Asskicking Equals Authority

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I'm the leader because I'm a very good fighter.

What happens when the people of the Planet of Hats believe Authority Equals Asskicking? They create a civilization, nation, or culture that bases its social hierarchy and governance on whosoever is strongest among them. Essentially, You Kill It, You Bought It as a social value. Obviously, this likely to lead to a lot of Klingon Promotions.

Usually, the base culture or organization is of the Social Darwinist and Chaotic Evil variety, though other less evil alignments are possible; like the Proud Warrior Race Guy. They will benefit from great strength and martial ability, but don't expect them to put much value on teamwork. Their main problem will usually be that they place such importance on personal power that they eschew not just The Power of Friendship but tactical cooperation in favor of individual glory. This often plays to the heroes' advantage, since the relatively weaker heroes will usually be far better coordinated.

The leader of such a group is usually the Big Bad and (of course) has Authority Equals Asskicking up the wazoo. It's especially likely for there to be one or two Starscreams hovering near the main bad guy. Grunts will usually be sociopathic enough for the heroes not to feel bad about killing, but you can expect them to be especially easy to turn with displays of kindness because Machiavelli Was Wrong.

If they aren't evil, then expect them to swear everlasting fealty to the hero once he bests their leader in combat. (It's a good thing they don't usually switch to the villains side when the hero loses that second act skirmish.) These types will benefit both from their Darwinian upbringing and the Power of Friendship to easily massacre most enemy mooks.

One thing they have going for them is that they acknowledge the same strength in outsiders, as well. If a Mighty Whitey manages to defeat one of them (indeed, the plot often requires that he does this) the majority will acknowledge him as the new leader. For an especially delicious twist, the leader of such a group will be an X hater (misogynist, racist, anti-human, whatever) and of course, a person from said group will beat them sooner or later and earn control of the tribe.

(Heroes who do this out of necessity are usually allowed renounce the position once they no longer need it and give it back to the old leader or another more worthy person.)

Neatly satisfies the Sliding Scale of Villain Threat and Sorting Algorithm of Evil. Also avoids Villain Decay by having a logical reason for a bigger bad to replace the current one (although it better not be that Smug Snake Reliable Traitor). You can expect these groups to be easily divided by an Evil Power Vacuum or Enemy Civil War; it's often implied that should they ever get their act together or a strong enough leader to unify all of them, the heroes would lose handily.

In a primal sense, this is Truth in Television. When someone who you know is capable of kicking the crap out of you tells you to do something, human instincts as well as simple common sense will often suggest that it might be a good idea to do as you're told. At least until you can get together with a few other guys and beat/kill him, or catch him asleep and slit his throat...

Unless you're friends, in which case pissing each other off is often par for the course. Or if your actual boss is scarier.

Note: this can also be a positive thing. In organizations or cultures that are Lawful Good, The Hero might earn their cred once they've bested a number of enemies, thus proving their worth. Think of it as attaining their Awesome Moment of Crowning through Crowning Moments of Awesome.

Not to be confused with Authority Equals Asskicking, despite the fact that the two have an annoying tendency to reinforce each other. See their Super-Trope, Badass in Charge, for any kind of Badass in charge.

Examples of Asskicking Equals Authority include:

Anime[edit | hide | hide all]

