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Generally, in a video game, the characters you control and play with are part of the plot. They are the Main Characters and they're the movers and shakers in the story, no matter how simple.

Then, there are these player characters.

These characters have no names, unless the player gives them names. They have no personality, and they don't act in the plot at all.

Essentially, they're Mooks and Red Shirts that you get to control.

This is a Player Mook. a Player Character that is a character strictly in the game mechanics sense. They can be defined by a few features that differentiate them from the Story Characters:

  • The Player Mooks use the same set of appearances. Often whatever class the generic character is will dictate how they look.
  • If there are mechanics to raise and develop characters, Player Mooks can learn only "generic" abilities. While they'll have access to all the default classes and skills, the Story Characters often have a unique class, plus they can access all the generic classes.
    • This is sometimes subverted in that there are Prestige Classes that only Player Mooks can have.
  • While Story Characters come and go at the whims of the plot, you can make as many Player Mooks as you want within limits and dismiss them whenever you want if you desire to do so.
  • Because their number and makeup is entirely determined by the player, these Generic Characters will never appear in a cutscene or do anything in the plot. The one usual exception is when they are first introduced, the one time in which the game can know who/what and how many they are.

Because they're always present and eminently customizable, quite a few benefit from getting nearly as much experience as the main character, so they are never Overrated and Underleveled nor do they require Leaked Experience.

Because of the amount of time and effort many players put into training and equipping these kinds of characters, they often become the target of Video Game Caring Potential.

Compare with Canon Shadow, which is a character that is there, but adds little to nothing to the plot. Also see Loads and Loads of Characters and Cast of Snowflakes.

Examples of Player Mooks include:

