City Guards

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Your crime has been reported

"STOP! You violated the law! Pay the court a fine or serve your sentence!"

The City Guards are the local authorities. They strut about between one tile square and another, looking busy, decked out in more armour than your hero and generally acting superior.

Every once in a while, the hero will encounter a Locked Door guarded by one or two grunts in armour. Generally, they will stand around until you give them the proper item, such as a pass, bribe them with food or occasionally real money, or just get to the right point in the plot. Bad guys attacking the city walls, threatening to break in and murder everyone in sight, are great occasions for checking out guarded rooms.

Often, the city guards (and the guards in general) will be better equipped in appearance than your hero, such as in games where there is no armour for you. Despite this, you're probably stronger than them (unless you aren't), and let them stand in your way only out of respect for the law or... something. Of course, that in itself can get stupid in its own ways, such as when you're in an enemy town. As for the ones in Good Guy towns... do they have no idea what urgent plot points they're keeping you from? Don't they know that the Evil Overlord is marching his forces upon their hapless town? No?! The Guards Must Be Crazy.

City Guards are a common form of the Broken Bridge, in which case they may well be Invincible Minor Minions in order to make Sequence Breaking impossible.

A common cause of Dronejam. See also I Fought the Law and the Law Won.

Examples of City Guards include:
  • The X-Universe series has Space Police, which scan cargo bays for contraband and attack pirates. Their bigger brothers, the Border Patrol, keeps an eye on jumpgates leading to the other faction's sectors, and they use higher-end ships.
  • RuneScape used these too...and were attackable. They weren't actually programmed the same way most City Guards are actually...and players would regularly kill them for experience. It's even been lampshaded how guards don't have a very long lifespan.
  • Assassin's Creed almost entirely takes place in the cities of Damascus, Acre, and Jerusalem, and the city guards are a constant obstacle during every stage of every assassination. While on the ground their encircling tactics can be nastily effective, Altaïr, the protagonist can take to the rooftops to fight in his element. Due to the social stealth aspect of the game, the guards are infamous for their quirks. For example, after stealthily assassinating a guard, Altaïr can sit down on a nearby bench, eliciting no suspicion from guards who come to investigate, despite the small armory he wears.
    • On the flip side, however, these guards will be out for your blood if you happen to do such incredibly suspicious things as ride a horse at a speed exceeding 1/2 MPH on an otherwise empty road or get pushed by some random crazy person.
    • In the sequel, the guards are back, though they're somewhat smarter and don't usually attempt to kill you for bumping into people.
  • In a sequence in Okami, you are required to sneak past a door guarded by two weak, early-game monsters, even though you could probably kill them at this point with a flick of your Reflector.
    • Also, the very literal Sei-An City guards, who you have to sneak past.
    • Receiving unusual mercy because they can talk.
  • In Breath of Fire III, Mayor McNeil's mansion is guarded by two types of guard: the lazy ones who are easily bribed and Only in It For the Money, and the serious ones who will throw you out if they catch you. They wear different colors so you can tell them apart.
  • One of the more amusing sequences in Final Fantasy XII is when you scare off a pair of guards that had been blocking the path to Mosphoran Highwaste with a chocobo.
    • In Final Fantasy VII a pair of guards blocks a path early on... and when they move, your own party members will tell you you have more important things to do. Damn.
  • In the Nintendo 64 game Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon, one necessary path is blocked by two guards. After getting the required pass, the guards complain that now they have nothing else to do but stand there for the rest of the game.
  • On the other side of the coin, some of the guards in earlier Ultima games were just way stronger than your characters, at least at first. In addition, many MMOs use City Guards which are pretty well leveled, largely to keep PVP from getting out of hand.
    • For example the guards in Ultima Online are nigh-invulnerable teleporters who kill with one hit.
  • In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door there is a guard who you have the option of either bribing every time, or just beating the crap out of him. In retaliation, though, he will sarcastically bitch at you for the rest of the game.
  • The Elder Scrolls has city guards wearing light armor, Imperial Legion soldiers wearing heavy armor; neither is superior to the player character, but they are seldom alone. Attack one, and more will come. Each one killed adds significantly to the bounty the character must pay off to avoid jail time. But you can kill them. It's even possible through underhanded methods (legitimate and not) to get them to attack other innocent NPCs on the street.
    • For example by casting "Frenzy" on a person. The target goes crazy and starts attacking anybody nearby, the guards rush in and kill him. It's apparently perfectly legal to use magic that causes people to go berserk.
    • Note, however, that in The Elder Scrolls, unlike in most video games, the city guards will always remember who you are. If you are wanted, they will try to apprehend you on sight. Given how much of the series is spent in cities, it is usually a good idea to just accept the fines or jail-time they offer you rather than fight them.
    • If the guards witness you attacking/killing someone, there is a pretty good chance that they will literally chase you across the entirety of the game world. One player was apprehended three weeks after attacking a civilian, on nearly the opposite edge of the map, by the SAME GUARD that witnessed the attack.
    • They can always be very spiteful, too. And not to mention, 99.9% of Tamriel's citizens are above the law. If you provoke somebody into attacking you, the guards will simply tell you to "Move along outlander" or calmly say "Tell me outlander, what do you need?" when there's a Dunmer trying to punch your lights out. If you try to sleep in town, you'll be sent right to jail, whereas they might get stuck trying to walk over somebody's unconscious body.
    • It was more reasonable to flee in Daggerfall - criminal records only applied within a given province, and decreased over time, so if you committed a crime in, say, Daggerfall and managed to flee, you could simply hang around in Wayrest until you no longer were seen as Pond Scum in the province of Daggerfall.
    • Skyrim manages to avoid some of the previous problems with the city guards. While they'll still chase you down and try to arrest you, you can still attempt to flee, as each of the holds (read: city/provinces) tracks crime separately. Kill a man in Riften, and the guards in Whiterun won't care. Also, if you commit a crime and leave the city, the guards will remember you; an overt crime that earns a bounty will cause them to arrest on sight, while a covert crime like thieving (without getting caught) will periodically result in a guard who will comment "Wait a minute, I know you...." If you stop to talk to said guard, he'll realize you're apparently behind that theft and try to arrest you.
      • Let's get the joke out of the way now. Shooting a city guard in the knee with your bow does count as a crime.
      • Furthermore, if you are the Thane in a hold, you can sometimes get guards to look the other way in regards to some of your crimes.
  • Bethesda Softworks, in keeping with their above example, included guards in some locations in Fallout 3. The most notable is Rivet City, which has a practically unlimited amount of guards with combat armor and small arms in defense. Of course, almost everybody in Rivet City can be slaughtered, leaving only the guards and a few kids to take care of.
  • Spiderweb Software's Exile (and Avernum) series features guards that aren't really all that tough versus various miscellaneous enemies and tend to get killed easily when defending the town... Except for when YOU piss them off. When that happens, all of their stats (and their attacks/round) instantly triple.
  • StarTropics was well-practiced at using this trope. In at least half of the towns you come to, plot requires you speak with the mayor/chief/head honcho of the town. However, a guard will be standing in the way, barring passage inside unless you talk to absolutely everyone in town at least once first. This, obviously, was a less than subtle way of making you talk with all of the citizens before moving on.
  • The two BribeClaw in Star Fox Adventures will let you pass—for the rest of the game—in exchange for 25 scarabs. (The second one, though, can be bypassed using a Staff Power. If you do this, the BribeClaw will behave as though you had bribed him, and will therefore let you past every time you approach. You only need to pass him once, however, if you know what you're looking for.
  • Each town in Animal Crossing: Wild World has two armed canine guards at the north gate. You can't even leave your own town until you get friend codes. The trouble is that you can't get friend codes within the game; you have to get them from other players.
  • Peasant's Quest has a guard guarding the mountain that leads to the final boss. In order to pass, you must prove that you are a peasant, which includes being on fire.
  • In The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time, you have to sneak past them to get to Zelda. Twilight Princess depicts them as generally useless cowards, although they thankfully never really get in your way either. Well, they try if you run around as Wolf in Hyrule Town...
    • Don't forget Majora's Mask in which the guards wouldn't let you out of Clock Town in the beginning of the game (because you're trapped in the body of a young Deku Scrub). Later, when you're back to human form, they try to protest that it isn't safe for children, but then decide that this particular young child is carrying a sword, and therefore will be perfectly fine. Nice job, guys.
      • Keep in mind, at one point an old lady walks through a field in front of a guard when she is mugged and completely ignores her cries for help. If that weren't enough, after running around a bit the mugger escapes through the very door he is guarding. It seems the only job these guys were hired for was keeping small children from going outside.
    • Alternately, Twilight Princess assumes that all of the competent guards were killed off/imprisoned when Zant/Ganondorf secretly invaded Hyrule Castle, leaving only the bungling fools to stumble around castle town, unaware of why nobody's heard from HQ.
    • Don't forget that in A Link to the Past, the guards were in the employ of the villains -- they held their own princess captive and tried to arrest Link for it later. It's generally presumed they were under mind control at the time, but still.
      • Presumed, nothing; the oft-ignored guard on Hyrule Castle's battlements will comment on how most of the guards lost their minds since Agahnim took over, and muses that it'll only be a matter of time before he's affected too.
    • In Minish Cap, the guards stationed around Hyrule Town never antagonize Link and will comment on the king's strange behavior. You do have to sneak past the guards at Hyrule Castle in the later parts of the game, just like in Ocarina... until they're all turned to stone.
  • Soldiers stand guard all throughout the city area in Beyond Good and Evil, and they prevent you from accessing certain parts of the city at first. More of them appear throughout the town as the game progresses, as the government grows more paranoid. Interestingly, they start out as jerkasses toward the heroine. But once you acquire a sidekick who happens to be one of them, they immediately become polite and upright. Hmmm...
  • Minetown in Nethack has guards that will simply stand by and watch as you and its inhabitants try to kill each other, but God help you if you dry up one of the town's two fountains, in which case every last one of them will be out for your blood.
    • Oh, they will also attack you if you directly assault a shopkeeper. The key word being 'directly': If you anger the shopkeeper by zapping him with a wand or throwing things at him, the guards won't care, and any subsequent beating will apparently be considered self-defense.
    • There's also the guards that come if you're raiding a vault, though they can easily be sent away by telling them that you are Croesus. God help you if Croesus is dead, though...
      • Well if you were the one who killed him, you probably won't have any trouble with some puny guards at that point.
  • Saffron City's guards in the original Pokémon Red and Blue weren't necessarily well-armed, but they did prevent you from accessing an entire city for a good portion of the game, simply because they were thirsty.
  • In the Thief games, guards abound. Even if they'd be sympathetic to the plot you're trying to advance, who has the time to explain it to them? Besides, getting around them is the majority of the game's objectives, and even in Thief 3's between-mission sandbox, they're really no more a deterrent than citizens, whether you're playing as intended, Thief-like, or going berserk. They do have some amusing exchanges to eavesdrop.
  • EVE Online has CONCORD, the neutral police force. If you attack an another player in high-security space without a war declarationbribe, retribution is swift, deadly and unavoidable. In fact, successfully evading them is a bannable offense on the basis that it all but requires hax to do so. Factions also maintain their own navies, but those are at least escapable, if not survivable.
  • EverQuest 2 has guards in major cities. Some which are harder than high end raid bosses.
  • Fable I abounds in City Guard antics, from the obnoxious Broken Bridge that bars you from entering Bowerstone North until after a certain point in the main plot, to their willingness to accept 1000-gold "sponsorship" for "guard breaks", to their annoying propensity to get in the way whenever you have to team up with them on various good-aligned quests.
  • World of Warcraft has guards in every city and town (as well as invisible elite guards that only appear to opposite faction players). Guards will give you directions if you ask them, however in some cities (specifically the ones in Stormwind for starters) are rather unpleasant about this. The ones in Undercity basically demand to know what you want for talking to them. To sum it up, all guards are somewhat Ax Crazy with Fantastic Racism and will attack/kill players of the opposite faction on sight whether they're causing trouble or not.
    • Notably, town guards are usually level-appropriate to the area their town is located in. So they do a good job of driving off enemy-faction players questing in the area, but provide laughably weak resistance to high level players intent on killing everyone in town (except the kids).
    • Guards vary on how helpful they are to players in need. Some guards, like Booty Bay Bruisers, will rush to your aid if you've got monsters after you. Other guards won't lift a finger unless the monster attacks them. Certain guards will react to PvP combat by killing everyone involved, even if one player didn't do anything. For awhile, this was a very common cause of Griefing.
    • Some guards got the Invincible Minor Minion treatment as of Cataclysm. In all starter areas but Quel'Thalas and The Exodar there are level 90 Elite guards that can kill most level 85s in three hits or less. Should the player ever feel the need to wipe out a town of the opposing faction guards will spawn with several times the player's health pool just to be an annoyance. The latter type respawns instantly on death and begins to chase you until you leave the town.
  • Picking a lock with any other creature (even a cat) on screen in the original Baldur's Gate yields the delightful phrase 'Someone has noticed you. You heard the guards being summoned'. This would be followed up by high-level, well-equipped guards (though how powerful, exactly, depends on the in-game area you were in) showing up to confront you. Some of them can be bribed to go away, some just kill you.
  • In the Neverwinter Nights mod game A Dance With Rogues, every city guard is single-handedly capable of killing you, and it's impossible to bribe or evade them if they either spot you committing a crime or someone else reports you to them. This necessitates the use of stealth over brute force, which is the focus of the game. The one leeway you're given is that they'll only give you a verbal warning if it's a minor crime (like walking around with your weapon unsheathed).
  • Tabletop RPG example: This trope is taken to it's logical conclusion in Exalted with the demon Sondok, whose literal reason for existing is to guard things (thus the title "She-Who-Stands-In-Doorways"). She's so good at her job, that some of the merchants who summon her have formed a cult expressly devoted to her as a form of contract.
  • This is an old staple of the Ultima series. Unusually, the first two games require you to kill guards in order to win. In the first game, you need to kill a jester in a castle to gain a key, which causes the guards to turn hostile. In the second game, killing guards is the only way to gain keys which in turn are the only way to unlock essential doors, plus one of the plot-critical items is found inside a prison, which has an unmoving guard standing in the doorway. The guards are the biggest threat in parts III-V due to the battles taking place on a separate combat map. What looks like a single creature in the main gameworld can turn out to be anywhere between 1-10 enemies in combat. Guess whether the guards are always packed full? The guards are also frequently some of the strongest enemies in the entire game. Ultima VII begins in the walled-off town of Trinsic, and the guards ask for a password in order to let you out through the city gates.