  • The Shinobi Villages in Naruto are led by the Kage, who is supposed to be the "strongest" one in the village. However, it's not entirely clear if "strongest" is intended to be an entirely physical attribute, or if it includes spiritual or psychological strength. The Raikage makes it very clear this trope is in full force with him.
    • As ninja rank up, they are given more leadership responsibilities. While the Chunin exam ends with a tournament, it begins with a near impossible written exam to anyone, who isn't smart enough to cheat and not get caught. At the end it is reavealed that the answers to the questions didn't matter and this whole exam was a test on how well the testees can "gather information" (cheat) without getting caught and the final question was not about knowledge, but about cojones (The guy who lead this exam claimed, that this question was very hard and anyone who would fail it would be never able to move up in ranks. This was a ruse, because anyone who took the risk passed, since that was the purpose of this "question"). The idea was that to advance as ninja, they have to be willing to accept even the most suicidal of missions without being intimidated by the risks involved; somebody who's scared by the prospect of merely not being able to advance in rank clearly isn't ready. And even the tournament is more a Secret Test of Character seeing as how the decision of who ranks up is not based on who wins, because the whole idea is that they can lead a successful mission, not necessarily just win a fight.
  • Goku is the de facto leader of the Z Fighters in Dragon Ball Z, not because he is the smartest (in fact he is one of the least intelligent; the title is probably taken by Piccolo), or because he is a great tactician (Vegeta probably takes that one); no, it's simply because he is the strongest of the group by a huge margin.
    • Although this isn't always the case, Vegeta was stronger for the first half of the Android/Cell arc and Gohan far surpassed him ever since having the Old Kai unlock his power. Actually according to Goku Gohan has been stronger than him since at least the Cell tournament arc.
    • Straighter example with the Saiyans. King Vegeta became king because he was the strongest of them.
    • As noted on the Pals with Jesus page, the main characters of Dragon Ball Z get to choose who the official God of Earth is almost entirely due to strength, and aren't afraid to strong-arm gods higher up the chain if need be.
  • Since one of the main, and most important requirements for a person to become an General of the Black Order in D.Gray-man is to have over 100% synchronization with their Innocence, this is naturally what happens.
  • The Soul Society that polices the afterlife in Bleach works like this. The Soul Reapers that act as the military for the Soul Society are divided into 13 divisions known as the Gotei 13. While captains for the divisions are usually trained and schooled for centuries, the single most important quality required to become a captain is raw strength - so much so that Kenpachi Zaraki was made the captain of the 11th division when he killed its previous captain, even though he never attended the soul reaper academy. Meanwhile, Head Captain Yamamoto Genryusai, the Captain of the 1st Division, is so powerful that he has never fought at full strength on-screen (or on-page) and still almost managed to accidentally blow up a city. It's even been stated most captains are more powerful than the entire rest of their division.
    • The Espada also work like this. Most Arrancar numbers correspond to when they were created, but the numbers 1 through 10 and 0 are given to the ten strongest, with the lowest numbers being the strongest. 11 through 99 are the less powerful subordinates of the first ten (though their numbers shown the order they became arrancar in, rather than power), and 100 and up are former single digit hollows who have been replaced.
      • Furthermore, at least three of the Espada are known, before joining the organization, to have led their own bands of hollows who followed them largely because they knew the leader could kill them on a whim and the current employer of the Espada pretty much came into power by demonstrating the casual ease with which he could slaughter pretty much anyone.
    • While the laws of Soul Society allow the Captain of any Division to be replaced by someone who kills them in single combat, the 11th Division in particular (which, unlike the other Divisions focuses exclusively on combat) has this as its long-standing tradition. Every Captain of the 11th has attained the position by killing his predecessor. Whether any other Division has ever used this method of successor hasn't been specified.
  • Raoh's goal in conquering the world in Fist of the North Star is to bring about a society like this, albeit one that is much more united than the Crapsack World that exists after the nuclear war.
  • The Three Kings arc in Yu Yu Hakusho plays with this. At first, there are three warring countries, each led by the strongest fighter. Eventually, everyone agrees to hold a tournament, and crown the winner ruler of all demon world (until the next tournament). The strangest thing is, it works perfectly, even though none of the protagonists made it into the finals. Neither of the two surviving kings win either; instead, an old sparring partner of the recently deceased third king wins.
  • Tenchi Muyo! Word of God states that this is how becoming Emperor of Jurai works. Ordinary Earthling Seina Yamada from Tenchi Muyo! GXP learns that stumbling across a Humongous Mecha with a seed for one of Jurai's space trees catapulted him near the top of the list of potential heirs. The title character, Tenchi Masaki, would be at the top of the list if he had any interest in the job; the creator's semi-official doujin works indicated that eventually he will.
  • Due to general Feudal Future feel in The Five Star Stories, this trope is at full power there. Only Headdliners could manage the Humongous Mecha of their world, and because of this all who exhibit such abilities generally happen to become nobility. All in all, given the general belligerence of the Joker society, it is to be expected.
  • While Dynastical Council in Crest of the Stars evaluates not only the martial prowess of the potential candidates to the Jade Throne, it's still one of their major consideration, and to ascend to the title of Crown Prince, successful aspirant should rise in the military ranks to the position of Commander in Chief—with the Council constantly judging his or her performance and vetting the promotions accordingly.
  • Specifically invoked in Saiunkoku Monogatari when Rou Ensei explains how he ended up as the Governor of an entire province even though he hadn't passed any of the examinations normally required to qualify for government office: the Sa clan was causing so much trouble in the province that the Imperial court needed to appoint a governor who'd be able to survive their repeated assassination attempts. Ensei was their guy.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX has North Academy, where new students have to duel through a forty-man gauntlet to find out their rank. Chazz fights his way to the top and is immediately crowned head of the freshman class.
    • Not only that, but they also have to do it with a deck they constructed from scratch using cards found outside the academy
  • The society of Jungle Planet in Transformers Cybertron is based on this. A variant exists on Velocitron, where the planet ruler is whoever is the fastest.
  • Apparently the set-up of Shibusen in Soul Eater. The more successful the members, the higher their rank of between one to three stars. However, the time the main cast spent as Almighty Janitors would suggest this is less about strict hierarchy than it is about whatever Shinigami feels like putting his students through for his own reasons/amusement.
  • Not really legal in Code Geass - though it is implied that Charles killed his own father to get the position (at which point it became retroactively legal, since the Emperor is an absolute monarch). Lelouch manages to become Emperor by killing his father, and forcing the rest of his siblings to comply through violence and coercion. By which I mean mind control. Head of the Knight Bismarck Waldstein disagrees with the concept... but finds himself coming down with a case of death, with his killer taking Bismarck's place.
    • The Knights of the Round play it very straight, though. While they're technically made up of the best pilots in The Empire, they're shown to be given command responsibility on par with the top brass, if only because they tend to be as effective as most battalions on their own.
  • In Record of Lodoss War most rulers are semi-retired adventurers of great fame. Kashue, Parn, Etoh, Shiris, and Spark were all adventurers for many years, before they became rulers of their own countries. Fahn, Beld, Ashram, and Ryona were also great warriors as well.
  • Basically the entire premise of the Queen's Blade series. In a nutshell: assorted women of various fetishes fight for the right to become queen for a year. Even has two Spin-Off series for more characters and more fun.
  • One Piece has Baroque Works, where one's spot in the organization is determined by how much ass you can kick. If lower-ranked members can eliminate higher-ranked ones, they can move up in the ranks. Most of the top ranks are Devil Fruit users.
  • Claymore has this. The organization that Claymores work for only has forty-seven Claymores active at any one time. If a Claymore dies, all the Claymores below her are automatically promoted one rank - and if a new Claymore is powerful enough to take a higher rank than #47, all the Claymores weaker than her are automatically demoted.
    • Of course, while Asskicking Equals Authority applies to Claymores while they're on missions, the ones who are actually in charge of the organization seem to have no physical power at all.
  • Invoked by the (probable) Big Bad Naosada Washizu from Gamaran: He has about thirty sons and rules over a region famous for martial arts and full of powerful warriors. His plan? Each of his sons will hire a Ryuu (martial art school), and those Ryuu will fight in the great Unabara Tournament: the heir with the strongest Ryuu will become the new Daimyo, with the members as his vassals.

