Lord Error-Prone

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

So, this character is on a noble crusade, talks big, and believes all his own hype. In his mind, he is a great and noble hero. However, to everyone else (maybe except a loyal Sidekick or newbie) he's a buffoon or idiot who probably Watches Too Much X.

He's Lord Error-Prone, a Knight in Shining Armor or Knight Templar whose ineptitude and lack of common sense makes him more of a nuisance rather than a real threat to whatever he is fighting against. Which is probably good, given his fanatical mindset.

Possessing extremely poor judgment, Lord Error-Prone can often be seen charging against an opponent he has no chance of winning against (which, given his general clumsiness and lack of true combat skills, means almost everyone), oppressing minorities/static objects (surely servants of evil!) and punishing evildoers for such hideous crimes as jaywalking and littering. Often bizarrely Genre Savvy, but this generally backfires (because This Is Reality) -- extreme cases may simply be Genre Savvy for the wrong genre.

If he does manage to accomplish something good, it's usually through sheer luck rather than skill. If he gets lucky enough times to actually get people to believe in him, he may become a Fake Ultimate Hero. If he's very lucky, he may have a Hypercompetent Sidekick watching his back.

If Lord Error-Prone is meant to be a sympathetic character, he is often portrayed as a well-meaning, but clueless Wide-Eyed Idealist. Otherwise, he is a laughable excuse for a knight at best and a pathetic hypocrite or bully at worst.

Usually played for laughs, but there is something disturbing when one thinks about what might happen if such a character had any real influence.

Don Quixote is perhaps the Trope Maker, and most characters of this type will end up fighting windmills as a Shout-Out.

See Failure Knight. Compare General Failure, Miles Gloriosus, and Modern Major-General. Lord Error Prone is a knight who errs, but should not be confused with a Knight Errant.

Examples of Lord Error-Prone include:

Anime and Manga

  • Amelia Wil Tesla Seillune from The Slayers is an example of the sympathetic type (although she does have moments of competence). To a lesser extent, so is her father, Prince Phil.
    • Lesser Extent? Phil is just as error prone as Amelia. Just with fewer redeeming periods of competence.
      • Phil's way more competent. He talks and looks funny, but acts more as Reluctant Warrior or Knight in Shining Armor. Amelia performed pratfalls until it became Running Gag. He preaches to the ghosts and they heed him, she has Have You Tried Not Being a Monster? speech even Gourry saw as absurd. In charges without checking what force they face they're about equal, but given how much even top spells fall short, it's not that bad. We just see his better moments rarely because he has much less time on screen. Of course, whenever these two in a line of sight of each other, silliness increases on both sides.
  • Tatewaki Kuno from Ranma ½ comes from wealthy samurai stock, and speaks in flowery poetic text. He is always easily defeated by most of the other characters, but is always supremely confident and arrogant. He is too stupid to notice that Ranma is a Gender Bender, and not two separate people. He's actually seen him transform right in front of him numerous times.
  • Shuutaro Mendo (from Urusei Yatsura), possibly Kuno's literary ancestor, is much the same. He's incredibly wealthy, carries a sword everywhere he goes, and generally acts the cool sophisticate, an act for which the local girls fawn over him in adoration. Scratch the gloss, however, and he's really no better than Loveable Sex Maniac Ataru Moroboshi himself. In fact, he's debateably worse, given that he's utterly afraid of the dark, claustrophobic, and a Dirty Coward, while Ataru is capable of insane acts of bravery and determination.
  • Leo from Scrapped Princess.
  • An episode of the Kirby anime features a guest character who is pretty much an Expy of (and Shout-Out to) Don Quixote, replacing chivalric novels with comic books and cartoons. He ends up being treated sympathetically, especially because he's a senile old man whose delusions are pretty much his will to live. And then he helps Kirby fight a windmill monster.
  • America in Axis Powers Hetalia is always loudly declaring that he's "The Hero" but in reality he's rather clueless and he only annoys the other countries. In fanfiction, this tralslates to him being anything from a hopeless idiot obsessed with superheroes to a genuinely well-intentioned but incompetent idealist.
  • Darker than Black's Gai Kurosawa (not his real name; he chose it to sound cool) likes to think he's a gritty, badass gumshoe P.I. in the style of a Raymond Chandler novel, that he was kicked out of the police force for thinking outside the box, and his Perpetual Poverty is all part of the romance of his lifestyle. In actuality, his hardships are a result of being a pretty piss-poor investigator who jumps to whatever conclusion seems the most dramatic, and the only connection he has to what's really going on is proximity.
  • Bleach has the incredibly annoying psychic Don Kanonji, whose ego knows no bounds. A television personality rather than any actual nobility, he turns out in his first appearance to be just enough not a fake that he's been turning ghosts into hollows industriously, thinking he's exorcising them. He can do a ki blast the size of a marshmallow.
    • Since upgraded to the size of a watermelon, but given he tried to use it on the fourth level version of Aizen this has almost the effect of having shrunk.
    • Did actually extend the lifespans of some minor characters recently (in connection with that watermelon) for a couple of minutes. Was the first installment in a couple of layers of increasingly powerful cavalry. Still deeply annoying.
  • The sisters Yuan Shao and Yuan Shu from Koihime Musou.