  • This is a common trope in Strategy RPGs:
    • Final Fantasy Tactics
      • Strangely, there are actually some specific, non-generic Mooks in the Final Fantasy Tactics games: In the first, the generic characters at the introductory monastery fight (that you keep once you get into chapter 2) all have set names. Also, the plot-relevant Chocobo, Boco, is otherwise just a generic monster (who has dialog when using "help" on his name in the formation screen while real generics just say "..."). The original release had exactly enough space to keep every named character, including these, and no more. In Tactics Advance, there are recruitable 'generic' characters with story ties which come with powerful skills pre-learned.
      • Generic units in Tactics Advance and its sequel are slightly less generic in that they can at least get a fair bit of dialogue if you opt to deploy them as the leader for a sidequest battle. Each race has their own unique pre-battle and post-battle dialogue, and with all of the dozens of sidequest battles, that amounts to a lot overall.
    • Disgaea
      • In particular, Prinnies are even treated like mooks by the plot, and all that entails.
      • Though in Disgaea, your non-Mook player characters have a harder time learning magic (except Flonne) and can never change class, as your Mooks can, so the Mooks can actually easily outdo the non-Mooks (except Laharl) unless you abuse the Mentor/Student system to teach your named characters a wider variety of magical spells (and even that is hard for the less magically-inclined among them, especially the monsters-type ones who can't use staffs).
      • 3 adds a bit more personality to generic characters, with an introduction scene for each class that plays upon creation, and the ability to talk to them to get some often amusing dialogue from them. 4 lets you individualize them a little by choosing one of three personalities for them during the creation process, which determines their battle quotes and voice, and also allows you to place them in the hub to provide conversation or run the various shops and services.
      • In fact, 4 has Valvatorez say that the 60,000 enemies the party is about to face resolve to 10,000 per character - there are six plot party members. When one character who is an unofficial part of the party points out that she's included in this, Valvatorez hastily says that her ten thousand were actually being counted among the Prinnies. Yeah, the humanoid player mooks are, plot-wise, beneath the Prinnies in importance.
    • Phantom Brave
      • Particularly odd is the theme on how alone Marona is, only counting Ash as company. The gazillion of other Phantoms she summons do not count at all.
    • Makai Kingdom
      • Easily the biggest example of this trope from NIS — no plot characters join you until the post game, all of your playable characters until then are generic nameless mooks.
        • Even Lampshaded by Zeta, who calls them "Battle Monkeys".
    • Stella Deus: The Gate of Eternity
    • Soul Nomad and The World Eaters (Nippon Ichi seems fond of this trope)
    • Ogre Battle and its Spin-Off Tactics Ogre
      • In Knight of Lodis, there is a way to actually turn a Player Mook into a named character. By following a certain sequence of events, Secret Character Deneb can "take over" a Player Mook's body.
    • Super Robot Wars: Original Generation/Original Generation 2 (Although they're always Guest Star Party Members)
    • Destiny Of An Emperor seemed like a pretty standard RPG based on the Romance of the Three Kingdoms story, until you realized that that's not HP, but soldiers! Wow, so many dead bodies!
    • Wild Arms XF
  • Dragon Quest III had this. Other than The Hero, you could go to a tavern at any time and make new characters.
  • Similarly to DQIII and DQIX, Makai Toshi Sa Ga lets you choose which kind of character The Hero is, and you can recruit up to three more generic party members at a guild. SaGa 2 has The Hero take three of his classmates with him.
  • By nature of the genre, most Real Time Strategy games use this.
  • Pikmin are cute little versions of these. They almost reach the level or Redshirt Army. That is, if the player doesn't feel horribly guilty letting just one die; this video can change that opinion quickly.
  • Overlord has the Minion Army, which function as basically evil uglier versions of Pikmin.
    • The sequel partly averts this by naming every single Minion you summon and allowing you to ressurect specific ones if you desire.
  • The Last Remnant has a mixture of unique, more powerful leader-type units, and loads more generic soldiers. The Xbox version only allowed a limited number of leaders, but the PC version removed this restriction.
  • Mons games thrive on this trope. Pokémon, Digimon and Monster Rancher are the most famous examples.
    • A subversion in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Party members past yourself and your partner are all these, but they are forced to appear in cutscenes, since all of the cutscenes take place on the overworld map itself. That said, they mostly just lurk behind the heroes and don't talk, although they will react to certain events or cutscenes by getting startled or fainting.
  • As do Atlus's Persona (and several other Shin Megami Tensei) games. New players tend to have a mental hurdle to overcome fusing or disposing of their old demons to make way for new ones.
  • Dynasty Warriors, from the third game on, allow the player to recruit bodyguards and armed them, but they just ended up being kill-stealing player mooks.
    • Later Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors games added Create Your Own Officer options and allowed you to play as a Player Mook in campaign. Every created officer had the same storyline.
      • Even later games in the Empires sub-series mixed Mook and non-Mook offices into the slush during game play. Based on your "friendship" with the various officers you commanded different ones would appear in cut scenes. If you where close to your Player Mooks, then they showed in the events.
  • Noticably averted in the tactics-RPG Valkyria Chronicles, where every character you can recruit for your squad has a unique model, personality and skills.
    • Though if you lost enough soldiers, you'd get faceless mooks with limited stats to replace them.
  • Similarly averted in Valkyrie Profile 2. The einherjar all fall into four general categories (light knight, heavy knight, mage and archer) but they all have their own names and models and different stats.
  • Possibly averted in Bahamut Lagoon. The non-plot characters in there blur the line between unusually well-defined Player Mooks and badly-realized regular characters.
  • Diablo 2 allows you to hire expendable mercenaries in town to aid you.
  • Mario Superstar Baseball and its sequel, Mario Super Sluggers, uses this trope like there's no tomorrow. In fact, the only Palette Swaps available in those games are for the mooks themselves (complete with individualized stats), with the thin justification that those same mooks had palette swaps in the main games to begin with (except for Magikoopa and Dry Bones, who only had palette swaps in the Paper Mario series). Interestingly, while Yoshi gets palette swaps in the sequel, Birdo still doesn't, despite different colored Birdos blatantly appearing elsewhere in the game.