Comics[edit | hide]

  • In Judge Dredd, in the aftermath of the Apocalypse War, group of robots set up an independent city in the ruins of Mega-City One, with a wrestler droid as king. The law is that anybody who wants to change the way things are run must beat the king in a wrestling match.

Fan Fiction[edit | hide]

  • Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath's Star Trek TOS writings are all about this, to the point of an obsessive Author Appeal. The best examples are two of their published novels, The Price of the Phoenix and Prometheus Design, wherein we learn that Spock has been living in a cardboard world all these years.

Film[edit | hide]

  • Almost every single action movie hero takes charge of whatever situation they deal with, precisely because they're kicking the most ass and usually there is nobody who wants to challenge them.
  • The tribe of not-so-friendly neighborhood cannibals in Doomsday uses this trope. At the end, the protagonist takes control of it by delivering them the head of their former leader.
  • As the Necromongers say in The Chronicles of Riddick, "You keep what you kill."
  • The barbarian horde in The 13th Warrior retreats when their leader is killed by the leader of the heroes' side.
  • In The Quick and the Dead, Herod is the mayor of a small town because he has the most hired muscle on his side and he is nigh unbeatable in a gunfight.
  • In Avatar, Jake Sully proves himself the leader of the Na'vi by taking, as his personal mount, the biggest, baddest beast in the sky.
  • In Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Caesar's rise to power is attained by his asskicking almost everyone into submission, including his fellow chimps who become his army, his bullying handlers at the detention center, then the director of the research facility.
  • In The Avengers, Captain America (comics) has to rally the New York City police to respond to the invading aliens and evacuate the civilians. The police commander on the scene scoffs at Cap's orders, saying that he has no reason to listen to Rodgers. Then three aliens suddenly leap down upon them, who Cap beats down in seconds with just his fists and shield. The police commander immediately spins around and begins repeating Cap's orders to his men.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • The Hyerne nation in 'Philosopher in Arms' chooses its queen through one-on-one combat.
  • The rank of queen in 'Branded' by Clare London is determined by a war game-style generalship competition.
  • Rehvenge in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J R Ward becomes the supreme ruler of the sympaths by essentially killing the ones in authority.
  • Gaining rank in the Star Wars universe has a lot to do with asskicking. Both Luke Skywalker and Han Solo are given senior officer status in the Rebel Alliance just based on the fact that they are awesome. Somewhat justified in that a rebel insurgency doesn't have the luxury of OCS and a career advancement system, but still odd that any random smuggler can become an instant General.
  • In The Dresden Files the main character and narrator reflects that you don't get to become The Merlin, chief wizard on the planet, by collecting bottle caps. Since he is referring to someone who held off an entire Badass Army of Eldritch Abominations with one hasty ward, he may have a point.
  • In the Kate Daniels series, the Beast Lord is said to rule over the 300+ Shapeshifters of Atlanta specifically for this.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe makes it pretty clear that the Sith have generally operated on this principle whenever they have had a structure involving enough of them to do so- the Rule of Two just compresses it, so that one proves one's strength and becomes the Master by killing one's own Master.
    • On a less malevolent scale, the Mandalorians also have a tradition of following their leaders based upon this trope. Whenever Mandalore dies (given the nature of their culture, this usually happens in battle), the strongest remaining warrior becomes the new Mandalore. This has been happening for over twenty thousand years.
    • More specifically, the strongest warriors fight over Mandalore's helmet. If there's no helmet, there's no fighting, and no new Mandalore. KOTOR 2 pointed out how ridiculous this is—Revan managed to deal the death blow to the Mandalorian people basically by just killing Mandalore and taking the helmet with him when he left.
      • They fixed that. Now either the current Mandalore chooses a successor (the person he or she feels is best fit to lead), or it's the guy who can get the most people the follow him. The second one happens if the Mandalore fails to name a successor before he dies.
  • The Lensman series by E. E. "Doc" Smith had multiple cultures which followed this method (though this is usually explained by the fact that all of the subject cultures consciously patterned themselves after the primary culture). The Eddorians, the Ploor, the Eich, possibly the Delgonians, and the entire Council of Boskone, fit this trope perfectly. Kim Kinnison even uses this to take over the entire bad guy's empire and become the Overlord of Thrale by assassinating the previous Overlord of Thrale, which was the accepted way of moving up in the world. It was stated that all of these cultures were fairly stable, in that underlings would not try for promotion until they were fairly certain that they could succeed, and in the meantime they had to produce for their superiors or they would be replaced, either by their superiors for not producing or by their own underlings for failure to protect themselves.
  • Among the Children of the Light in The Wheel of Time, a victory in a duel conducted within the proper constraints results in the loser's rank and property being forfeited to the winner. Galad became Lord Captain Commander by using this law.
    • Another example would be the Aes Sedai, whose internal ranking depends partly on how strongly they can wield magic.
  • The wizards of the Discworld were originally like this, with wizards rising through the ranks at the Unseen University by filling the recently vacated pointy shoes of their higher-ups. This state of affairs ended when the wizards ended up appointing Mustrum Ridcully to the post of Arch-Chancellor; not only did he come down like a ton of bricks on anyone trying it in his faculty, but he was also nigh impossible to kill. The wizards mellowed down shortly after.
  • The urgals of the Inheritance Cycle. Their entirely social structure is based on feats of combat, meaning that if you don't win duels and raid enemies' villages, you'll never advance in society.
    • One other one for some of them to advance is a trial of manhood passage where they go and kill a dangerous animal bare handed. We hear from one chieftain (who is larger 8-foot tall sub-species called a kull, take note), that he's the chief because during the passage he went killed a "cave bear" while everyone else went after wolves. He also states that a cave bear was larger than an adult kull, and when we see one later we find he wasn't exaggerating.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, this is the logic which places Robert Baratheon on the throne after he deposes Aerys Targaryen. It... doesn't go well.
    • The problem here is not so much a lack of teamwork or strategy, as that Robert Baratheon has no aptitude or interest in actually running Westeros. That, and he's surrounded by about four Manipulative Bastard wannabes.
      • It does seems possible that he was technically the closest non-Targaryen in the line of succession, as the Baratheon's, youngest of the Great Houses, were founded by a Targaryen bastard. That being said, it doesn't appear to have played a part in the consideration of who would take the throne (though it is opined that even Eddard Stark, as first of the rebel lords in Kings Landing, could have made himself king if he wanted), as three Lords of equal prominence led the rebellion - Ed Stark, Robert Baratheon and Jon Arran - and Robert was undeniably the leading warrior among them and principle driving force of the fight and thus the obvious choice.
      • Robert led the rebellion, and was then made king, because he was the closest non-Targaryen in the line of succession. That he was also a capable warrior is of no doubt, but as the backstory unfolds throughout the novels it appears that most of the major battles, with the major exception of the Trident, were won by none other than Ned Stark and his vanguard. There would have been a rebellion regardless, but if Robert Baratheon didn't have a legitimate claim to the throne it's likely that he wouldn't have been made king, no matter how much battle prowess he displayed. I don't really think that this trope accurately describes Robert's becoming king. Bronn's rise to power throughout the books, on the other hand...
