"...What would you do without me? Say 'nothing'."
A heroic party whose official professions are defined vaguely enough to allow them to go on all sorts of adventures. Generally requires only one catch (like simply being paid) to take any job no matter how unusual or apparently trite, and all are treated with the same amount of professionalism.
A noticeable trend is for these groups to be some variation of either mercenary work or detective work. If dealing with supernatural forces, you literally have a Who You Gonna Call? on your hands. Adventure Guild is a subtrope commonly found in a Role Playing Game Verse.
People who do this stuff without getting paid generally have Chronic Hero Syndrome. A variant might be that they'll charge based on the client's ability to pay, lowering or even waiving their fees if the case is interesting enough or the customer is in dire enough straits.
Someone who wanders from place to place doing this is a Knight Errant.
Anime and Manga
- City Hunter
- Futakoi Alternative
- The ninjas from Naruto are rather like this, jobs ranging from mercenary work to finding a lost cat.
- The main characters from Gintama.
- The MITHRIL Organization from the Full Metal Panic! series, on an international scale. They are, amongst other things, hired by the UN to clean up civil wars and stop ethnic cleansing.
- The main Five-Man Band from Sorcerer Hunters.
- In Hajime no Ippo, Takeshi Sendoh's backstory has him as an ex-gang leader whose followers actually fought against other gangs to counterattack their abuse of other students. And ever since he was a child, Sendou strived to protect his friends from bullies: his motto was "Leave this to me! I'm gonna protect you ALL".
- The Black Knights from Code Geass are told that their missions is to protect the weak. Even if they are just being manipulated, they do eventually manage to fulfill this role.
- Sawamura Seiji in Midori no Hibi uses his considerable martial prowess to this end because he was bullied as a child.
- Starwind and Hawking Enterprises in Outlaw Star, whose job is to "offer solutions to any kind of problem."
- Jon Sable Freelance.
- Heroes For Hire Power Man and Iron Fist, though if the cause is just enough, they'll waive the fee.
- Sam and Max Freelance Police.
- Doctor Strange has occasionally been known to investigate supernatural cases for a fee.
- Challengers Of The Unknown
- The Ghostbusters, whose philosophy, as Peter says in a television ad, is that "no job is too big, no fee is too big!" Though they do milk business customers like the Sedgewick Hotel for all they're worth, they're more forgiving when it comes to private individuals like Dana and Louis.
- Seven Samurai gives a somewhat ambivalent and often cynical treatment of this.
- Skeeve's team and later the M.Y.T.H. Inc. crew (in "Some kind of MYTHsomething" by Robert Asprin) seems to take any client who can meet their fees. Admittedly, they've built up such a reputation by now that not just anyone can afford to hire them.
- Repairman Jack from F. Paul Wilson's series of novels will fix anything, barring mechanical appliances.
- Doc Savage
- Sir Michael from the Knight And Rogue series by Hilari Bell is like this. It gets him in some trouble.
- The Steel General of Roger Zelazny's Creatures Of Light And Darkness. "Behold the one who comes upon scenes of chaos, and whose cold metal hand supports the weak and the oppressed."
- Travis Mc Gee, from John MacDonald's novels. He usually gives his profession as 'salvage consulant'.
- Tamora Pierce has a character named Kel - the heroine of the aptly-named Protector of the Small quartet. Kel spends most of her time outside training kicking the collective asses of anyone who picks on helpless people. She's good at it, too.
- Sherlock Holmes makes this trope Older Than Radio, selling his services as a consulting detective to everyone from poor tradesmen and governesses to the official police force of Scotland Yard to aristocrats, captains of industry, and even royalty. He'll even investigate the case for free if the client can't afford to pay him but their problem stirs his interest. While it's certainly true that Holmes is glad to help people who need it and see justice done, and glad to collect his fee, his primary motivation is always finding ways to stave off the monstrous boredom that he feels whenever he is not on a case, since his vast intellect makes it very hard to find meaningful challenges and stimulation in life. From his point of view, the more bizarre and outlandish a case is, the better.
- Harry Dresden, only professional wizard in Chicago. For the first six books of the series, his work resembled a private detective - follow this man who's supposedly cheating on his wife, find out who really killed some dead guy - but his methods involved magic spells rather than looking for GPS Evidence, and sometimes he'd get paid with favors from faeries rather than cash. In the seventh, though, he got recruited into the Wardens, the wizard law enforcement community, and since then he has both needed his freelance wizard work less and has found more employment from his "side" job.