  • The title soldiers in Cannon Fodder mostly play this straight, but they each have names, and they're so darned cute that they tend to provoke Video Game Caring Potential. Mind you, since this game attempts to avert Do Not Do This Cool Thing, an average player will see more than 200 of them meet Family Unfriendly Deaths, each adding another tombstone to the hill on the pre-mission screen and deepening the player's angst.
  • Star Wars Battlefront is this trope in spades - you even jump between random shmoes (somehow keeping your experience and bonuses) if your Player Mook gets wasted.
  • While most Wizardry games follow this trope, Wizardry 8 has an interesting subversion. While you do create and customize your players in a fashion similar to Player Mooks, you can also give them their own distinct voices and personalities. They talk as necessary whenever the plot demands, and often they feel like story characters rather than Player Mooks.
  • One of Perfect Dark's multiplayer modes had player 1 try to complete a single-player mission while player 2 controls the mooks. The mook usually has only 2 weapons. If the mook gets stuck (or player 2 needs to get to a closer mook) he can use a cyanide pill to effectively Body Surf to another mook.
  • X-COM and its sequels/successors/clones. Due to the nature of the game, players can expect casualties, lots and lots of casualties.
  • Scarface the World Is Yours. No matter how many times your Enforcer, Driver or Assassin gets wasted, you can call up another one. The regular drivers/co-pilots that assist Tony come in differing flavors and talents and skills (this last part may not be intended). It's so cute to hear them scream curses like the boss. Their highly efficent fighting skills definitely invokes the above mentioned Caring Potential when an enemy mook rushes out of the bushes and shoots them point blank in the face.
  • Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon gives you these if you get enough normal characters killed. (Most players STILL Start over on a single death anyways.)
    • This series as a whole tends to avert it, though, because everyone in your control is unique, with their own sprites, portraits, and stats.
      • Although Fire Emblem Thracia 776 played this straight in one chapter, where Glade joins along with a couple of generic knights under his command, who have names such as Lance Knight and Bow Knight. Since they're only available for the one chapter, most players just strip them of their weapons and use them as cannon fodder.
  • Averted in the Jagged Alliance series, which plays like a tactical strategy game, but instead of giving you generic soldiers, it has Loads and Loads of Characters, each with their own dialogue and personality. Played straight with the militia, who are AI controlled allies that you train to defend your towns. You will probably lose dozens if not hundreds of them during the game.
  • City of Villains and the Mastermind class. Full stop.
  • Metal Gear Solid has this in its PSP incarnations. Both Portable Ops and Peace Walker have Snake recruiting soldiers from the ranks of his enemies, who then join you as characters with their own stats. In Portable Ops, there were different classes of soldier with different uniforms, while in Peace Walker their uniform is chosen for the mission by the player.
  • Bioshock 2's mutliplayer has you play as the Splicers to avoid having six Deltas running around at once.
  • Gradius' Big Core MK I gets a starring role in Gradius NEO Imperial.
  • Etrian Odyssey uses these in order to build your party. The storyline involves your adventuring group as a whole rather than a single character, so no preset character is necessary.
  • In Mr. Robot, there are four plot-essential robots that join your party (by having their personalities copied into your head), one for each "class". But you can also get a couple more robot personalities to help you in battle by exploring the world thoroughly, and their existence isn't mentioned at all (even when the main character whines about how crowded it's getting in there). If I remember right, they do have names, but for some reason they aren't capitalized. Weird.
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Being awesome enough means one can recruit fellow gang members to assist on missions. They will follow, fire, pursue and then try to get in the car with you to go back home.
  • Scarface: The World Is Yours. The assassin, the driver and the enforcer. All have unique dialogue, look very different and controlled by the character. They can even get A.I. backup like Tony does (call for a car, the driver is armed). Bonus; they can murder civilians.
  • Final Fantasy IV the After Years does this over and over again. There's a generic Black Mage (named "Black Mage") and a generic White Mage (named "White Mage") who join you in both Ceodore's and Porom's chapters - between the two chapters, they're actually on your team about as long as Palom and Porom were in the original (and in the same places to boot!), but their generic names, nonexistent personalities, and lack of special abilities make them feel a lot more impersonal. In a similar vein, you get "Monk A", "Monk B", and "Monk C" in Yang's chapter; Edward's, meanwhile, has "Guard A", "Guard B", and "Guard C". Then again, this game has Loads and Loads of Characters to begin with, so it seems the game designers were just trying to give you some Crutch Characters without overloading the player.
  • Final Fantasy VI has the ghosts in the Phantom Train. Most ghosts are enemies but a few will offer to join your party. They have no backstory, a unique class, and a stat set randomly chosen from three presets. You can only recruit up to however many to fill your party; if they are KO'd or use their "Possess" skill they leave you party and you can recruit another one, endlessly. However, they always leave at the end of the level.
  • Hellgate London confounded players with an Unexpected Genre Change in which Mook troopers had to be endlessly expended fighting through creatures that the players could, by that point, have strolled through themselves.
  • Starting with Delta, R-Type allowed the Pow Armor power-up carriers to be playable, and they could hold their own pretty well. Then Final gave players the chance to play as the Cancer, known as the TL-T Chiron, even getting its own force module. An interesting aspect of the Chiron is that it transforms into the Cancer when the force module is attached.
  • Starships owned by the player of an X-Universe game, but not used for the player ship, don't even have pilots[1] unless the player gives them one by activating a script that adds a named pilot. Even then, their name is randomly generated based on the species that owns the sector, and you never interact with the pilots in person beyond giving them orders from a command console.
  1. Specifically, the player's name is listed as pilot on the ship's info screen.