      • Bron deserves a point all to himself. Here is a man who rises from a common sellsword to a Lord and Knight, far rarer than most people believe in medieval settings, simply because he's really good at fighting. He even states he could maybe, probably beat Gregor Clegane, one of the most deadly men in Westeros.
  • The Segueleh in the Malazan Book of the Fallen have their social hierarchy based entirely on martial skill. They were founded by an army of the First Empire after the Empire was destroyed.
  • In the CS Lewis novel Perelandra, the hero has to prevent Satan from tempting alien Adam and Eve. He first tries to do this through debate, but the devil keeps winning the arguments. The hero decides to settle matters with good ol' fisticuffs. Because the proper response to losing a debate is to beat up your opponent to prove that you're right despite logic.
  • Subverted in Dune. Early on, Paul earns credibility among the Fremen by reluctantly killing one who challenged him to combat. The Fremen, like the Bedouin culture they loosely parallel, have a culture that values "honor," defended through bloodshed. Also, they expect their leaders to succeed by killing their predecessors. Though the Fremen take him for a Messiah and see his leadership as inevitable, he refuses to take the place of the tribe leader Stilgar by killing him. He takes power instead after an impassioned speech deploring the idea of sacrificing a loyal and talented soldier to such a brutal custom. This compels Stilgar to step down, and the Fremen accept Paul's leadership.
  • In Gav Thorpe's Warhammer 40,000 story "Renegades", when Gessert demands that the members of his company paint over their insignia, so they realize they are renegades and commit themselves, one says that he is no longer authorized by the Imperium as their captain. Gessert says that if he wants to fight him, go ahead.
  • In Jonathan Maberry's Patient Zero, the protagonist Joe Ledger is introduced to his competitors for leadership of Echo Team and told to think outside the box; six seconds later other five candidates (vets of the Navy SEALs, Marines, Army Rangers, and Delta Force) are flat on the floor.
  • In the Shadowleague books, Aliana convinces Galveron that this might be true, in which case he would be most fit to be leader.
  • Jenna and Carum in the Great Alta Saga become king and queen of the Dales because they prove they're the best fighters in the army.
  • Alanna of the Tortall Universe, who is the King's Champion and has the authority of the crown when the king or queen are not present. Not to mention she has not lost a battle since her training days.
  • InThe Stormlight Archive, anyone who wins a Shardblade becomes a noble, regardless of birth. In fact, its possible that that's how the noble houses came about in the first place.
  • The Biblical Judges were military leaders of ancient Isreal (at the time a loose confederation of tribes) chosen to lead during times of war and were decided by this trope.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Kull/Bran Mak Morn story "Kings of the Night", Wulfhere insists that Kull fight him for the leadership. Kull, though not knowing his language, deduced it before being told.
  • In Codex Alera, Citizenship requires winning a witnessed duel with an existing Citizen, marrying an existing Citizen, or being granted Citizenship by the First Lord, generally for doing something completely awesome. It's largely hereditary, but that's because furycrafting power is largely hereditary.
  • In Warrior Cats, BloodClan works this way. Scourge can kill a cat in one blow; he's leader. Bone is huge and also a powerful fighter; he's second in command.
  • A belief in this principle is the undoing of the rabbits of Efrafa in Watership Down. When the biggest, toughest, most badass rabbit you've ever seen has stood alone against your elite warriors, and then rejects an offer of surrender because his chief rabbit has ordered him to stand... well, you don't want to stick around to meet the big guy's boss.
    • Neatly subverted in that said Chief Rabbit is actually smaller, has a permanent leg injury, and just generally less prone to asskicking than Bigwig. Not that most of the Efrafan Owslafa stuck around to find this out.
  • The Minotaur Empire in Dragonlance is all about this trope; anyone can become Emperor so long as they defeat the previous Emperor in a ceremonial (but very real and lethal) duel, and social and legal conflicts are also often solved in the arena. This becomes a plot point in the Minotaur Wars trilogy where a new Emperor comes to power after a coup, and even though he is a much better leader sizeable chunks of the population won't follow him because he dishonorably assassinated his predecessor rather than formally duelling him.
  • The leaders of the Holnists in The Postman. The Holnists are a gang of Crazy Survivalist social Darwinists, so naturally the men in charge are Super Soldiers.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • In an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, "Mirror Mirror", Kirk and a few of his bridge crew swap places with their counterparts in an alternate dimension where promotions are earned by killing your commanding officer. It's a wonder they managed to keep their Enterprise crewed by anything but a huge pile of corpses.
    • The Klingons would've been right at home in that universe, as they actually want their worthy successors to prove their mettle by killing them to take their place.
  • The Nietzscheans of Andromeda, on account of being a genetically engineered race of Social Darwinist Nietzsche Wannabes, base their society on this principle. The males compete with one another to gain the females' attention and the strongest male in the Pride is the Alpha.
  • An example of the good kind of this trope, in Stargate SG-1 both Colonel Jack O'Neill and Colonel Sam Carter both got promotions as a reward for the many times they owned the bad guys and saved the Earth.
    • The Goa'uld, however, play it deadly straight, since the only way to become Supreme System Lord is to amass enough power to tell all the others to sit down and shut up. Since O'Neil(l) dealt Ra a nuclear sucker punch back in Stargate the other System Lords have been squabbling over who gets to fill his gold-plated shoes; whenever one seems to be getting close it's generally regarded as a bad thing.
  • The Narns of Babylon 5 evidently follow this trope to some degree; if a Narn is really pissed off at a higher-up, said Narn can challenge him/her (OK, him) to single combat for the position. G'Kar was challenged by a young hothead leading attacks on Centauri on the station; despite the underhanded tactics (e.g. having one of his lieutenants try to get G'Kar with a poisoned dart), G'Kar wins and manages to get something of a handle on B5's Narn population.
  • In the episode "Wipe-Out" of the American TV series Raven, the titular character Jonathan Raven (who is secretly a ninja) decides to infiltrate a gang of surfers. The final test to join the gang is to fight every member, one by one. He defeats every single one except the boss. After losing this fight, he innocently remarks that he must've failed the test, but the boss replies that no, he's now the second in command. Later on, however, Raven (who is actually a ninja) admits to his pal that he lost the fight to the boss on purpose, because if he had defeated the boss he would have undermined his authority, and been unable to infiltrate the gang. The gang are playing the trope straight, and Raven uses Genre Savvy to take advantage of them.
  • In the seventh season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, when the group temporarily turns away from Buffy as their leader, they place Faith, who as the other Slayer is the team's second strongest member, in that role instead. This is in spite of the fact that Faith has no leadership experience whatsoever, and virtually every other character has a better claim to the leadership. Willow and Giles are smarter, and Xander is the only member of the group with actual management experience.
  • In Kamen Rider Kuuga, the Grongi's Gegeru game revolves around killing humans, each rank taking their turn and getting progressively stronger with rank. The winner of each tribe gets promoted to the next level, the winner of the Gegeru earns the privilege to fight the Grongi King for control of the tribe. To add to it, the king himself kills off 152 Grongi he decides are too weak to engage in the Gegeru.

