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Utility Party Member

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"You take care of the orcs, I take care of the traps."
Mr. Welch, playing a D&D thief

Player Party-based Role-Playing Games, of both tabletop and computer varieties, often feature combat as a core gameplay element, where each party member has a specific role, such as the Damager, Healer, Tank trifecta. However, in games that also feature a non-combat skill system, an additional archetype emerges that is defined not by its combat specialization, but by its mastery of a variety of skills that the party may need outside of combat. This trope is about such party members (also known as "skill monkeys" among D&D players).

In a broader sense, a Utility Party Member is any character who occupies an active party slot and lowers the party's overall battle-readiness, but their usefulness outside of combat makes their inclusion a good trade-off.

This is a gender-neutral subtrope of Non-Action Guy and, in many video games, of Non-Player Companion. The most common subtype found in Dungeon Crawling games is a Master of Unlocking; in rarer cases, their primary role may be a Human Pack Mule or Sensor Character. May overlap with the Quirky Bard, The Smart Guy, or The Face (when they focus on diplomacy and/or haggling). If their utility is about using items better than anyone else, they're an Item Caddy. Compare The Medic, whose main function is to heal, not to fight (though a Combat Medic tries to strike a balance).

The closest Real Life equivalents are the many support vocations found in most modern military formations. Engineers, signalers, medics, logistical support troops, and the like can fight if pressed but they are best employed in their designated roles.

Not to be confused with a Support Party Member, who, unlike a UPM, does shine in combat, just not by dishing out or tanking damage. See also Mechanically Unusual Class (which Utility Party Members may be), Utility Weapon, and Ability Required to Proceed (which Utility Party Members may have).


