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The Scrounger

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"He'd come up with a baby elephant if the men needed it."
The Great Escape trailer voiceover

This is the character who magically comes up with hard-to-get supplies from the Black Market or a secret connection whenever The Captain or Caper Crew needs them. He has similarities to the Intrepid Merchant, and indeed may be one of his crew. However, he tends to be seen in military shows, especially military comedy where there's no need to question how he comes up with the goods. May be officially described as responsible for "field acquisitions".

The Scrounger is seldom The Captain himself, but a crucial member of the squad. The Captain loves the Scrounger if he can get crucial mission gear overnight that the army's Obstructive Bureaucrat requires weeks and a sheaf of forms to get, or if the Scrounger provides him with access to luxuries like imported cigars or scotch. The Captain may turn a blind eye if the Scrounger 's cigarettes and pinup magazines are boosting morale. On the other hand, if the Scrounger is fleecing the men with costly trinkets or weakening their performance with too much moonshine, the Captain may view the Scrounger as a problem.

Just don't ask where he finds this stuff. It Fell Off the Back of a Truck or just appeared at the loading dock. No, it has nothing to do with the pallets reported missing last night. His natural antagonists are the Military Police, who are scouring the base for contraband, and the rule-obsessed Quartermaster, who wants to see the triplicate-signed requisition forms. He may source some items from another unit's Corrupt Quartermaster, who can "lose" a pallet in transit for the right bribe.

May overlap with the Military Moonshiner, or deal with him to get the parts needed for the illicit hooch still. In addition to military settings, the Scrounger is found in prisons and summer camps.

May overlap with Knowledge Broker if they also do this with information; both of these are favoured professions for The Rat. Can be the answer to the question, "Where Does He Get All Those Wonderful Toys?" If he makes you pay for it, he's your Friend in the Black Market, and if the goods aren't up to scratch then he's an Honest John.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Area 88: McCoy combines this with Honest John's Dealership. He is especially good at acquiring hard-to-find aircraft and claims to be able to deliver the Kremlin if given enough cash, and at the height of the Cold War, no less.
  • Doraemon: Has a fourth-dimensional pocket full of stuff—but because he's horribly disorganized, he occasionally can't find what he wants and he owns a frightening amount of useless gadgets.
  • Eden of the East: Juiz can provide those who can contact her with anything money can buy, whether these things are legal or not.
  • Mother Keeper: Zelik appears to be this for Graham and Silas, for example in Syal's backstory, Zelik brings Silas Syal, who is just the kind of slave he's been looking for.

    Comic Books 
  • In IDW's G.I. Joe series, the G.I. Joe program has its budget severely cut and Hawk is removed from being its commanding officer. Hawk tells his replacement Duke that, with its reduced circumstances, what the Joes need is a good scrounger. As one of his last acts, he recruits Billdocker (an Air Force master sergeant) to fill that role.
  • Bill Mauldin's Willie and Joe are this to an extent. They are shown loaded down with extra equipment, to the point where one tells the other, "You're tired 'cause you carry too much stuff. Throw the joker outta your pack of cards."
  • Robin: After Tim finally convinces Jack to support him as Robin and Jack asks how he can help as the city is falling apart in a gang war Tim sends him and Dana to aid Leslie at the clinic where he puts to use his former army skill of being able to track things down when people need them.
  • Just prior to Batman: No Man's Land, Blackgate prison had an inmate called Shoppie who ran a little business out of his cell with a wide variety of wares. It's left to your imagination where he gets any of it, especially since he's said to never leave his cell.