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Ork society in Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40,000. "Da bigga an ork is, da more dat 'es da boss." It actually goes both ways-orks know who is their boss because the boss is bigger, but orks actually grow as a response to rising in the social hierarchy-the bosses really are bigger because you start growing when you become the boss.
    • Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka, the greatest of all Ork warlords, has a head the size of a human torso, and arms thicker than a literal tree trunk. He's actually closer to the size of a large Killa Kan or small Dreadnaught than a typical ork. Nothing more needs to be said about his strength, or his love of all things dakka.
    • Other such societies in the two settings include, but is not limited to, Norsca, Chaos warbands (especially Beastmen), Skaven, Ogres, Dark Elves and Dark Eldar.
    • Chaos Lord gain their position through sheer power and favor from the Gods. The latter is gained by the Chaos Lord's quality in the former. Kharn the Betrayer, for example, is the greatest of all Khorne's Champions due to his phenomenal fighting ability. When a Chaos Lord is slain, the best of the warband usually take each other on until only the strongest remain, and then the strongest fight each other so that only the greatest Champion remains.
    • Eldar also follows this trope; their leaders are usually ones who are lost on the path of the warrior or sorcery, so if they lived that long, you know they can kick ass.
    • Ogres are the embodiment of this trope. The only requirement to becoming tyrant of a particular tribe is to beat the (sometimes literal) living crap out of the old one.
    • Given the Eternal War nature of the setting, nearly every single faction is prone to this trope, you only make it that high in rank if you have the skills to survive. It's only subverted with the Imperial Guard and Tau, who are instead privileged to better equipment and/or a good sized command squad to make up for their leader's lack-of-asskicking.
  • In BattleTech, this is pretty much how the Clans work. The warrior caste is very much in charge with everybody else ultimately working for them, martial skill determines rank and command privileges, and trial by combat is considered a legitimate way to air one's grievances or even overturn political decisions that didn't go your way.
    • Subverted in a very subtle fashion, rarely explicitly stated. The Clan system selects leaders based on their martial skills in single combat. It does not select on unit-level tactics, administrative skills, or leadership ability. When the Clans have fought in large-scale operations against comparable opponents (Tukkayid, Operations Bulldog and Serpent, Operation Reckless) they typically get their asses kicked.
      • Not entirely played straight however. The Blood of Kerensky novels make it clear that Khans (who are elected by the Clan Council) have to be able to play politics as well. Furthermore one has to be nominated (requiring connections) to be able to fight for a Bloodname (generally required to serve beyond the age of 35 and rise above the rank of Star Captain). The less successful Clans (Smoke Jaguar, Ice Hellion) tend to play this trope straight. The more powerful and thriving ones including; the Wolves, Jade Falcons, Diamond Sharks, and Star Adders for example, select leaders based off both combat ability and political prowess.
  • And most depictions of Dungeons & Dragons Devils work on a very orderly version of this.
    • Also the drow that follow the spider goddess Lolth, which includes a great majority of the entire race. There are lots of rules in their society that demand severe punishments for betrayal and murder, but only the victims or their immediate families can bring a case before the high priestesses. Thus the only way to power is to kill everyone in your way and intimidate everyone who could make your deeds publicly known. Everything is legitimate, as long as you can get away with it.
      • Applies to the system as a whole. Since all abilities, from ability to fight to ability to weave baskets, are based on level, anyone that is exceptionally good at something, even a purely non violent profession or trade, is liable to be able to take at least a small army on by themselves... and win. As there is no shortage of ambition and predators - literal and figurative - those who keep a position of authority are those with enough personal power to kick the ass of anyone who wants to take their place. Often ends up being recursive with Authority equals Asskicking, both in that getting to the position in the first place is liable to improve your combat abilities (even if you do not fight your way there) and that it is often necessary to be proactive in order to maintain your position.
      • And let's not forget the iconic D&D joke - this is a game about breaking into creature's homes, killing them, and stealing their personal possessions. As said creatures tend to resent this, having sufficient combat ability is a job requirement.
    • Forgotten Realms frequently shows how such things happen. Let's take Wyvern's Spur and a story of one ex-sellsword, now the King's governor:

Giogioni Wyvernspur: Is that a prerequisite for your job?
Samtavan Sudacar: Got to make a name for yourself at court. Slew a frost giant that was terrorizing merchants in Gnoll Pass. That's how I got into politics--a service like that has to be recognized officially.

  • Exalted has this going on with the Yozi Cecelyne, Hell's lawmaker. Her rules stem from the belief that the strong are to rule over the weak. Her other laws are often arbitrary and sometimes outright contradictory, but this is the one truth she holds to absolutely. Indeed, it's one of her unbreakable themes as a Primordial being, so she can't even conceive of another way it could be.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • In Halo, the Elite hierarchy is simple enough: the more you kill, the higher your rank.
    • It only applies to enemies in battle. Played even straighter with brutes- you kill the current chieftain of a tribe, and you get to be the new one. If you're a brute of course.
  • In World of Warcraft, Ogre hierarchy is based solely on asskicking. Basically, rank and gear go towards whoever can fight for it, since Ogres lack the mental capacity to elect someone democratically.
    • Also, the now-abolished honor ranking system lived and breathed this trope: The Grand Marshal and High Warlord ranks were awarded to characters who week after week were the most lethal among their respective factions. In practice, this required nearly nonstop combat for several months.
    • The tribal Horde races (orcs, tauren and trolls) all seem to be this. It's been stated many times that the leaders of tribes are the most powerful warriors in the tribe (or, in the case of trolls, most powerful witch doctors).
    • Cosmetically happens in StarCraft II. Every terran unit starts as a Private, then increases in rank depending on how many kills they scored. Zerg and Protoss do the same, but with different titles. Heroes always have a set rank, though.
  • The Zuul from Sword of the Stars operate on this mentality. They are a Hive Mind, so the strongest personality directs the collective... Until it shows weakness, at which point all the ones who can challenge it will do so.
  • Overlords in the Nippon Ichiverse. The title of Overlord of a Netherworld will automatically pass from the defeated to the victor if its possessor is defeated; thus, only the strongest demons (or those who can fool their fellows into thinking they're far stronger than they really are) remain Overlords.
    • Anyone can become a demon Overlord if he or she kicks enough ass. This (canonically!) happens to Prier from La Pucelle Tactics after she defeats too many demons in the Netherworld. The demons pledge their loyalty to her and declare her to be a Demon Overlord, much to her dismay.
  • The Reason of Yosuga in Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne.
  • Fire Emblem mentions in Path of Radiance that the shapeshifting Laguz pick their kings based solely on physical strength.
  • The Thraddash of Star Control 2 are willing to reshape their society along your very whims once you've killed about a third of their military. Their history is a series of numerically ordered Cultures, each one defeating the previous one in total war. They've nuked themselves back to the stone age five times, and each culture considers itself the strongest due to this tradition. Kick enough ass and you're in charge of everything.
  • In the third Jak and Daxter game, there's a Proud Warrior City run by Damas, who is the one who pulled all the misfits together and got them to build the damn city in the first place. The whole "leader = Jerkass or Big Bad" thing is averted though because King Damas is, deep down, a good guy.
  • During the 65 Million B.C. section in Chrono Trigger, Ayla (chief of the Ioka tribe) explains that whoever's strongest is the chief. She makes sure Kino, the second-strongest person in the tribe, is out of danger whenever she's about to do something heroic, just to make sure the line of succession is undamaged. (Well, that and she loves him.)
  • In Mass Effect, the most badass krogan around is the leader. Wrex is well on his way to becoming the lord of the krogan, and he killed a thresher maw on foot. Shepard briefly wonders why in such a warriorlike race someone would choose to become an ambassador. The answer? He (the ambassador) is the strongest warrior in the clan and therefore gives the best impression of his clan's strength.
    • After going through the Krogan Rite-Of-Passage together and being the first to kill a Thresher Maw on foot since Wrex, it says a lot when Grunt declares that he considers Shepard to be their Battlemaster.
    • Spectres. "Individuals forged in the fire of service and battle, those whose actions elevate them above the rank and file." Basically, if you're Badass enough, you get to be Judge, Jury, and Executioner.
    • All the crazy stunts that Shepard's original crew members pulled off under him/her finally begin to pay off authority-wise in Mass Effect 3 (except for Wrex, who gets his authority in the second game): Ashley/Kaidan is promoted to Lieutenant-Commander/Major, respectively, and appointed the second human Spectre (after Shepard), Garrus gets pretty high up within the Turian Hierarchy, Tali is an Admiral, and Liara is the new Shadow Broker (though that was more of a case of You Kill It, You Bought It).
  • In The Godfather game, you progress up the ranks of the Corleone family by completing missions for them and gain Respect levels mostly by killing a lot. A real lot.
  • In the Neverwinter Nights 2:Mask Of The Betrayer expansion pack, the player can become the Jarl, or leader, of a tribe of Frost Giants by competing in a trial of strength, namely that whoever's the last man standing and holding the crown, they become the head. The player can even take this to extreme lengths by throwing all the Frost Giants out of the tribe and exiling them.
  • In Team Fortress 2, |Australians choose their king via kangaroo boxing. While no real detail is provided due to Rule of Funny, presumably whoever defeats the kangaroo becomes king.
  • Cyan Garamonde is a variation in that his outstanding fighting skills have made him highly respected by his fellow soldiers, although he doesn't seem to wield any actual political power.
  • There's a damn good reason Ridley is the leader of the Space Pirates.
  • In Tropico when you decide how your character became El Presidente, a military coupe is an option.
  • Dragon Age. In Origins, if Sten is in your party when you enter a specific village, he becomes annoyed with your behavior and challenges you to a fight. Beating him increases his respect for your leadership.
    • This only happens if his approval is below a certain level. If he already has a high approval of you, he simply expresses his concerns, but does not fight you.
  • In Liberal Crime Squad, authority is represented by how many people you can have to work under you. That value depends on Juice. And one of the ways you can gain juice is by fighting conservatives.
  • In Final Fantasy VIII, Squall is made Commander of SeeD specifically due to his front-line combat experience and ability (helped along by a dose of You Can't Fight Fate). This marks Balamb Garden's change from vaguely military-themed Elaborate University High under Headmaster Cid into an active fighting force.
  • In Star Wars: The Old Republic The Sith Emperor is in every way deserving in his position, being a being with such connection the dark side his power is near godly. So much so he single-handedly captured Revan and killed the Jedi Exile, two godly force users in their own right.
  • In Dragon Age II we have Hawke, a former-refugee from Ferelden who became the Champion of Kirkwall after defeating the Arishok in single-combat. This is even more apt when the Mage Hawke has even Knight-Commander Meredith of the Templar Order, who hunts illegal mages having to tip-toe around Hawke with kid-gloves. Even a non-Mage Hawke is implied to have enough authority that the Templars purposefully choose to ignore Anders and Merrill, two of Hawke's well-known Mage friends because of this.
  • Codified into rule in the Book of Mages games. When the old Great Mage dies, an "election" is held, and whatever mage can defeat all challengers is elected Great Mage. In The Dark Times, this system breaks down; the Black Robes hold an election among themselves and refuse to allow non-Black Robes to participate, while the White Robes expressly reject the system, and their senior members elect a White Mage based on his reputation. A faction of neutral mages, who hold to the letter of the law, attempt to uphold the rules against whoever wins the war and play the trope straight.
  • In Disgaea this is pretty much how the Netherworld works, power is the only things that demons respect. Whoever defeats the current Overlord/Dean/President becomes the new one or they can appoint someone of their choice.
  • This is the reason for Mons in Final Fantasy XIII-2, summed up nicely.