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    RPG — Eastern 
  • Pokémon:
    • Mainline games prior to Generation VII had certain moves double as field moves called "Hidden Machines" or "HMs", and you were required to teach them to a party Pokémon in order to traverse the overworld. Some of them are good moves in their own right, such as Surf, which is the most powerful 100% accuracy Water-type move in the game. Most, however, were only useful as navigation tools and had minimal utility in battle, the most infamous being Flash, an accuracy-reducing move that itself had poor accuracy prior to Gen IV. As a result, many players capture a Mon that can learn most of themnote , letting their other five monsters keep their movesets completely geared for battle.
    • "Catchers" (Mons with a moveset of False Swipe, a move or ability that prevents opponents from escaping and either a paralysis or sleep-inducing move) are not capable of defeating anything, but that's the entire point. Their job is to lower a wild Pokémon's health as much as possible and inflict it with a status aliment so that catching is almost guaranteed.
  • Wrestlers in Disgaea 5 have average combat potential, but have the highest throwing range of all the humanoid classes and they can even lift and throw multiple times a turn if they don't move. The first unique Wrestler you recruit, Logan, comes with an Overload that doubles his throw range, which makes him great for certain maps even if you don't use him for combat at all.
    • In other Disgaea games, Knights are this. Their high defense is usually irrelevant lategame due to poor stat balancing, so Knights are instead utilized for their throwing range, which is always the highest of any class except for the Disgaea 5-exclusive Wrestlers.
    • In versions of Disgaea 2 released after the Playstation 2 original, Angels and Copy Robots are coveted for their enormous natural movement range and ability to fly over enemies and obstacles, which allows them to easily and rapidly clear maps that simply require you to reach a certain location with any unit.
  • Golden Sun: It's possible (but frankly stupid) to make one character hold all the non-combat Psynergy-bestowing items (such as freezing water into ice pillars or lifting boulders out of the way). Stupid because the game averts Bag of Sharing, every character has at least one non-combat skill that sees regular use, and mana is regenerated by walking around, making it more efficient to spread it around the party.
  • In Uncharted Waters: New Horizons, you have to recruit mates to have more than one ship in your fleet. In addition to the navigators, you can also appoint mates to non-combat roles that let them bring their special skills to the table without ever participating in battles. For instance, a Chief Navigator with the Celestial Navigation perk allows you to auto-sail to any known port, while a Book Keeper with Accounting and Negotiation helps you get better prices for your goods at the market.
  • In Fire Emblem:
    • Thieves and dancers/bards tend to be this. Their combat skills are lacking (in the latter's case, they sometimes can't fight at all), and the main reason to have them is to steal items/pick locks and give your other party members extra turns, respectively.
    • In some games, units initially locked to staves could be seen as this (and when they promote, attacking is just one more utility). Tina from Fire Emblem: Thracia 776 fits this the most, as she has two staves locked solely to her which basically let her serve as a thief from long distance: The first, the Thief Staff, allows her to steal from any unit in range with a lower magic stat (and "in range" is pretty damn far), while the other is called the Unlock Staff and opens locked doors. The GBA games also had an Unlock Staff, as well as a Torch Staff which would create a circle of visibility centered around any point in the user's long-distance staff range in Fog of War chapters.
    • Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade and its prequel Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade have a character named Merlinus, a merchant who handles your spare items. He can't fight (and, in The Blazing Blade, can't even move until late in the game), but you can send him items when a character's inventory gets too full, and take items out again if you stand next to him. He is of very limited use in The Binding Blade, though, since he takes up a deployment slot, has no convenient means of leveling up, and you can send items to him regardless of whether he is on the field or not, meaning his only real use is selling off items in bulk on Hard Mode. The Blazing Blade changes this by allowing him to level up each time he survives a chapter, giving him his own unique deployment slot rather than using one that could go to someone else, and making it so he must be on the field in order for you to send items to him, making his survival far more important.
    • In Fire Emblem: Awakening and Fire Emblem Fates, a character can be designated as a "Rallybot," sacrificing most (if not all) of their skill slots to be able to massively buff their team. Laslow and Shigure in the latter are especially good, as the former's personal skill adds an additional point of Strength and Speed on top of any other Rally boosts, while the latter's personal skill can give some healing. Fates also had one generic unit that you could recruit who notably carried a full array of rally skills right out the door, granting the player a highly-effective rallybot without the need to go through the effort of having another unit actually gain access to and learn all of those abilities, earning him the nickname "Rallyman" and status as a Memetic Badass among the playerbase.
  • Queen Frieda from One Way Heroics downplays this. While she is decent in a fight, her main use is her ability to unlock sealed doors, which would normally require a rare, one-use Key of Seals, and which guard rare Holy items.
  • Etrian Odyssey has "Survivalists", including Flavio in The Fafnir Knight, who have the Forager skill which lets them get bonuses from picking at any supply point (most classes can only get bonuses from one), and "Farmers" who trade the ability to fight for resource gathering, cheap resurrection, a quick way back to town, and experience boosts for the rest of the party.
  • Ember from Cthulhu Saves the World is a dragon who can dish out and take lots of damage, but what makes him even more useful is his ability to take-off into air with the entire party on his back.
  • Ragnarok Online: The Merchant class tree was this. Although they had skills geared towards fighting melee combat and the use of axes, they are not any more exceptional at fighting than other classes, however, they offer a multitude of bonuses where the market system is concerned, this includes discounts when buying and higher selling cost when in NPC stores and carrying much more items than other classes, which is great for long dungeon crawling, since carrying over 50% of your weight limit will stop your auto heal, and identify unknown items without using a magnifying glass. They're also the only class that can set up a market and sell extremely rare items for over millions, so their presence in a guild's budget is notable. Their derived sub-classes will also become specialists into creating things: Blacksmith will forge weapons and give them bonus while Alchemist will create potions and solutions that can be used for healing or special effects (and later in the class evolution trees, both sub-classes also gain the ability to summon monsters for fighting).
  • Riki from Xenoblade Chronicles 1 is a capable fighter in his own right, but his talent arts and various unlockable skills focus more on easing the grind of sidequests, levelling up, and exploring.
  • Relia in Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness serves as this role - in battle, her role is to run around, throw the occasional Status Buff, and to act as a repository for accessories and other such equipment that benefits the party but not the individual.
  • The third game in The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky series turns Josette Capua into one of these. The "Remote Ability" mechanic lets non-active members provide passive buffs to the party, and Josette's greatly increases item drop rate and Sepith obtained from battle, allowing her to be useful despite being weak in combat.