    Fan Works 
  • Lt. Kirce James in the Tiberium Wars fanfic is described as self-important and irritating but her commander still has a grudging respect for her because she was able to scrounge up high-tech equipment, Kill Sat support, troops and Mammoth Tanks on vital moments.
  • In Weres Harry Peter Pettigrew described his role in the Marauders as supplier of goods and information.
  • In All Guardsmen Party, this is one of the few reasons Nubby hasn't been kicked out of the squad.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Flying Leathernecks, the supply situation on Guadalcanal is a disaster, so Master Sergeant Clancy scrounges whatever he needs to keep Major Dan Kirby's Wildcats in the air — tents for the men, spare parts for the planes, a washing machine that he repurposes as a mechanical fuel pump, and once even a birthday cake on a day when the squadron needs a morale boost.
  • The Great Escape: Hendly "The Scrounger" (James Garner). Truth in Television. Garner served in the US 24th Infantry Division in the Korean War, where he was wounded twice. He described himself as the unit "scrounger".
  • The Green Berets: Sgt. Petersen's (Jim Hutton) first assignment as a Green Beret was to get back from his previous unit everything he had scrounged from the Berets.
  • Kelly's Heroes: Crapgame is the hands-off sort; he doesn't go get stuff himself, but he knows who to call, and what to offer in exchange to get it. As is often the case, he's also the unit's Supply Sergeant, so he has official channels to use as well as his unofficial ones.
  • In The Manhunt, Wayne's cellmate in prison seems able to get his hands on almost anything, including cigarettes, cigars, and whiskey.
  • Miracle on 34th Street: Kris Kringle is this. He apparently knows where to purchase anything - even specific and expensive medical equipment.
  • Operation Petticoat: LT. Holden (Tony Curtis). Highlighted by another crew member when Lt. Holden brings aboard several stranded Army nurses, "Now that's what I call scavenging!!"
    • He also manages to procure replacement parts for the submarine by setting up a crooked casino and buying stolen parts from the Army with casino chips. This leads to the line, "Henceforth, you shall refer to the casino as 'The Supply Depot.'"
  • Purple Hearts: Navy nurse LTJG Deborah Solomon (Cheryl Ladd).
  • The Shawshank Redemption. From inside a prison, Red (Morgan Freeman) gets a rock-hammer and a poster of Rita Hayworth, among other things
  • A Very Long Engagement: Célestin Poux, famed throughout the rank and file for pulling various tricks in order to keep the troops supplied with food.

