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"All these years I thought it was power that brought responsibility. It's not. I was wrong. It's responsibility that brings power. It's knowing what needs to be done that brings strength. And courage."
Peter Parker, Earth X

Responsibility, honor, and justice. The Fettered believe in these ideals and willingly bind themselves to them, and in so doing draw strength to face whatever challenges arise. When their morals, values, and loved ones are put in danger, they rise to defend them with Heroic Resolve.

It's common for a Fettered character to be a police officer, paladin, soldier, or other law enforcement/martial profession focused on bringing peace and justice to the world, but they can just as easily be a pacifist whose code forbids them from fighting. The latter will have a hell of a time with this. In Ensembles, they are often The Hero who rallies their allies with the strength of their conviction and vision. One thing all fettered characters share is that they can often motivate others by virtue of their ideals. In fact, the Messianic Archetype is almost always The Fettered. That said, choice and freedom are an important aspect of a Fettered character; while they freely choose to adhere to a code, the temptation to desert it is always present, but placing their trust in these ideals serves to give them and others strength to stand firm.

Choosing to live by these ideals is never easy, and it has tangible drawbacks. If they put their faith in an unsound moral code, or obedience in an authority that is less morally upright than they, there will be a reckoning where they must choose to be Lawful or Good. If they don't, or choose wrongly, then they'll suffer a Heroic BSOD and turn into a Fallen Hero. The moral code itself usually really compromises their ability to deal with threats permanently, with things like Thou Shalt Not Kill, or being obliged to help the helpless when a more pragmatic attitude could save more total lives. Heroes who are aware of this may take it to the extreme and develop Samaritan Syndrome, or grow despondent when Being Good Sucks. A danger many Fettered face is the Poisonous Friend, who takes up the "task" of protecting the fettered from hard choices. Only rarely will The Fettered be clever or flexible enough to use a Zeroth Law Rebellion and Take a Third Option, as most think too rigidly to consider such "rules lawyering" as honorable.

The Fettered aren't always Knights In Shining Armor. Some adhere to less charitable codes of conduct, and might have different, but equally bizarre and less moral limits placed on their actions.

The Fettered is the counterpoint to The Unfettered; both share similar insane levels of willpower and inner strength, but have radically different world views. An exercise to the reader is whether the Ubermensch is Fettered or Unfettered, which will give one an excellent idea of where a work stands on a certain Sliding Scale-- if the Unfettered is the Ubermensch, then the work is much more likely to be Cynical. If the Fettered is the Ubermensch, then the work is most likely Idealist. If both are the Ubermensch, the scale breaks.

It should be noted that unlike the Unfettered, the Fettered can become embodiments of an ideal (well, except perhaps for Freedom) if their moral strength is strong enough. This in turn can lend strength to those who follow their cause and help fight despair. Still, beware the Broken Pedestal.

The Fettered character's greatest strength, of course, is also his greatest weakness. The minute someone devotes himself absolutely to an idea or moral code or what have you, anyone who knows about said devotion can use it against him and try to force them to break their vows.

The values held by The Fettered, if taken freely, may constitute a Heroic Vow.

Common characters who are Fettered: many Determinators, Knight in Sour Armor, Noble Demon, The Stoic, The Messiah, Card-Carrying Villain, The Snark Knight.

Examples of The Fettered include:

Anime and Manga

  • Keith Gandor from Baccano!, while difficult to call a "good guy", deliberately and strictly adheres himself to old-age standards he feels that present Mafia families are lacking in (although he'll cheat at cards), and is thus responsible for the Gandors' Neighbourhood Friendly Gangsters status. As Firo puts it, "He'd be great if he were in southern Italy or in the last century."
  • In Brave 10, Ishida Mitsunari is this regarding honouring Toyotomi Hideyoshi and preventing the collapse of the nobility.
  • In Code Geass Suzaku is the fettered counterpart to Lelouch. In season 2 he gets his "lawful or good" moment when he backs out from torturing Kallen with the Refrain drug.
  • Soichiro Yagami from Death Note is a police chief who is trying to capture the mass murderer known as Kira — who is his own son (he has no idea, though). As stated by Word of God, he's the only truly Good character in the whole series.
  • Many characters in Fullmetal Alchemist are this, especially Roy Mustang, who is haunted by the genocide he performed in a war years before the story began. He, and those who serve under him, are determined to do everything in their power to create a better country so nothing like that will ever happen again.
    • In the manga and Brotherhood, Roy Mustang definitely proves his fetters; when placed in a situation where he can either help the villains achieve their goals and save a comrade's life, or deny them and let his friend die. Though Roy knows that the decision will haunt and hurt him for years, if not his whole life, chooses the greater good over his friend... as she herself wanted. Thanks to the intervention of other parties, her life is saved and the baddies force Roy to help them through Villain Override.
  • Gundam Seed Destiny: Appropriate considering who he's up against, but Shinn Asuka is a good testament to why these traits aren't necessarily that positive. Sure he really cares about the people he's close to and wants to protect them, but his adherence to Chairman Durandal leads him to not realize when he's crossing lines he shouldn't and accept blatant lies at face value. Oh yeah, and the name of the Gundam of the man he hates the most? Freedom.
  • Alucard of Hellsing is a rare case of a villainous version of The Fettered, or at least a Type V version of one. He will ruthlessly destroy any enemy he comes across with little regret, but is kept in check from a full-on murderous rampage due to his Undying Loyalty to his master, Sir Integra.
  • Nen users in Hunter X Hunter define this. A user who imposes restrictions on his use of power increases it. The stronger the restriction the more they increase its power.
  • Katanagatari exaggerates this trope with Ginkaku Uneri: The desert has invaded all his land. His castle is ruined; he is the only one left, when Shinizika ask him why he fights, he sincerely answers he doesn’t know. Even so, he’s willing to die defending his sword only because he must defend something.
  • Negi of Mahou Sensei Negima tries really hard to be like this, although numerous people (especially Evangeline) have pointed out that there are situations where it just isn't practical and could lead to even bigger problems later on. After much urging, he's getting to point where he's willing to compromise if the result will be better in the long run.
  • Medaka Box: Zenkichi Hitoyoshi willingly tries to uphold what he considers "Medaka's Justice" in helping people.
  • Dr. Tenma of Monster is basically Jean Valjean, below, with a high emphasis on emergency surgery. Alternately, what happens if Jean Valjean and Black Jack were combined.
  • Naruto. He fuels his determination with his will to keep any promise he ever made.
  • The entire Marine organization are the fettered in One Piece' — their motto is Justice. Unfortunately their "justice" is a terrible thing sometimes.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Miki Sayaka is this trope, through and through. It does not end well for her.
  • Kenshin of Rurouni Kenshin is a model of this trope, where Defeat Means Friendship as well as the occasional Heel Face Turn when the defeated party realizes Kenshin could have killed them in the first five minutes if he wasn't carefully holding back. A pity that never works for Superman.
  • All the saints in Saint Seiya had a bit of this, but Shun by virtue of his pacifist ideology would go to the point of nearly becoming a Martyr Without a Cause on several occasions. However, he twice managed to bring about a Mook Face Turn by sheer conviction and kindness, at other times he did kill when forced to, and at times he had to be bailed out by his older brother for his pacifism. At one point he held Hades, in Demonic Possession of his body, immobile thanks to the strength of his wish that his body not be used to harm others, allowing his brother a chance to kill Hades. Surprisingly, the Aesop managed all outcomes of his behaviour in the series, never outright making him a fool for his ideals.
    • Shun could be the poster child for this trope, especially because he represents it as visually as he does metaphorically - his armor is literally fettered, as per his mythological namesake.
  • Trigun: Vash the Stampede. It's hard to tell all the time what he actually wants to do, for him, but two high entries on the list are definitely 'settle down somewhere quiet with people I care about' and 'travel around freely and be left alone.' He can't do the first because he knows he can't ignore the world's problems, specifically his brother, and he can't do the latter because...he can't ignore the world's problems, so he's always getting into trouble. Also there's a huge bounty on his head.
    • He hates it when anyone gets hurt, but he's a genius gunfighter. Apparently he trains so hard because the better he is, the more likely he can resolve situations without anyone getting killed. Also never uses his superpowers because he can't control them, goes through hell for strangers constantly, is covered in scars under his clothes because (in a genre subversion) he's not Made of Iron... Extremely Angsty take on The Messiah, or just Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds waiting to happen?
    • And in his manga incarnation, if you read carefully he consciously chose to believe in people and care about and protect the human race, everybody, on the strength of Rem's idealism. If he compromised and decided it was acceptable to kill even one person, his reason for not being like Knives would fall apart. This doesn't actually happen, mind, but the circumstances are pretty special. If he ever just decided someone was bad enough that they deserved to die, it would have been the same as Knives only on a smaller scale.
    • So everything Vash does, all the time, no matter what, he's doing because it would be unacceptable to do anything else. Except maybe bubble gum, donuts, and certain levels of annoying, but once we're a way into the series it would disturb Meryl enough if he stopped acting like himself that he's got obligations to be a goofball, too. He often covers problems with this kind of behavior so as not to worry people, further confusing the issue of how much he actually means anything. Ever.