    RPG — Western 
  • Thieves in the Baldur's Gate series, which is obvious since the games are based on D&D. While they can make powerful combatants, they are primarily used for sneaking around, picking locks, and detecting/disarming traps. While a couple of other classes have these abilities, it is to a much lesser degree and never all three together. When one isn't playing solo, a thief is almost a mandatory party member.
  • Mission Vao and T3-M4 are both skill monkeys in Knights of the Old Republic. T3-M4 is a utility droid specializing in Intelligence-based skills (in which he, with consistent upgrades, can reach truly inhuman levels), while Mission belongs to the Scoundrel class, meaning that she gets a lot of skill points per level and has the broadest selection of class skills to invest them in.
  • T3 returns in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, alongside Bao-Dur, whose Tech Specialist class alongside his potential +3 Intelligence modifier (he joins the party at level 7) gives him a whopping seven skill points per level, making him even better than T3! Mira also can fulfill this role due to her Scout class (which gives her many "class skills", making skill development easier) and high Intelligence, although not as well.
  • Played with in the original Dungeon Siege: instead of recruiting another adventurer, you can instead fill one or two of the eight party slots with donkeys who cannot participate in combat at all. Instead, their "special skill" is being able to carry twice as much Plunder as regular party members.
  • A Dance with Rogues is geared towards being played as a skill monkey (namely, the 3rd edition D&D rogue) to whatever companions you happen to travel with, to the point where you gain more XP from using skills than from defeating enemies.
  • Fallout 2 had the Highwayman: In-engine, its trunk is treated as an extra party member that can't attack or move but has a much larger-than-average inventory. This occasionally results in a rather comical (and exploitable) bug that causes the back end of the car to follow the player into a different screen.
  • Jade Empire has Kang the Mad, who maintains the party's Cool Plane; Henpecked Hou, who gives players wine to practice Drunken Boxing; and Zin Bu the Magic Abacus, who's a shopkeeper that can be accessed anywhere. All the characters have a Support stance where rather than fighting they sit in place and buff or heal you.
  • Rogues in Dragon Age: Origins are this, thanks to receiving non-combat skill points every two levels (instead of every three, like warriors and mages). If the Warden isn't a rogue, then Leliana and Zevran become the party's skill monkeys.
  • Sentinels like Kaidan and Engineers like Tali in Mass Effect are the resident utility party members. Both possess the Decryption talent for unlocking item crates and the Electronics talent for hacking terminals. Shepard can naturally become this themselves if you play as Sentinel or Engineer.
  • Although Mass Effect 2 doesn't have any non-combat gameplay skills, Professor Mordin Solus is the resident skill monkey aboard the Normandy. Despite his special forces training, his age makes him a lousy combatant compared to other squadmates, and he has little to contribute during the combat-heavy Suicide Mission endgame. However, his technical expertise allows you to install the ship upgrades that save many lives during said Suicide Mission, and it is he who develops the Collector swarm countermeasures that allow the party to survive the Horizon mission.
  • Deckers in Shadowrun Returns. They typically have limited skill with weapons, and can't carry as many, due to needing an inventory slot for their cyberdecks. They're also mandatory if you want to break into a computer system, which are omnipresent in the game's Cyberpunk setting.
  • StarCrawlers: Much like Deckers in Shadowrun (a game that StarCrawlers takes a lot of its inspiration from), Hackers are the exploration utility character of the game. Though most characters offer additional event options outside of combat depending on what skill trees they invest in, Hackers have by far the most numerous and useful of out-of-combat event options. They're not essential to have, but Hackers can interact with so many things outside of combat that they're extremely helpful in missions (and they're no slouches in combat either).
  • In Wasteland 2, party members with high Intelligence tend to become this, thanks to getting more skill points per level. The scientist Rose stands out in particular among recruitable NPCs thanks to being the only one with Int 10, thus getting 5 skill points per level and inevitably ending up as the party's skill monkey (if you find her in time, that is).
  • Wizardry: Many games in the series have a major emphasis on disarming trapped chests you find from defeating enemies in order to obtain new equipment. Some of the traps are extremely dangerous, and while thieves are never particularly good combatants, when you're exploring the dungeon to get stronger and obtain new items they are nearly essential. Even among the upgraded classes you can get, thieves generally are the best at identifying and disarming traps.
  • In ZanZarah: The Hidden Portal, you must keep a faery of a specific element in your party's first slot for the corresponding Elemental Cards to function, and since you can only swap out faeries in London, you may have to trade off some combat efficiency for the ability to clear environmental obstacles. This is particularly egregious in the case of Air faeries, who are needed every time you have to leap over some air eddies (unlike the boulders and prickly bushes, which disappear for good once a Stone or Nature faery works its magic on them).
  • Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark: Peddlers have passive skills which double the power of consumable items and let them perform situational commands, like opening chests, without ending their turn. They can also buff their allies, lay traps for enemies, and make single-target consumables affect an area.
  • Darkest Dungeon: The Antiquarian has mediocre combat power and healing, and isn't particularly durable or equipped with much in the way of crowd control, but allows your party to make significantly more money than they otherwise would by rounding up valuable trinkets that your less mercantile party members wouldn't realise were worth anything. As with so much in Darkest Dungeon, it's your call whether the loss of immediate tactical advantage for improved strategic position is worth it...
  • While everyone you can recruit for your army (a total of 75 individuals) in Exit Fate is playable, not everyone is an exceptional combatant. Several do however justify their positions in other ways: Some have useful battlefield abilities like Steal and Scan, while others provide you with shops and services in your base. Some are also needed to recruit other, more powerful members.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • Throughout all editions of the game, the Rogue/Thief core class has traditionally been the utility class, with the lion's share of skills and abilities that come into play outside of combat, such as climbing, eliminating traps, opening locks and appraising items. The bulk of these abilities, as you might guess, involves the acquiring of loot.
    • The 3.5e Factotum class is designed as a Jack of All Trades, receiving access to every skill in the game and even more skill points than the rogue, and can also emulate the abilities of most other classes to a limited extent. In particular a factotum's ability to cast wizard spells is too limited to become a major part of his fighting style, but he can access almost any wizard spell in the game if given enough time, making him perfectly suited to casting Utility Magic between encounters.
    • In 5e Rogues share the spot with Bards. The difference is that Bards can do a bit of everything (Jack of All Trades: add 1/2 proficiency to all non-proficient ability checks), while Rogues can do really well in things they already know (Reliable Talent: for all proficient ability checks, treat all d20 result of 9 or lower as 10). Both also get Expertise (double your proficiency for some skills); rogues get it earlier and can apply it to thieves' tools as well as skills.
    • With their vast selection of spells and generally high Intelligence scores, Wizards can also fulfil the role of a utility/support extremely well. Even if they do fold like a cheap napkin whenever directly threatened, there really is a spell to resolve almost any problem or situation. Who needs a Rogue when the party's Wizard can also turn invisible and unlock any door or container with just a wave of their wand?
  • Pathfinder:
    • Being based on D&D, the game also casts Rogues as the party's skill monkeys,
    • The game gives Bards more abilities to serve as a Utility character, allowing them to make all Knowledge checks untrained and get a bonus to them, and has an ability that lets them use performance skills as two (specific for the performance skill) other skills saving on skill points.
    • The Investigator is a hybrid of Alchemist and Rogue gains a lot of bonuses to (mainly Intelligence-based) skills at the cost of rather mediocre combat performance, making it a Utility class.
  • Classes of the Scout archetype in Descent: Journeys in the Dark generally have one or two class abilities that mainly concern recovering treasure cards scattered across the encounter map, so that task naturally falls to them while the rest of the party fights monsters. In particular, most of the Treasure Hunter's abilities in the Labyrinth of Ruin expansion are Luck Manipulation Mechanics concerning search cards, while the Thief from the base game can recover them at a distance, Discard and Draw them, and also open doors as a free action.
  • While Shadowrun doesn't use classes per se, common archetypes players use are the "Hacker/Decker", who works in the Matrix and security networks, and the "Face", who handles social situations. There's also the "Odd-jobs man/B&E expert", in general the fifth character (after the Samurai/Adept, Mage, Decker and Face have been made) who picks a bunch of Boring, but Practical skills like stealth, acrobatics, and lockpicking that the more Min-Maxing-intensive archetypes above can't afford to take but which come up more often than you'd think.
  • Blades in the Dark puts an unusual spin on this trope: rather than physical combat, the bulk of its gameplay is dedicated to criminal excursions or "scores", with downtime activities played out in-between. While most playbooks focus on abilities relevant in the course of the scores (e.g. the Cutter's brawling skills, the Lurk's lockpicking, and the Slide's fast-talking), the Spider is a Diabolical Mastermind whose abilities almost exclusively come into play during downtime (except for when they pull a retroactive All According to Plan moment). Thus, while a crew with a Spider in it is somewhat handicapped during scores, they have it a lot easier in the long run.
  • In Magic: The Gathering, the creatures in most "Combo" and "Control" decks qualify. Rarely are they chosen for their power and toughness. Instead, they are included for the abilities they possess to synergize with the other cards in the deck.
  • In Star Wars d20, most of a Noble's combat-related talents revolve around buffing the party and they can't take most combat feats, but they have the most starting skills note  and can do basically everything that isn't fighting: healing, diplomacy, knowledge checks, etc. Similarly, Scouts have only slightly fewer starting skills than Nobles but have a lot of talents based around tracking and wilderness survival.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • In Dark Heresy Adepts (in 1st edition) and Sages (in 2nd edition) lack the obvious combat capabilities of other player characters, but serve the group as intellect-based skill repositories.
    • In Black Crusade, while a heretek can be a capable fighter in a fully human party, he's clearly the utility member of a party that includes Chaos Space Marines (especially as there is no Chaos Space Marine equivalent to his archetype in the core rulebook, so a full-CSM party would be lacking on technical knowledge).

    Non-Interactive Media 
  • In The Faraway Paladin, Will makes friends with a halfling bard, Bee, and a down-on-his-luck traveling merchant, Tonio. Neither are fighters, but they help a lot with smoothing out more prosaic problems, like building a good name for Will and purchasing valuable supplies.
  • In The Gamers: Natural One, Leo plays the team's Decker—a specialist who hacks computers with his mind (they are playing Cyberrun, mind you, and definitely not Shadowrun). His hacking skills (and his sheer audacity) get the team into the villain's base, but during the final boss fight, he is promptly immobilized, then falls under the villain's Mind Control... and is quickly ridiculed by the party because he cannot even shoot them without his gun instantly jamming. Also, Ryan discovers a natural talent at playing The Team Benefactor and The Face types of UPM, and never actually successfully attacks anyone in the entire game.
  • In Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation, Gisu is a top-level adventurer but his role is entirely non-combat, instead focusing on support skills and social networking. He comments that in one adventuring party, there must be one person whose role is non-combat. Traveling Merchants, especially in Begaritto and Magic Continent, also fit this trope.
  • In KonoSuba, Kazuma is this to compensate his teammates' Crippling Overspecialization. Unique as he is the protagonist in the franchise.
  • In Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?, supporters are this. They primarily act as Human Pack Mule but may also provide additional healing and damage-dealing. So they are sometimes looked down by other adventurers for their non-combat roles.
  • In Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, only two of the five selectable characters for the Jumanji game (Smolder Bravestone and Ruby Roundhouse) have any skills in combat while the other characters have absolutely no ability to fight and very situational abilities (Finbar has a backpack and is highly knowledgeable about animals, Shelly is the only character that can read the map and Seaplane is a pilot who can fly aircrafts).
  • In Voltron: Legendary Defender, the blue lion lacks the fire power of the other lions, but possesses more utility options.
  • In The Rising of the Shield Hero, Naofumi has shades of this. Although he is quite a powerful tank, his Holy Weapon has no attack options. It does however have several Mundane Utility functions (such as the Rope Shield that helps in traversal) and allows Naofumi to craft potions, equipment, and alchemical compounds. It also gives XP boosts to the Shield Hero's pets and slaves.
  • In Delicious in Dungeon, Chilchuck the Half-foot serves as this in the main characters' party. By his own admission, he's useless in fights, but his skills in map-making, disarming traps, and unlocking doors prove invaluable for the party. Mickbell, another half-foot, serves the same role in Kabru's party.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Sokka is ostensibly a warrior, but being the only member of the main party with no bending makes him fairly useless in combat situations. He makes up for it by being a talented strategist and engineer. He ultimately subverts this and becomes an outright Badass Normal by actually mastering non-bending combat abilities from all four nations, learning how to fight like a Kyoshi Warrior in the Earth Kingdom, indirect zeppelin-based aerial combat from the Air Nomads, and studying the way of the sword in the Fire Nation in addition to already knowing Water Tribe martial arts.
  • Chelsea from Akame ga Kill! is the only Night Raid assassin who is good at carrying out assassinations, but at the same time has almost no combat skills. For this reason, she is often sent to assassinations where no violent resistance is to be expected, or where she finds a favorable opportunity to escape. Unfortunately, she is doomed that she can't fight when she tries to kill Kurome.
  • Tobias from Animorphs. On one of his first missions, he is permanently caught in the shape of a red-tailed hawk. For this reason, he can no longer morph or participate in the missions, except for the espionage of well-known Yeerks. In the thirteenth volume, however, he regains his powers and can morph again.
  • In Banished from the Hero's Party, Gideon played this role for the party prior to being banished. He handled the cooking, tactics, negotiations, and any number of other supporting jobs that his combat-focused companions couldn't. After his departure, the party's morale plummeted and enemies they once easily beat became dangerous obstacles.
  • Deconstructed in Bidoof's Big Stand, showing a Bidoof being tired of being used as an HM slave by her well-meaning but oblivious trainer.
  • While normally monks don’t have the skill proficiencies to be this, Haara from Vow of Nudity knows guidance as one of her three spells, which grants her an extra d4 on any ability or skillcheck she attempts, provided she has a few seconds to cast it.
  • The title character of Handyman Saitou in Another World is a modern Japanese handyman summoned into a fantasy setting, where he joins an adventuring party. He's able to pick locks, disarm traps, repair and modify equipment, remember spells for the forgetful mage, and generally contribute to the party in every way except for actual combat.

Alternative Title(s): Skill Monkey, Non Combat Skill Guy