- In Forgotten Realms—pretty much all and any adventuring groups, chartered or not, that have no strict official affiliation. Which is to be expected, as this setting was married to Dungeons & Dragons from a very young age.
- K.A Applegate's Animorphs series plays this trope straight—in several books, the characters (who are fighting a guerrilla war against an occupying alien force) complain about missing school, yet they always end up skipping school anyway to fight the good fight.
- The Hand of Judgment doesn't even get paid. They are five stormtroopers who left the Empire - or, as one of them says, "The Empire left us" when the ISB went after one of them for refusing to kill unarmed civilians; this incident made them realize that the Empire was no longer what it had been when they signed up, so they stole an ISB ship and fled. From there, while they argued about what to do, they kept running into situations where Imperial citizens, or people they thought were Imperial citizens, were in danger, and they kept trying to help them.
- Justice, Inc. in The Avenger stories.
- Some of Discworld's recurring protagonists fulfill this role.
- This is one of the Ideals of an order of the Knights Radiant in the The Stormlight Archive.
"I will protect those who cannot protect themselves."
Live Action TV
- In Angel, Angel Investigations started with the slogan "We help the hopeless", as its original advertising slogan, but it evolved into "helpless" in later seasons, and in at least one instance, "We hope you're helpless."
- It should have been the last one, if you've seen how they play it in later seasons, then you know it's the most emotionally charged of them.
- The A-Team
- The Goodies in that, when they're not carrying out zany schemes for themselves, they actually do want money for what they do, but they usually do it so badly that they're lucky if they get off scot-free. In one episode they pledged to not do any more charity work and the next person who wanted help better pay up for it... and then the next person who walks in is a beautiful woman. They promptly forget their pledge, and help her anyway.
- The Avengers
- The Equalizer
- Knight Rider
"Michael Knight. A young loner on a crusade to champion the cause of the innocent, the helpless, the powerless, in a world of criminals who operate above the law."--the Opening Narration
- Paladin in Have Gun — Will Travel
- Vengeance Unlimited, for one million dollars or a favor.
- The Pretender does it for free, since he can steal from the baddies' bank accounts.
- MacGyver - does he actually HAVE a job?
- Technically yes, but the job description appears to be VERY VERY broadly defined.
- The WWE tag team The Acolyte Protection Agency (APA for short) hired themselves out to various underdog faces for bodyguarding, six-man-tag-teaming, and general-purpose ass-kicking. They even had a few faux-commercials for their services, with the tag line "APA: 'cause we need beer money!"
- Burn Notice
- The crew of the good ship Serenity in Firefly. As an added bonus, some of their jobs do involve helping the helpless. (When they noticed one of their jobs involved exploiting the helpless, Captain
TightpantsMal did a Heel Face Turn and brought the stolen loot back.)
- Lampshaded/subverted by Mal: "We rob from the rich and sell to the poor."
- Pushing Daisies
- The new TNT series Leverage has this from the second episode on (in the pilot each of the 5 thieves made out with over $32 million on short-sold stock).
- Leverage is an odd duck because, unlike most other examples of this trope, the characters really don't need money very much at all and are therefore never broke. But then, international thieves are a lot like stock brokers: if the guy's broke, he's probably not worth hiring.
- Sanctuary has a slight twist on this, as the main characters generally help abnormal humans, while fighting the more dangerous ones.
- The Middleman
- Human Target
- The Doctor and whatever companions are hanging with him this week- whether it be creepy statues or the end of reality itself. Not really a 'profession', of course; the Doctor does it for the glory of seeing everything cool in the universe and helping people.
- Person of Interest is about an ex-CIA officer who needs a sense of purpose and a billionare software developer with a conscience; they help people who are going to be the victims of violent crimes, according to the predictions of a government surveillance supercomputer.
- Gary and his friends on Early Edition.
- The majority of adventuring parties in any given Tabletop Games, especially Dungeons & Dragons, also tend to be like this, as a cheap and easy way for the Game Master to get the adventure started.
- A particular Hat of the Lawful Good alignment.
- Superhero RPGs are perhaps an even better example.
- In contrast, Dark Heresy characters distinctly don't help the helpless. In fact, since the players work for the Inquisition, chances are they are actively killing the helpless just in case they happen to be Chaos tainted.
- Shadowrun teams with any sort of ethics at all tend to fall into this category. Of course, most Shadowrunners are immoral scumbuckets who'd slit their own mama's throat for a single nuyen, but the player characters are exceptions. Hopefully.
- Troubleshooters from Paranoia treat all jobs with the same amount of professionalism. That amount is zero.
- They're troubleshooters: They find trouble, they shoot it.
- Elite Beat Agents ...but they mainly just dance around to music so people have the courage to actually do the job themselves.
- Chromas from Phantom Brave, including the protagonist Marona.
- The motivation of Phoenix Wright.
- Of course, he'd like to get paid and take cases like a normal lawyer. It's just that almost all of his clients are close personal friends, dead broke but obviously innocent, or find some way to shanghai him into getting involved in the case. His sense of justice doesn't let him turn the jobs down.
- Interestingly, both factions of the Command & Conquer Tiberium saga, the Global Defense Initiative and the Brotherhood of Nod, lay claim to this trope. GDI frequently rescues civilians from the horrors of war and disaster, while Nod's entire ideology revolves around offering sanctuary and purpose to the downtrodden.
- Garrus describes his team of mercs as this in Mass Effect 2. Shepard can be this in both games if the player chooses.
Shepard: Listen, you're stuck here until this qurantine is over. That could take weeks. What you really need is to get this problem solved right now. That's what I do -- solve problems.
- Tali even does some Lampshade Hanging: "what is it about you that makes people think we enjoy being in harm's way?"
- Samus Aran's missions are generally simple; investigate a disturbance on a planet, exterminate all the metroids, etc. But in quite a few games, she goes above and beyond the strict terms of her contract due to her own heroic sensibililities. The two most extreme examples are perhaps Prime 2 (sent to investigate the missing Bravo team; ends up saving an entire planet from the same creatures that killed Bravo Team), and Fusion (Sent to exterminate the X Parasites, ends up defying her orders and breaking her contract in order to exterminate not only them, but also destroy the illegal, Federation-run Metroid cloning project and the planet of SR-388). One can only imagine her collecting her meager contract for the investigations that kicked off each adventure.
- As far as Fusion goes, she might not even get paid for that mission, given the end result.
- The Star FOX team routinely goes on interplanetary campaigns to eliminate Space Zone-spanning empires because they honestly want to save the system. Of course, they always make a point of collecting their (often extremely large) payment for the job. They have to eat somehow.
- The titular hero of Blitter Boy is, according to Word of God, a mercenary, and was hired just go into the haunted mall to rescue the babies trapped in there.
- Tagon's Toughs from Schlock Mercenary. When confronted with an angry pacifist, Captain Tagon responds:
Tagon: But they're almost always bad guys, and we only do it for the money.
- Quentyn from Tales of the Questor. As "Questor" is essentially something of a cross between a community champion and a sword for hire.
- The titular Revenant Braves in Circumstances of the Revenant Braves.
- The Dragon Doctors
- The N-M-S from Sam and Fuzzy, owned, headed and led by the protagonist duo. They're... Not very successful.
- Kim Possible: From babysitting to saving the world, "she can do anything".
- Disney animated show The Weekenders has a charity organization "helpers helping the helpless," where helpful helpers help helpless people needing help. Description courtesy of the lady in charge losing her thesaurus (she finds it later). Not quite this trope, but the name is there.
- The Real Ghostbusters have been hired by everyone from a pair of young children and a kindly old lady to a Hollywood studio, NASA and the French and Japanese governments. Thankfully, they take that into account when deciding what to charge the customer.
- Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers have the motto "No case too big, no case too small" in their theme song. And they appear to follow that principle...
- Most incarnations of Scooby Doo, whose teenage heroes, a roaming, freelance detective agency in later versions, stumble into just about every paranormal situation imaginable on a weekly basis and take it upon themselves to help the people they've met and debunk the (usually) fake ghost.
- Jack from Samurai Jack is an example of this, helping everyone he met in his journey and fighting evil in general.
- The heroes of the Global Guardians PBEM Universe did this as a matter of course. But then, they were superheroes. That's what superheroes do.