    Literature 
  • X-Wing Series:
    • Rogue Squadron ended up with M-3PO or "Emtrey," a military protocol droid versed in the rules and regulations of six million military organizations. But the rebel who put him together included a special personality that activated whenever Emtrey was told to "scrounge up something," turning him from a fussy bureaucrat to a streetwise quartermaster able to circumvent the law to get what the squadron needed. And this was actually a plot point - several members of New Republic Intelligence knew about Emtrey's "scrounger mode," but put him with the squadron as bait for a suspected mole to use. After that was resolved, Emtrey's less-legal programming was dialed back for security concerns, since he would base his buying and selling prices based on the anticipated consequences of the Rogues' upcoming operations.
    • Though they rarely relied on this trope, Wraith Squadron officially split "field requisitions" between its real quartermaster and ex-thief Falynn Sandskimmer. They weren't much for scavenging, overall, preferring the simplicity of stealing enemy materiel (sometimes while the enemy was still using it).
  • Gunner Jurgen from Ciaphas Cain. He's shown a great deal of skill at finding or 'acquiring' things that Cain needs, even before he knows he needs them. Cain has a personal policy of not asking questions about this in case he learns something he doesn't want to know, but assumes Jurgen is making his own life more comfortable as well. In a short story from Jurgen's perspective he goes through a quartermaster's stock so thoroughly the guy thinks he's being audited.
  • Obergefreiter Joseph Porta, from the novels by Sven Hassel.
  • Harry Turtledove:
    • Pete "Dracula" Szábo from the Worldwar series is described as "the best scrounger I've seen, and I saw some real pros during WWI", by his field-promoted lieutenant who often benefits from this, since "keeping the Lt. happy is a legitimate business expense for a scrounger".
    • As a Confederate Army quartermaster, restaurant manager Jerry Dover in the Timeline-191 series proves to be a master scrounger for an entire military theater of action.
    • Also from TL-191, we have the corpsman named Eddie from Dr. O'Doull's field hospital. He scrounges a trombone for a fellow medic a few days after learning he was a professional trombonist in civilian life.
  • Milo from Catch-22. No matter what you want, he will get it for you, as long as you pay the price.
  • Discworld:
    • Nobby Nobbs is a petty thief and police officer who is known as the person to ask when you need anything important or if its missing. If he wasn't the one to steal it, he knows and/or is usually related to the person who did. He does this so predictably that other Watch characters occasionally leave things in the evidence locker to avoid taking the trouble of throwing them away.
    • Also one of the many high-quality services provided by Igors. After all, the Mad Scientist can't be running around all the time looking for copper tubing, turnips, and useable corpses. Of course, they do all of their best "shopping" at night, in the rain.
  • Stanislaus "Kat" Katczinsky from All Quiet on the Western Front, whose ability to find decent food and shelter is treated as something of a sixth sense. Notably, it's a sign of how bad things have gotten when he can't rustle up anything.
  • The Finn from Neuromancer, and William Gibson's other stories, is pretty much defined by this trope. He is never even seen leaving his apartment, but somehow has it crammed to the ceiling with useful computer parts and cyber technology and useful information to sell the various antiheroes in the Sprawl world. When asked where he got a piece of equipment or how he learned a valuable piece of information, his reply (at least twice) is, "You know how many times I've been asked that? You know how many times I'd be dead if I answered?"
  • In John Hemry's Paul Sinclair novel A Just Determination, at the trial, Sup is asked whether he is strict about regulations, and explains that he is a good supply officer. One of the members interjects to explain that everyone knows that good supply officers get what is needed rather than worry strictly about regulations.
    • Sykes is noted as being a particularly good supply officer, willing to go the extra mile to ensure that the ship has all it needs to perform its tasks, in spite of his apparently being a slacker.
  • In Rose Under Fire, Elodie is able to procure socks, a toothbrush, sanitary pads, and many other things while a prisoner in a concentration camp.
  • The titular King in James Clavell's King Rat is this for the Japanese POW camp he's in, to the extent that he effectively rules the prisoners through his influence.
  • In Sixteen Ways To Defend A Walled City, Orhan is one of the rare cases where the scrounger is also the unit's commanding officer. As a matter of fact, it was Orhan's uncanny ability to lie, cheat, steal, embezzle, etc., in order to keep the engineers' regiment supplied despite the shortages and the imperial bureaucracy that made him rise through the ranks to Colonel, despite his race and being a former slave. The novel opens with a lengthy paragraph wherein Orhan describes how to go through official channels to acquiere sixty miles of hemp rope, and then how he does it.
  • The Unknown Soldier gave us Pvt. Rahikainen. Rahikainen never participates in any meaningful fighting, but no-one makes a fuss since they know that Rahikainen's skills are all that stands between them and starvation.
  • Tucker Mouse in The Cricket in Times Square considers this his official career, as he works his subway-station home for interesting human cast-offs.
  • A Practical Guide to Evil: Ratface is this for the Rat Company, and later for the fifteenth legion of the Legions of Terror. He has business contacts with smugglers, can produce enough weapons to arm a squad in a city where carrying arms is forbidden, got nearly the double amount of goblin munitions for his legion, and always, always supplies his commanding officer with her favorite wine so she doesn't question his means of acquisition.
  • In The Lost Fleet, Master Chief Gionnini is a master at acquiring supplies and equipment that are otherwise impossible to find. Captain Desjani notes that she tolerates his illegal wheeling and dealing specifically because of his ability to produce whatever her ship might need whenever it needs it most. Captain Smythe of the auxiliaries division is also very good at finding things that fell off the back of a shuttle.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The genius engineer Seamus Zelazny Harper from Andromeda is both a Mr. Fixit and this trope, as he grew up on Earth, a hellhole of a planet where the remaining population was enslaved by the genetically-enhanced Nietzscheans and preyed on by raiding troups of the man-eating Magog. Consequently, Harper grew up as a thief, loyal only to people who treat him well, trying to survive at all costs and willing to swindle and steal equipment at gun-point if the crew needs it.
  • Templeton 'Faceman' Peck from The A-Team. One particular Noodle Incident that is mentioned on the series was him getting a top-of-the-line Cadillac while behind enemy lines straight in the middle of The Vietnam War for a mission (Face's answer when he's asked how he got it? "Trade secret").
  • Pat Cleary from ANZACs.
  • Sam Axe in Burn Notice.
    • Unless what's needed is a weapon. For those, ask Fiona.
      • Barry the Money Launderer on the same show.
      • The mother occasionally finds stuff too, mostly old memories related, sometimes other things. Micheal Weston isn't too bad at finding stuff either.
  • To some extent, Private Walker from Dad's Army. He's able to get supplies and occasional off-the-ration meat on the black market. Captain Mainwaring usually turns a blind eye to the illegality because Walker's acquisitions are so useful to the Home Guard regiment.
    • Also occasionally L/Cpl Jones, who can sometimes obtain off-the-record meat.
  • Ash the "fixer" from Hustle
  • Corporal Walter Eugene 'Radar' O'Reilly from M*A*S*H was definitely The Scrounger, and a Knowledge Broker in that he seemed to know everyone important in the Army (supply officers and secretaries, that is, people who actually did stuff and could lay their hands on stuff, instead of the high military brass). Radar is not a Mr. Fixit, however.
    • His successor, Sergeant Maxwell Q. Klinger was able to wheel and deal with the best of them, explicitly calling himself a "scrounge".
    • Then there's one-episode character Sergeant Rhoden from supply at headquarters in Seoul, who goes by the trope name - and lives up to his reputation.
  • Between them, if you gave them enough time and resources Garak and Quark could probably come up with anything you need on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
    • Nog too. Lampshaded in "Treachery, Faith, and the Great River".
      Nog: Hey, I may be in Starfleet but (taps ears) I'm still Ferengi.
      Quark: Hope for you yet Nog.
  • Neelix fills a similar role on Star Trek: Voyager, where it is crucial due to the ship's limited resupply opportunities.
  • Corporals Lebeau and Newkirk from Hogan's Heroes; Lebeau specializes in food, both to supply the Heroes with actual nutrition and to bribe German soldiers with gourmet French cooking, while Newkirk makes a tidy living on various black market contraband such as radios, watches, German clothes and uniforms, and memorabilia stolen from some of Germany's top brass (such as a cigarette lighter he nicked from Herman Goering or a beer stein from Adolf Hilter's personal collection).
  • SAS: Rogue Heroes
    • Jock Lewes is introduced stealing a load of parachutes from the docks at Tobruk, despite the crate being labelled with DANGEROUS REPTILES! to discourage this trope. They then get hold an airplane without authorisation, which backfires because it hasn't been modified for parachute jumping.
    • When David Stirling proposes his raiding force, the generals inform him that there are no vehicles to spare. He informs them that they will steal their own—first from their allies, then the Germans and Italians. He's not joking—after their disastrous first mission the unit needs a resupply, so rather than return to Cairo where they will likely be stood down, they raid a mostly deserted base for New Zealand troops and steal weapons, trucks and booze. And a piano.
  • C-Note in Prison Break can get you anything on the inside for 100$