Comic Books

  • This is a regular trope for Groo, usually when he finds a new cause to "champion".


  • Sir Didymus from Labyrinth is one of the sympathetic variety.
  • In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, there's a scene where Lancelot charges a castle to rescue a trapped princess (or so he thinks - the person in question is neither trapped nor a princess). To the blares of triumphant music, he heroically storms through its halls and towers, cutting down the "princess'" foul captors... or, more accurately, the hapless members of the castle's staff and wedding guests who happen to be in his way.
    • ..."in his way"? He takes a detour into the courtyard to slaughter the dancers.
      • And after he understands the real situation and befriends the king, he almost does it a second time before being stopped.
  • The second Buzz Lightyear figure in Toy Story 2—especially since he doesn't realize that he's a toy.
    • The first Buzz was also like this for a good part of the first movie- it's even lampshaded in the second when an exasperated Buzz, faced with his other self's antics, mutters to himself "Tell me I wasn't this deluded..."
    • And in the third movie original Buzz again, now used as a gulag guard by the evil daycare cabal. Apparently being returned to factory settings causes you to imprint on the first bossy people you talk to, if you're a military type. Although his acrobatics are freaking awesome.


  • Don Quixote is the Ur Example here, and most of the windmill-jousting and chivalry-claiming that comes after is derivative - the rest is a Shout-Out.
  • Witchfinder Sergeant Shadwell from the novel Good Omens.
  • Eyck of Denesle, the paladin/knight errant from one of A. Sapkowski's The Witcher stories.
  • Obvious mention goes to Lord Rust from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. All nobles were like this to a lesser or greater extent, but Lord Rust stands out as by far the worst offender.
    • This is nothing new either - in Night Watch, the only difference between Rust 30 years ago and Rust now is a moustache. And Sybil tells Sam (from experience, presumably) that describing him as an "inbred streak of piss" is perfectly accurate, and that to comply with Fred Colon's suggestion about what to do with the badge, Rust would need a hammer.
    • In his defence Rust is at least honourable (as he sees honour). At one point Vimes thinks Rust might have gotten up to something but then discounts it because he may look down on you but he wouldn't stoop to a level below him. Lord Rust may be a stuck up, arrogant elitist, but he wouldn't stab you in the back or cheat.
    • As far as anyone who a) lives in Ankh-Morpork, b) has ever had any kind of contact with Vetinari, or c) takes any kind of role in government is concerned, that's only further proof of idiocy.
  • Possibly subverted in The Wheel of Time novels with the High Lord Weiramon, one of the most powerful nobles in his country. In battle he's forever almost getting the entire army wiped out with suicidal cavalry charges. In conversation he's forever offending all the people he's supposed to work with. And in politics he never notices that he's only getting important jobs to keep him too busy to hatch plans of his own. But his ability to consistently fail in the way that does as much damage to the cause as possible, and his near-miraculous ability to keep surviving suicidal cavalry charges unscathed (right down to his immaculately waxed beard) seem a little too neat, leading many fans to suspect that this Lord Error Prone may actually be one of the most fiendishly cunning villains in the series.
    • They were right.
      • Sort of right. Fans believed him to be one of the Forsaken (magic users high on the Sorting Algorithm of Evil), but it turned out that he was just a Mook that was doing his damnedest to screw up Rand's plans.
    • Another example is Abdel Omerna, the "official" spymaster of the Children of the Light: he's very good at collecting gossip and rumors and believes everything he hears (the opposite of what a good spy should do, according to the Lord Captain Commander), and he's not even aware of the fact that he's only there to divert attention from the actual spymaster.
  • Prince Rhun from Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles series is a protagonist example of this. Though not overly proud, he is certainly foolish and bumbling enough for two, and a Wide-Eyed Idealist to boot. Taran loathes him at first, not least because he is a potential husband for Princess Eilonwy.
  • The demon-hunter Quigley in Robert Lynn Asprin's Another Fine Myth.
  • Sir Michael Sevenson from Hilari Bell's Knight and Rogue Series, has moments of this. For example, in the first book he accepts a commission to rescue a Damsel in Distress who's being kept in a tower against her will... only to discover, after the lady is long gone, that she was being kept in the tower to await trial for killing her husband. Oops...
  • Sooni from Tales of MU is one of the more villainous examples.
  • Prince Therandil, Cimorene's erstwhile fiance in Dealing With Dragons, definitely qualifies. Most notable, of course, are his bumbling attempts to "rescue" Cimorene from Kazul, but his accidental release of a djinn that wants to kill them both is a contributing factor too.
  • In Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series, most books have some variant of these. The odds are about 50/50 that Sharpe will kill them eventually.
  • Flashman has a few of these, most notably Lord Cardigan, Lord Lucan, and Lord Raglan, the men responsible for the Charge of the Light Brigade.
  • Tim Diamond, in the Diamond Brothers books by Anthony Horowitz, genuinely believes he's a brilliant detective, despite the fact all his cases are solved by his younger brother, Nick.
  • Ignatius J. Reilly from A Confederacy of Dunces suits this trope down to a T, with the exception of a single character believing him to be successful. The only two characters that "believe in him" only support him so that he'll cause a disaster that would be beneficial to them.
  • Sir Pellinore from T. H. White's The Once and Future King. He's basically harmless, though; his entire life is subsumed in (unsuccessfully) pursuing the Questing Beast.
  • Sulla from the Ciaphas Cain series isn't actually a bad soldier - she becomes one of the Imperial Guard's most famous generals later in her career, and her troops have high morale and confidence in her - but Cain sees her as this trope, because her enthusiasm clashes rather badly with his "Stay as far out of the fighting as possible" sensibilities. He never realized it, but she was actually modeling her entire approach after how she perceived him.
    • Plus, she's got a preachy, Purple Prose-laden writing style that seems deliberately crafted to annoy the reader.
  • Blend this trope with Hypocritical Humor, and you'll get Brother Verber from Joan Hess's Maggody mysteries: a correspondence-course preacher who periodically becomes convinced he's the one thing standing between his town and Satan, so gets drunk on sacramental wine and heads out to do battle ... assuming he doesn't get distracted by the porn he "researches" so he'll know what he's up against.
  • Hank the Cowdog faces imaginary threats almost as often as he faces legitimate ones. There's even a sequence where he and his sidekick, Drover, confuse a thunderstorm with an enemy invasion. Of course the fact that he has gone toe-to-toe with actually dangerous enemies gives him a little more credit than most.

Live Action TV

  • Group Captain Rodney Crittendon from Hogan's Heroes, so incompetent that Hogan feels the best place for him to serve the Allied war effort is in a German prisoner of war camp. Just not Stalag 13.
  • Inspector Sledge Hammer from the cop drama spoof Sledge Hammer!!, who resorts to over-the-top brutal methods for the smallest of crimes (like tying a speeder to the hood of his car as an ornament), and using lethal force at the drop of a hat while at the same time having the common sense of a slightly moldy fairy cake. There's the time he blew up an entire building with a rocket launcher to get the sniper on the roof (though at least he asked whether it'd been evacuated first), and the incident that provoked this exchange:

Sledge Hammer: The two men then pointed their shotguns at the clerk, so I took out my magnum and shot and killed them both. I then bought some eggs, and milk, and some of those little cocktail weenies.
Reporter: Inspector, was what you did in the store absolutely necessary?
Sledge Hammer: Oh yes, I had almost no groceries at all.

  • Stephen Colbert (the character, not the actor) of The Colbert Report. The only thing more profound than his logical fallacies and delusions of righteousness is his ego. To quote the man himself: "This country 'tis of me, sweet man of liberty."
  • "Captain Eureka" on Eureka, whose ineptitude comes from him recycling old defective products that were thrown out by Global Dynamics. As Carter points out, the guy's more likely to hurt anyone or himself than anything else.

Video Games

  • Anomen from Baldur's Gate II - a paladin-wannabe who can't even get his class right (he is a warrior/cleric rather than an actual paladin). However, he can prove to be a capable party member, and if you do his quests right he eventually matures a bit (reflected by an in-game be a boost to his Wisdom stat and a noticeable change in his formerly insufferable personality).
  • Steiner from Final Fantasy IX, particularly on the first disc.
    • Though it should be noted, his main failings were his misplaced loyalty and the fact that his rival's biggest strength was cunning.
  • In Oblivion, Viranus Donton, the son of the Fighters Guild Master, Vilena, is an incredibly enthusiastic fighter, but also incredibly unskilled in combat. In fact, he's probably the worst follower NPC in the entire game. During one quest, the player is asked to "show him the ropes" by escorting him on a fairly pedestrian monster-slaying expedition. However, it is incredibly easy for him to die (or at least be knocked unconscious due to his essential status), as he charges any enemies recklessly, no matter how strong they are, and doesn't run away when he's in danger of dying.
    • Farwil Indarys is an even more blatant example - he heads an order of knights that mainly serve to bolster his ego, and tends to give a lot of ridiculous speeches that invariably end with "Huzzah!". He also has the same tendency to blindly charge into enemies as the above example, though in fairness that's simply how all follower NPCs are programmed to act. Much more irritating in that he's not considered essential (and therefore killable), but letting him die screws you out of some decent quest rewards.
      • The easiest method of keeping Farwil alive is to leave him behind. NPCs only fight when they're in the same area as you; leaving one behind a loading screen keeps them safe from everything ever, and unlike other NPCs Farwil can be saved without meeting him again as he's in the Oblivion Gate, which will throw him out when you close it.
      • Just to note, NPCs actually have a relatively complicated procedure for determining whether to run or fight based on their level, the opponent's level, their health, and their own aggression. So, while Farwil and Viranus are artificially stupid, they were designed to be that way.
  • Princess L'Arachel of Rausten, from Fire Emblem 8, combines this with Genki Girl and Well, Excuse Me, Princess!. Unlike others, she does learn how to fight properly and gets better. Her parents were Lord Error Prone types too - and died because of that when she was a child, according to her supports with Eirika.
    • Actually, they were legitimately good rulers since they went out saving people from monsters, and other people spoke quite highly of them.
  • Dan Hibiki. He got kicked out of the dojo he was training at for his vengeful motives and thus created his own style, Saikyo (Strongest), which is anything but, yet Dan foolhardily believes himself to be Number 1 no matter how often or hard he gets his ass handed to him by the other, more competent fighters.
  • This is essentially Yuan Shao's depiction in Dynasty Warriors, particularly at the Battle of Guan Du.
    • Which is Truth in Television. The Real Life Yuan Shao was one of the biggest idiots in Chinese history.
      • Biggest idiot is debatable. The man had won some glory in his youth. Biggest senile old man in charge of way more than a senile old man should be is probably not.
  • Baron Praxis is an example of an error prone lord who's a threat to everyone.
  • Conrad Verner, Shepard's number one fan, from Mass Effect. In the first game, he attempts to convince Shepard to make him a member of the Spectres, an elite space peacekeeping group. (It doesn't work.) If Shepard manages to convince him that it would be a bad idea, he gets it and backs off...until the second game, where you find him at a bar on Illium, wearing a replica of Shepard's default armor in an attempt to be "truly extreme." (It still doesn't work.) If Shepard doesn't manage to get him to stop in either game, he ends up getting himself killed. The way in which he fits this trope is perhaps best exemplified in this exchange:

Shepard: Conrad, do you have any military training?
Conrad: I'm out saving the galaxy! I don't have time for training!

  • King Cailin of Dragon Age, at least in the view of Lord Logain. While he admits to the king's prowess with a sword, he's utterly dismayed with the man's choice of bravado and "a battle to tell stories about" rather than tactical strategy. While he did have a point to a certain degree (lining the first platoon of your army up *outside* the giant stone fortress walls is usually not suggested) his methods of showing his disapproval were... Questionable, at best.
    • To explain, Logain pulled his reinforcements out instead of trying to save the king when the battle was going badly. Everyone else saw this as betrayal, but he and his men insist it was declining an act of suicide. Cailin wouldn't have even been on the front line if he had listened to Logain earlier.
  • Captain Qwark. Good God, Captain Qwark. Thinks he's such a badass that the universe wouldn't last a second without him. In reality, the most competent thing he's ever done is... wait, who am I kidding? Captain Qwark has never done anything competent.
    • Perhaps rather worringly, while Quark does exemplify this trope in later games, Quark in the first game is a cunning and psychotic henchman to the real Big Bad who tricks the heroes into multiple death traps before engaging in a full out space battle. And lets not forget, in the second game he overruns an entire galaxy with deadly mutants so he could use their defeat to clear his name. He's still dumb, but seems to be purely using his hero status for fame rather than out of sincerity.
  • Daerred and his adventuring party in Neverwinter Nights 2. As long as you don't lie to them, they bumble their way through all the dangers and make a return, alive and well, in Storm of Zehir.
  • Here Dark Souls's Siegmeyer of Catarina sits, in quite a collection of pickles. A somewhat foolhardy knight who journeyed to the incredibly dangerous land of Lordran on a whim, you usually encounter him after he's managed to get himself into yet another jam. Though he is usually content to just stand around and not get in your way and happily rewards you for your help, it is possible for him to make one mistake too many and end up Hollow.


  • Sir Balin in Arthur, King of Time and Space.
  • Othar Tryggvassen - Gentleman Adventurer! from Girl Genius is a textbook case—at least in regards to the main characters. He is competent, but nowhere close to Agatha or Baron Wulfenbach, both of whom he has antagonized at one point or another.
    • Add insult to injury that he seems to be more or less impervious to harm, having been hit in the head with an oversized wrench that would likely kill most people and thrown out of an airship well over the needed height for terminal velocity on two different occasions.
      • Three.
    • To his credit, he is smarter than he initially seems, although that's not much of a challenge. To quote Agatha, "How can a person so dumb be so smart?!"
    • To further complicate his record, he's (quasi-justly) famous as a hero, and is also a competent Serial Killer with a cause. Batshit crazy and determined to wipe mad scientists from the earth.
  • Sir Muir in Harkovast while brave and skilled at fighting, often falls under this trope as he is very easily confused and distracted both in and out of combat.
  • Largo in Megatokyo.