  • Batman absolutely refuses to kill. The Joker calls him on it numerous times.
  • Captain America is the embodiment of America's ideals and virtues, and has throughout his run never killed (well, there was a vampire that one time, but he doesn't count). He's killed several times, but it's always been only when he has no choice, and causes much angst. During World War II he did kill people, but he was a soldier, and it's not something he boasts about. He also frets about damage to churches, and is very accommodating to accountants trying to total up superfight destruction.
  • Judge Dredd is completely unwavering in his pursuit of justice, or at least "justice" by the brutal standards of the Crapsack World he inhabits. It's his entire reason for being; Dredd and his brothers were cloned from the founder of the Judge, Jury, and Executioner system, then raised from birth to be perfect law enforcers. He balks at even the suggestion of compromising on the law.
  • Sandman: Morpheus uses the rules of the Dreaming and the occult universe in general to accomplish his goals, at one point explicitly stating that the laws which empower him in some ways also bind him in others. He's fond of the word 'responsibility': responsibility for the survival of the Dreaming, responsibility to anyone under his protection, responsibility to his son... Eventually, this is what kills him — or, perhaps, makes life so intolerable for him that he arranges his own death. It's complicated.
  • After Uncle Ben, Spider-Man's entire philosophy has revolved around using his powers to take full responsibility for the safety of New York. Sometimes to an almost unhealthy extreme.
  • Superman likewise has the preservation of human values, life, and property--all human life, people like Lex Luthor included--acting as limiters on his power. Heck, most flagship comic book superheroes tend to be Fettered.
    • Averted by Wonder Woman in some ways. It's arguable, however, that her own moral code is just as stringent as Superman's or Batman's even though it does allow for killing to serve the greater good.
  • The Watcher from the Marvel/DC universe is immensely powerful, but took a vow to never interfere, only to watch. Many times, he is depicted as being in deep internal conflict because he so desperately wants to intervene to prevent a disaster, even starting to take action at times only to remember his vow and abort his intended action before it is even noticed by the main characters.
  • Rorschach of Watchmen fame represents a dark fulfillment of this archetype while exploring some of its weaknesses. His moral code prescribes protecting the innocent while ruthlessly punishing the guilty, and to him, the line between the two is crystal clear, symbolized by his black-and-white mask. But problems and cognitive dissonance arise when he proves willing to dismiss wrongdoing committed by those he respects and rationalize crimes against those he does not. In the end, when Rorschach finds himself faced with a dilemma that can't be solved just by appealing to his principles, he breaks down.
  • X-Men: Professor X is this and he wants to spread his view to every other mutant on the planet. Humans may despise, mock and scorn mutantkind...but they are never to be harmed. The powers that mutants are given make them the Superior Species, but not the superior man and a balanced world where all are accepted equally is his ideal vision. Magneto, on the other hand, says something a bit different...