    Religion 
  • The Bible: In the Book of Proverbs the ideal of a Virtuous Woman is described. Among the qualities described are that she is tireless, good at business, keeps a tight ship at home, knows her way about the bazaar, and is very good at being The Scrounger.

    Tabletop Games 
  • This conversation from GURPS Traveller 3e Ground Forces is too funny not to share.
    Lt. Dylan: Explain it to me again, Sergeant, and do it slowly.
    Sgt. Dollar: Certainly, sir. We are 450 units short on Mk52 Medikits, Individual, but the 6,943rd Separate Evac has that many, so I'm going to make a trade with the 2nd Highpoint Lancers.
    Lt. Dylan: Call me slow, Sergeant, but why are you trading with the Lancers if the medicos have what we need?
    Sgt. Dollar: That's simple, sir; they don't want the M-348A2 stabilizers, but they do want several bottles of Glisten vodka and some real limes. The Lancers just got several cases.
    Lt. Dylan: [starting to visibly lose it] And why do we, an [infantry] unit, have stabilizers for [heavy grav tank] main guns?
    Sgt. Dollar: [shamelessly] Beats me, sir. They were already buried under the parade ground when we got here.
    • Any character with the aptly named Scrounging skill can be this.
  • Weird Wars setting for Savage Worlds has this exact Edge available, complete with the system as to what and how much exactly a Scrounger can appropriate per session. Correctly identifying Scroungers of neighbor friendly squads and keeping them away from your position is a subgame.
  • In Shadowrun, the Jackpointer known as Mika was this during his conscription. It should be pointed out that his skill as a scrounger got him his nickname, which means "Intelligent Raccoon" in Lakota.
  • A few character types in Dungeons & Dragons can do this. For instance, as a class feature, a Menacing Brute can try to find a nonmagical, non-masterwork piece of equipment in this manner once per day, with more expensive items requiring more time, a larger community, and a more difficult skill check.
  • Similarly, Pathfinder has this as an ability for halflings, effectively codifying the old "Honestly GM, I totally picked up one of those at the last settlement" trick.
  • The player team can indulge in this in Only War, the Imperial Guard-focused Warhammer 40,000 RPG. Sometimes, it's for a minor thing like quality liquor. Other times, it's for customized gear, heavy weapons, or other such toys. On occasion, though, it's because the Munitorum screwed up your special kit and you need to barter for explosives, hazard gear, or other special equipment just to do your job.
  • Rocket Age has Scavenger as a profession. Their abilities allow them to find just about anything mundane, or build it from scrap if they can't.
  • A good scrounger is an essential part of any Twilight: 2000 unit, as supply lines are nonexistent at this point. Griffiths, in the background story, is described as being able to "find roast chicken and mashed potatoes in the Sahara."
    He called Griffith over and told him we needed some tubing for the still. "What kind?" he said. "Copper would be nice," I said. Eight hours later he's back with 15 feet of copper tubing and an almost-new truck battery with a full charge on it as a bonus.
  • In the second Source book for Mutant: Year Zero, the character class titled Scavenger allows players to take on this sort of role.