Web Original

  • Happens more often than one would think in Survival of the Fittest, usually with a character who tries to be a hero and ends up getting either himself, someone he was trying to protect, or both of them killed. Sidney Crosby (yes, the hockey player) is the most famous example so far
    • An excellent example in v4 would be Aaron Hughes. He decided right off the bat that he was going to start an escape group. Thing is, though, it's pretty obvious he isn't a good leader, as characters often point out flaws in his plans. Not only that, but he also shows signs of being a Manipulative Bastard, to the point where some handlers call him "the true villain of v4".
  • Stalwart, at Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe. He even has power armor he's built himself, and a robotic horse which constantly malfunctions.
    • And off the school grounds, in Boston, you have the Lamplighter—basically a Green Lantern Expy who's not really quite living in the same 21st century America as everybody else and who the city's police would probably be happier to do without but can't really do much about either.

Western Animation

  • Spaceship captain Zapp Brannigan from Futurama, a loutish incompetent bumbling arrogant warmongering fool who believes himself to be sexy, competent, admired, indispensable etc.
    • Now let us be fair. What about his triumphant carpet bombing of Eden 7, or his victory over the pacifists of the Gandhi nebula? He competently dealt with them that's for sure.
      • Not to mention his glorious victory over the killbots!
        • He does win every single battle he partakes in. He just does it with massive casualties and expense, and hogs all the glory.
  • Lord Pain from The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy. Also the titular Reaper, who tries so very hard to be scary but usually ends up being eaten/mutilated/disintegrated by the Monster of the Week.
  • Every "heroic" character played by Daffy Duck: Robin Hood Daffy; Dripalong Daffy; Stupor Duck; Doorlock Holmes; Duck Twacy; The Scarlet Pumpernickel; Sgt. Joe Monday; Boston Quackie; and, most famously, Duck Dodgers. Many of these feature Porky Pig as a Hypercompetent Sidekick.
    • Might actually be the source of this trope's name. Duck Dodgers played a character called "Lord Error Prone" in the Cartoon Network series.
    • Likewise, the similar characters played by Plucky Duck in Tiny Toon Adventures.
    • And, of course, Daffy's descendant Danger Duck in Loonatics Unleashed.
  • Hong Kong Phooey, the "Number One Super-Guy" who can't even go into his disguise cabinet to change without incident.
  • Dudley Do-Right, of course.
  • Subverted slightly by Lord Bravery, of Freakazoid! fame, who seems to be aware that he's this sort of character, but plays it out the best he can anyway.
  • Gizmo Duck has a rather capable mechanical suit of armor and he's a quick thinker. Unfortunately all of his plans are absurd overkill and have drawbacks he never thought of because he went too far.
  • Inspector Gadget. Believes his own hype (and everyone else does, too), but in reality couldn't deduce his way out of a wet paper bag, or figure that the criminals surrounding him wearing the logo of his archenemy might in fact be enemies. (He gets a pass on not recognising his dog in disguise, since no-one else there can.)
  • Invader Zim is a villainous version of this trope. Thinks he's the most badass Irken warrior there ever was. Couldn't be farther from the truth.
  • Captain Wrongway Peachfuzz from Rocky and Bullwinkle. He's so consistently wrong that a tribe of island natives use him as a weather predictor—by expecting the opposite of his weather predictions.

Real Life

  • Jack Thompson, whose efforts at banning "demoralizing" video games earned him worldwide notoriety and resentment, as well as many harassment and professional misconduct lawsuits...
    • And then he got sanctioned by the Florida Supreme Court for his increasingly inane actions. Among other things, it turns out you probably shouldn't include gay porn in a deposition.
      • Not to mention the ever-increasingly-likely possibility of his permanent disbarment and a slot in Florida law school textbooks as a shining example of how to self-destruct one's career.
    • Jack Thompson is disbarred! HOW DISBARRED IS HE?!
  • "Superheroes"
  • The Charge of the Light Brigade. It's in the history books.
  • General George Armstrong Custer. Earned a record number of demerits during his time at military academy, won several Civil War engagements at great cost to his men (his only tactic was to charge), was court-martialled for going absent from his command and having deserters shot without trial, accused a close friend of President Grant of corruption without a scrap of evidence, and was regarded, by himself and others, as a great Indian fighter despite evidence to the contrary. He inspired fierce loyalty from some, and equally fierce loathing from others and still causes arguments today. Then there was that other thing...