Fan Fiction

  • In Honor Trip, a Dragonball Z fanfic, Cell himself definitely counts.
  • This is Mass Effect Human Revolution's take on Adam Jensen. He is dedicated to being a good man and will go out of his way to restrain himself for the sake of others. It actually takes quite a lot to push him to employ lethal methods and tactics. Way more than just having gunmen trying to kill him. But don't push your luck, or his Berserk Button...
  • The Open Door: newChaos very nearly approach The Unfettered, but one of the things holding them back from total freedom from limits is their utter devotion to the protection of children, justified as three of their godly pantheon were formerly adolescents at the Dysfunction Junction. Those who get caught abusing children find that the question isn't whether they're gonna get fucked up... but how bad.
  • Scar Tissue: After Third Impact, Asuka was so heavily traumatized and unstable that she abused Shinji for months until one day she went too far and she was so horrified with herself that she snapped out of it. Shinji tolerated anything that Asuka did to him during that time because he thought that he deserved the punishment after what he had done to her… and because he was afraid that he would kill her if he lost control of himself.
  • Soldier of Spira, a Final Fantasy X Alternate Universe, presents Auron. The man will stoop to many, many levels to get the job done, and Thou Shalt Not Kill is not one of his restrictions, but the death of innocents does bring him grief. His one, unbreakable rule is that if he makes a promise, he will keep it. His word is his bond, and he uses his word and knowledge of hold all of creation hostage. By threatening to unleash what appears to be the Legions of Hell if Rikku dies in Zanarkand. The world, and fayth, and Lords of the Living and the Dead decide to yield. But, as one of the more dangerous Magnificent Bastards in the world, he is not above adhering to only the letter of his promise. Combine this with a truly unholy amount of willpower, and a genuine desire to protect those he cares about (if it doesn't get in the way of The Plan), and Auron is more dangerous than ever by the sheer resources he commands in his private crusade to save Spira. Not defeat Sin, save all of Spira. With all the complicated logistics and cultural boundaries to topple. He has committed himself to the job, and his every word shows his determination in all of its fettered glory.
  • The four in With Strings Attached, because they are Actual Pacifists with a crapton of power, though they'll defend themselves, and each other, if necessary.