    Video Games 
  • In all likelihood, any player character in a post-apocalyptic setting will be this, coming up with just what's needed in a given situation, no matter what the likelihood of doing so is, or how rare the item in question might be. Odds are that you'll have to root around in an abandoned building to get that thing you need to make it through the night, assuming you can't just cobble something together from bits of scrap, and even then that scrap has to come from somewhere.
  • Half the point of This War of Mine: trapped in a warzone and unable to leave, you'd better learn very quickly how to scrounge what you need to survive, or you...won't. Marko, one of the twelve available characters, is an expert scavenger.
  • Characters in Darkest Dungeon can get [Region] Scrounger traits - Weald Scrounger, for example. There's also the Antiquarian character class, whose direct combat power is low, but makes up for it by scavenging for replacement expendable items and grabbing valuable items from around the adventure area.
  • In Bioshock Infinite the escorted character Elizabeth can assist player character Booker throughout the game by tossing him money, ammo and other pickups she seemingly manages to find in the area. It seems odd because, besides having researched lockpicking, she's a shut in who shouldn't have any actual experience doing so. Eventually it's downplayed but justified, as she's pulling supplies from parallel realities.

    Visual Novels 
  • Double Homework: Behind all the drugs on the yacht, Lauren finds some odds and ends of food for everyone, and manages to cook a delicious chili out of it.

    Webcomics 

    Western Animation 
  • Chicken Run: As part of the general prisoner of war pastiche, the film features a duo of rats serving this role, obtaining items needed for the chickens' escape attempt, mostly by stealing them from the Tweedys' house.
  • Johnny Test: Lampshaded in one episode where Johnny and the other kids of Porkbelly are trapped inside a prison-themed video game. Johnny and Dukey do multiple deals with the "scroungy dude" to try and escape (all of which fail miserably).

    Real Life 
  • Xiel Federmann described as "The Santa Claus of the Haganah" provided munitions and supplies by all sorts of rather convoluted means.
  • The Finnish Army had to depend on these types to remain in the field during the Winter War.
  • Benjamin Franklin. This was a large part of his job in France.
  • In 1943, OSS agent John Caskey arrived in Turkey with $5000 to finance the supply of Greek partisans. Upon asking the US Ambassador how to convert this into gold he was told to go see Earle Taylor who went into the bazaar and somehow came up with the coins even though it was a weekend and the moneychangers were all resting. Somehow the gold was obtained (for a twenty-percent fee as Earle apparently believed in making patriotism pay ). No one was quite sure how he got the gold that quickly.
  • In the restaurant business, these guys are sometimes known as débrouillardsnote , and their often-sketchy methods of getting you out of the weeds by any means necessary is called Système D. Tony Bourdain has written fondly of such people (including Steven Temple, his ethically challenged but ruthlessly effective sous-chef when he was writing Kitchen Confidential). It's frequently best not to ask how they managed to get that case of tomatoes at 11pm though.

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