviate from it.
  • Shirou from Fate/stay night, even if said ideals tend to be somewhat naive, is a prime example of the Fettered. He can only use his magic specialty because of his ideals and because he puts no value on his own life.
    • The "Superhero" bad ending demonstrates how his ideal of protecting others could transform him into a villain when he chooses to kill Sakura and likely his other magi allies in order to protect Fuyuki as a whole.
    • Saber lived according to a strict code of honor and the belief that the ideal king must not be tainted by human weaknesses such as emotion. While this made her an ideal king when it came to leading her armies or ruling the country, she became alienated from the people and her allies, leading to the civil wars that finally destroyed her kingdom and killed her.
    • Archer lived his entire life as the Fettered and was eventually alienated from others due to their inability to understand his desire to save everyone. In the end, his own ideal betrayed him as it led him to become a Counter-Guardian, forcing him to spend all of eternity slaughtering people whose actions threatened humanity.

    Web Animation 
  • FilmCow parodies this with Agent Kitkat, a spy who is very ineffective at spying because he is way too nice and doesn't like lying.

  • Ben about his character Obi-Wan Kenobi in Darths & Droids, during the final confrontation with Anakin:
    Ben: I wrote "Good" on my character sheet and I jolly well meant it! Unlike some people!
  • Freefall has two characters who are like this, both of whom are Uplifted Animals. Though theoretically constrained artificial by neural programming, both have actually broken and subverted their imposed restraints, to some extent, but choose to uphold personal codes and otherwise restrain themselves to be good people.
  • Girl Genius gets Zulenna, a haughty princess. Nothing special, right?.. It turns out that she takes her clan's obligations very, very seriously.
  • Equius of Homestuck is so STRONG that he could defeat anyone if he wanted to. Unfortunately, he's so bound by his extreme loyalty to the trolls' blood-based hierarchy that he doesn't even try to prevent Gamzee from strangling him, because Gamzee ranks higher than he does.

    Western Animation 
  • Aang from Avatar: The Last Airbender definitely is this. He is the Master of All Four Elements, with near God-Like powers at times, and he could do whatever he wants. However, his own personal adherence to the sanctity of life means that he refuses to kill deliberately — he won't even kill Fire Lord Ozai, a man who was willing to commit complete genocide of an entire people. In the end, he is about to kill him, and would have, if he had not stopped himself. Instead, his purity of spirit allowed him to bend Ozai's spirit and destroy his bending.
    Aang: [stops himself from delivering final blow] No. I'm not going to end it like this.
    Ozai: [strangely disdainful] Even with all the power in the world, you are still weak!
  • In Justice League, The Flash is shown to be this. With the Speed Force, he's casually able to alter reality, alter time, and vibrate through solid matter, including vibrating his fingers through a person's skull to kill them. However doing this could outright destroy the world, so he holds himself back and typically limits himself to excessive speed unless there's just no other way. In The Great Brain Robbery, Lex Luthor in Flash's body and without such concerns is easily able to use this power to lay waste to the Watchtower and be a match for the entire Justice League.
    Red Tornado: His vibrations create an unstable resonance.
    Green Lantern: Which is why the real Flash doesn't do it!
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: Rainbow Dash proves herself to be fettered in the episode "Wonderbolts Academy". Her flying abilities are such that she can simultaneously break the sound barrier and visible spectrum, and she's always out to prove that she's the best flyer and athlete in Equestria, but she absolutely refuses to do so in such a way that risks causing harm to other ponies — even at the expense of her dreams. This is the result of Character Development in many ways. In the early seasons, she drifted closer to the unfettered; though good-aligned she laughed off the concept of limits and was disdainful of any authority over her. "Wonderbolts Academy" indicated a turning point for her, and since then she's made an effort to live up to the more Officer and a Gentleman ideals of the Equestria military.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars has Obi-Wan make reference to this trope in his rebuttal to Darth Maul's attempt to Break Them by Talking.
    Obi-Wan: You can kill me, but you'll never destroy me. It takes strength to resist The Dark Side. Only the weak embrace it!
    Maul: It is more powerful than you know.
    Obi-Wan: And those who oppose it are more powerful than you'll ever be.
  • Traditionally, most of the Autobots from Transformers are this by default. Under the guidance of Optimus Prime (or whoever takes over from him), they are sworn not to harm any sentient life, in this case humanity. Though this makes them benevolent protectors, the Decepticons have used this rule against them from time-to-time. Nevertheless, they prefer to stay hidden and not purposely interfere with human life, unless it was absolutely necessary.


Video Example(s):


I'll Never Come Back

After Jason begs for Bruce to kill the Joker for killing him, Bruce redacts by stating that if he does, he'll be going against his code of conduct as a vigilante.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (25 votes)

Example of:

Main / TheFettered

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