"There is one law in Valhalla. The weak shall serve the strong."

  • In Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, two of the Factions work like this. The House of Valor arena celebrates martial strength and conflict and is always passed down to whoever can defeat the current Champion of the House. The Scholia Arcana also works on this principle since the Archsage is always chosen based on his/her mastery of battle magic. This is because the Scholia Arcana's true purpose -- a secret that is passed down from Archsage to Archsage -- is to watch over the Dark Empyrean's prison. The Archsage must fight the Dark Empyrean if she ever breaks free.
  • This is how monster society works in Monster Girl Quest and Monster Girl Quest Paradox. The queen of a race of monsters is its strongest member, and the position of Monster Lord is filled by the candidate who can defeat all the rest.

Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • In Supernormal Step, Cavan Henderson was voted dictator of the United States because he single-handedly defeated Hitler...who was a little green gremlin.
  • In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja one villain has a plan to take over the presidency by convincing Americans that it works this way. The arc ends with the good doctor pointing out all the many flaws in the plan.
  • In Order of the Stick, this is the reason the imp offers for trying to attach itself to V.
    • There's also the quicker way to become the supreme leader of a rather large army.
  • In Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures, this is the basis for most Creatures' system of (ahem) ethics. On the brighter side, it means revenge is pretty rare, since, by such logic, if you were defeated, you deserved to be.
  • In SSDD this is the basic principle of the Collective of Anarchist States' hierarchy, though most challenges are non-violent, a lower ranking Advisor is promoted if he challenges a superior's decisions and gets a better result. The CORE is a bit more Authority Equals Asskicking due to their use of cybernetic implants.
  • In Strays, clan leaders fight for it—then, they are part wolf. Intervention of friends is dirty pool.

Web Original[edit | hide]

  • In The Gamers Alliance, the strongest and/or most cunning demons end up in leadership positions in the hordes. Anyone can challenge the current leader of any tier, and if the previous holder of the title is defeated, the victor takes the title.
  • The Yamani Empire from Open Blue.