  • Terry Pratchett seems to love this trope.
    • Death of the Discworld. He could become less reliant on the rules and much more powerful, as his counterpart in Reaper Man demonstrates. He refuses to do so, as those rules and the care of the Reaper are quite important in the world, even though his rules do imperil it or require Susan's intervention in his stead.
    • From the same series: Sam Vimes. He could give in to his baser instincts and become a violent, drunken thug - and he'd probably do well if he did. He could give in to his loftier instincts and become a Knight Templar. But he doesn't, because he's seen where both those roads lead and he chooses every day not to go there. He could also simply let go of responsibility, give in to the fact that his marriage to Lady Sybil has made him nobility (and one of the richest people in Ankh-Morpork), and generally let other people worry about morality. The fact that he can't do this (and, in fact, would be much happier without both nobility and wealth) is part of why she fell in love with him in the first place.
    • Also, Esmerelda "Granny" Weatherwax, a bad witch by inclination but a good witch by sheer force of her iron will, comes as close as humanly possible to being this and The Unfettered at the same time. "But I can't do none of that stuff: That wouldn't be Right."
    • Captain Carrot also embodies this with his "personal is not the same as important" mantra, as well as his refusal to become king.
    • You could make a case for Vetinari fitting the trope as well. He could probably rule half the Disc if he put his mind to it, but chooses to stick to Ankh-Morpork. In Making Money he points out why this would not be a good idea, starting with the fact that the city has only just recovered from the last empire it had.
    • Angua definitely fits the trope, and her brother Wolfgang is an example of what could happen if Angua ever went "off the leash." Oh so very much. Witness the dialogue between her and Carrot in The Fifth Elephant (paraphrased): "If I went off like that, would you put me down?" "Yes." "Promise?"
  • The protagonists of Atlas Shrugged, who are examples of The Fettered as Übermensch. In this case the code of honor is Objectivism, so it is YMMV. At the same time, most of the protagonists start out fettered by either their success or their compassion on the masses. A big part of Dagney and Hanks' character arcs is learning to become The Unfettered and let it all go for their own self-interest.
  • In the Bible (Older Than Feudalism), Jesus Christ makes it very clear that if he wanted, he could stop his own crucifixion in any number of ways, but refuses to do so because he accepts his responsibility to fulfill the word of God and save mankind.
  • Marshal Tolonen in David Wingrove's Chung Kuo series.
  • In the Codex Alera series, the powerful First Lord, ruler of Alera is one of these. He has incredible furycrafting powers, but since they come from a single Fury, Alera he is bound to do things that benefit everyone. This means he has to make brutal decisions, including, at one point setting off a volcano prematurely, causing the deaths of tens of thousands to avoid tens of thousands of additional deaths, and provoking a What the Hell, Hero? and Amara to resign.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Once someone is turned by a Red Court vampire, their only hope is to become the Fettered, since their first kill will destroy the last remnants of their humanity. The Fellowship of Saint Giles, of which Susan is a member, is an association of fettered half-vampires fighting both their hunger for blood and the Red Court — think Alcoholics Anonymous meets La Résistance.
    • Wizards in general, again by necessity. The White Council enforces seven Laws of Magic. Violating the Laws is usually cause for execution on the spot, because most practitioners of black magic become drunk on the highly addictive Dark Side.
  • Emperor Leto Atreides II in Dune is utterly bound by the Golden Path: the salvation of humanity.
  • Sparhawk, the protagonist of the Elenium and Tamuli series by David Eddings, is fettered by honor and loyalty - as were all of his similarly-named predecessors. He is the hereditary Champion of the sovereign of Elenia, and a Knight of the Pandion Order, and no matter what the enemy does he will only proceed with a course of action that is true to the oaths he has sworn. Even his most personal rival describes him as a "basically gentle" person. He's also not too many steps below being an actual god, but he refuses to abuse this fact.
  • Gandalf in Lord of the Rings is Fettered by his charge not to interfere with Free Will. The Stewards of Gondor are fettered by the charge not to claim the crown for themselves but to keep it in trust. And even Denethor keeps this Heroic Vow. It is not clear what he would have done had Aragorn arrived before he died, but his nature indicates he took this charge seriously at least when he was in his right mind.
  • The titular Captain in the Honor Harrington books will fulfill her duty and no less, and takes no restrictions but those imposed by her service. If you are anyone else, stay out of the way, because she will not entertain your reasons why she should let something slide. Due to seeing things in herself that scare her, she fears what might happen if she ever became the Unfettered. Contrast this to Victor Cachat, who, in service to his duty, is the Unfettered to a scary degree.
  • Journey to Chaos:
    • Basilard mentions a number of things that he could or might want to do but refrains from doing them because "it would be against Guild policy." One item in that policy is "never kill the client."
    • The Leader of Roalt's Royal Guard Section 3 (Sedition Prevention) insists on averting/defying Police Brutality even when he himself considers the suspect to be "scum." This is because he believes even scum deserves due process.
    • Ironically, the tricksters are this. Despite being chaotic deities, they have a number of rules that they abide by. For instance, Tasio would love to help his "bestest friend," Eric, more often but Helping Would Be Kill Stealing. At the end of Looming Shadow, he remarks that he could, easily and on his own, deal with both that book's heavy, the Big Bad of the series, and any other villain. He doesn't because that invalidate a large chunk of the chaotic belief system.
  • This is what the entity known as Angleton is revealed to be in Charles Stross's The Laundry Files, explored in the third book, The Fuller Memorandum. If he were ever unfettered, the results would be very bad for everyone. Fortunately, the Eater of Souls voluntarily accepts and prefers being a human—albeit a human of vast intelligence and terrifying sorcerous skill—to being its true self, saying that it makes life more interesting.
  • Jean Valjean of Les Misérables spends most of his time on the run from the law, but it doesn't stop him carrying out attention-drawing rescues and paying off prostitutes' debts should the need arise. However, Inspector Javert uses his commitment to justice much more than Valjean does to morality.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Percy Jackson, who makes a point of never permanently killing his opponents even though as a child of Poseidon he can easily kill just about anyone he likes. At the end of "The Last Olympian," Zeus gives him the opportunity to become a god himself, but he refuses.
  • Jean Tarrou, from The Plague has an Existentialist worldview which tells him to always do everything to save lives despite the apparent meaninglessness of such acts in the uncaring, absurd universe.
  • Shatterpoint is all about Jedi Master Mace Windu struggling to come to terms with his status as the Fettered while fighting to end a brutal genocidal conflict on his home planet. Mace's Foil, Kar Vastor provides a mirror image while Mace deals with the constraints of the Jedi Code seemingly presenting him with To Be Lawful or Good choice after choice.
  • Ned Stark in A Song of Ice and Fire is utterly wedded to acting honourably, even if it puts him at a disadvantage. At the very end, he drops his honor for the sake of his family, but by then it's already far, far too late.
    • