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Venturous Smuggler

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An often-romanticized character archetype found in many genres, portrayals of the smuggler can range from a Lovable Rogue Running the Blockade to subvert an oppressive government, to a slimy criminal profiteering off scarcity. Most fiction seems to agree, however, that it takes considerable guts to repeatedly risk the wrath of both the authorities (if you get caught with illegal cargo) and the clients (if you lose said cargo).

Sub-trope of Lovable Rogue. Sister trope to Gentleman Thief, Intrepid Merchant, and Bold Explorer. May also overlap with Courier.


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Examples:

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    Films — Live-Action 

    Literature 
  • Vahanian is a mostly straight example in Chronicles of the Necromancer: as the Lovable Rogue the heroes come for to help, with one exception. He has a personal history with Arontola and is quick to agree to work for the heroes because of it, rather than how most of this trope are Heroic Neutral.
  • The Romney Marsh smugglers are the heroic figures in the Doctor Syn books, supported by the local population for the wealth they bring to the area.
  • Deconstructed, like so many other romanticist tropes, in A Hero of Our Time: Danko from Taman is first presented as a larger than life figure that challenges the elements to visit a loved one across the sea, but once Pechorin realizes he and his girlfriend are just smugglers, he is majorly disappointed and stops caring about them.
  • Davos Seaworth from A Song of Ice and Fire is a former smuggler captain, who was so good at Running the Blockade to deliver food to Stannis Baratheon's besieged army during Robert's Rebellion that Stannis knighted him for his services — right after chopping off four of his fingertips in punishment for his earlier crimes.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Talon Karrde, introduced in The Thrawn Trilogy, is a mix of this and Knowledge Broker. His organization managed to pick up most of the pieces of Jabba the Hutt's criminal empire after Jabba's death, and Karrde himself has a reputation as a respectable and trustworthy business partner - as much as a smuggler can be trusted, anyway. Karrde tried to remain neutral in the Galactic Civil War, but eventually Defaulted to Good, helped the New Republic defeat Grand Admiral Thrawn, and went on to help them and the Imperial Remnant make peace in the Hand of Thrawn duology. His personal ship is the Wild Karrde.
    • Dash Rendar of Shadows of the Empire is a Suspiciously Similar Substitute for Han Solo, who of course is frozen in carbonite for the duration of the story. He's brash, cocky, an expert pilot and gunslinger, and owns the flashy Corellian YT-2400 light freighter, The Outrider.
    • Booster Terrik was a successful smuggler with close ties to the Rebellion, and a personal friend of Rebel pilot Wedge Antilles, until Booster was caught by the Corellian Security Force and sentenced to five years in the spice mines of Kessel. Upon his release he tried to go back to smuggling but found that the solitude of hyperspace was too similar to the crushing boredom of the mines, so he gave his Pulsar Skate to his daughter Mirax (who became a successful smuggler herself) and entered quasi-retirement, negotiating on others' behalf rather than running his own business. Booster played a major role in The Bacta War, and when an Imperial captain surrendered to him personally during a Brandishment Bluff, Booster found himself the first civilian in the galaxy to own an Imperial II-class Star Destroyer. After some negotiation, he was allowed to keep the partially-disarmed warship, which he renamed the Errant Venture and turned into a mobile resort/bazaar/casino. It wasn't quite a happy ending, though — Booster soon found that managing a capital ship that size was a major headache and hellishly expensive (especially his decision to repaint it red), and his daughter Mirax ended up marrying Corran Horn, son of the very CorSec officer who arrested Booster.
  • In Lucifer's Star by C.T. Phipps stars Cassius Mass, who is a navigator later captain of a huge freight hauler. He eventually turns to smuggling as a way to supplement his legitimate income. He is somewhat different from other examples because his spaceship, the Melampus is the size of a small town and he's closer to a Rogue Trader from Warhammer 40,000 than Han Solo.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds from Firefly fits this archetype, as the swashbuckling Lovable Rogue captain of an interplanetary smuggling crew. His first mate Zoe and right-hand man Jayne do as well.
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    Tabletop Games 
  • Blades in the Dark lets you play an entire smuggling crew, specializing in carrying contraband, arcane goods, weapons, or passengers under the nose of the Imperial authorities and organized crime.
  • Scum and Villainy, which is based on Blades, has the Stardancer starship/crew archetype, which specializes in space smuggling and is heavily based on Serenity from Firefly and the Millenium Falcon from A New Hope. Among Player Characters, the Scoundrel playbook in particular is inspired by archetypal smugglers like Han Solo and Mal Reynolds.
  • It's fairly common for player characters in Traveller to at least dabble in smuggling, especially given the multi-megacredit mortgages on their ships.

    Video Games 

    Webcomics 
  • Girl Genius: The "Wulfenbach Dark Fleet" were mentioned briefly in the comic, but given a bit more detail in the novel Agatha H. and the Siege of Mechanicsburg. Rumors portray them as a group of dashing rogues who skirt Baron Wulfenbach's laws by smuggling goods around his vast airship fleet to those in need. There is absolutely no evidence that they actually existed, and the Baron was getting rather impatient that no one was filling the obvious niche.
    Footnote: He was beginning to think that, like so many other seemingly obvious things, he would have to do it himself.

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