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Junko in Storm Hawks grew disappointed not that his people were obsessed with being strong, but that the leader of his people sided with the evil Cyclonians because he interpreted their mantra of "the strongest rule because strength brings power" into one that the Wallops should ally with the strongest faction out there rather than fight it. This was either Genre Savvy with how close the finale was, or pretty dumb considering the Storm Hawks consistently thwart them. Junko calls him on it twice, accusing him of being afraid of Cyclonia, and later denouncing that Strength without the will to use it for good is worthless.
  • The Predacons in Beast Wars seem to operate on this principle - when Optimus Primal is kidnapped by the Vok, Turncoat Dinobot insists that he should lead the Maximals because he's the strongest. Unfortunately for his ambitions, Maximals elect their leaders by secret ballot.
    • Their ancestors (the normal evil faction), the Decepticons, make this policy very explicit. Since the entire faction is made up of vicious murderers, the only leader who'll survive is one strong and smart enough to terrify them into submission.
  • The Powerpuff Girls episode "Impeach Fuzz" has the Mayor ousted from office by Fuzzy Lumpkins. He beats him in a wrestling match to regain control.
  • The TMNT episode "The People's Choice" involves two aliens whose electoral process involves combat with the current ruler. Donatello remarks that our electoral process is more peaceful, with Raphael adding "most of the time."
  • In Thundercats 2011 this is the ethos of the Catfolk-populated kingdom of Thundera, who style their Thundercats as the bringers of "law and order to a world of warring Animals" assuming that only their race is the one "strong enough to maintain this fragile peace!" This culture is reflected in Old Soldier Panthro's refusal to accept young king Lion-O as his liege until Lion-O has proven his prowess with the Sword of Omens.

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • To say that this is Truth in Television for a major part of human history is practically an understatement: Many leaders came into power by kicking out the region's current leader, then doing the same to anyone who might try to challenge them later. (Although it's usually the army doing the asskicking rather than the individual leader.)
    • It is said that when Alexander the Great was asked to whom the succession would go, he replied "to the strongest." Of course no one ever figured out who was the strongest until the Romans came along and showed everyone, thus becoming The Empire.
    • Along the Scottish Border that was pretty much how the clans worked too. The Steel Bonnets
    • All states are this, not just the more barbaric or politically incompetent. If a state has no asskicking ability or access to a state which does(like the militarily indifferent postage stamp states of Europe which are effectively clients of individual protectors or to the Western World in general)it cannot keep order or defend against outside threats. The difference is the control that is kept on the asskicking by law, tradition, internal balance of power, public opinion, etc.
      • This is older then dirt. The possibility of Democracy came because someone discovered that a few homeric aristocrats can't take on a formed phalanx.
  • Pick any animal species organized by packs or herds, and their social order will generally be ranked accordingly, with the strongest male exerting the most influence, both with regards to the pack as a whole, and with regards to the available females.
    • The term "pecking order", in fact, originates from hens. Yes, even female chickens will fight to establish dominance.
      • And quite viciously too; the alpha hen in a flock will frequently pull out the feathers of lower-ranked hens, often drawing blood. And since they usually attack the head, pecking out of subordinate hens' eyes is not unknown.
    • Wolves and lions are both widely known for their respective social structures.
    • Even domestic dogs take this seriously: If their owner fails to establish authority by the dog's standards, the dog may declare themselves "pack leader" and refuse to be trained. This can be a potential danger to people, but is especially a problem with small breeds: Mister Muffykins is indeed Truth in Television. Physical power and intelligence are part of it, but weakness through emotion is an even bigger factor: The pack leader must keep a calm head at all times. You don't have to be The Stoic, but if you let a bad week or a messy breakup affect you too much, your dog will try to take over as leader just so he can tell you to calm down.
      • Actually, this is very atypical behavior for domestic dogs. Despite what Caesar Millan says, domestic dogs have a stronger tendency to organize as a family unit than as a pack of unrelated individuals and if the dog is trying to exert dominance over its owner then something is extremely wrong.
    • In any horse herd, the alpha frequently has more scars and injuries than other members, because the lower ranks learned to run away/give in quickly, while the top horse ... didn't.
      • Actually, this is because the real leader of the herd is the dominant mare. She chooses routes and takes the best drinking/feeding. The stallions role is to drive stragglers along and stay at the edges, guarding against threats. Taking down threat after threat wears on the stallion. Sometimes he'll even allow a younger stallion to join him, though it means he'll eventually be displaced, making for a de facto sith apprenticeship.
  • Warrant Officers are a bit of this and a bit of Genius Bruiser. You get to be a warrant officer by being more skilled in your Military Occupational Specialty than an E-9 (highest ranking enlisted) in that specialty is supposed to be. Unlike regular commissioned officers, warrant officers don't need college degrees (though many have them anyway). Although outranked by regular commissioned officers, they still rate salutes from enlisted members, and can even be made company commanders in specialty units.
  • Among the Ijaw clans of southern Nigeria, the cultural period before the rise of war-canoe houses and kingship (dated usually as 17th Century) is known as the "Heroic" or "Warlord" period. Basically, clans rallied behind strong fighters who organised them along war-making lines (levies of warriors from each family, garrisons). The top warriors in each clan ruled in council under the strongman, who could be deposed for failure in warfare, or a challenge to single combat. Many of the founding warlords have been elevated to deity status, becoming "patron saints" of combat and national cult heroes for their clans (Fenibeso for Okrika, Egbesu for many of the central Ijaws).
  • Democratic Elections are a more civilized form of this. Well sort of. When you think about it they are a non-violent Combat by Champion involving an exchange of insults until the one whose reputation has been least destroyed gets the privilege of taking office and being blamed for all the evils of the world for his entire term. In any case it is about giving power to the one who was victorious in a contest.
  • This trope is a nice summation of the fascist worldview. In the 1930s and '40s, when it was also sometimes referred to as "Realism" in relation to foreign policy, Orwell summed it up with a supposed quote from Germany's "Iron Chancellor" Bismark: when asked if a failure in foreign policy had been caused by being too harsh to a defeated enemy, Bismark was supposed to have replied "No, it was clearly caused because we weren't harsh enough".
  • Americans seem to love electing U.S. Presidents who were war heroes. George Washington is the Ur Example here, with Dwight D. Eisenhower being a more modern example. Others notable Presidents who fought in wars were Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, and Theodore Roosevelt. A full list of Presidents' military service found here.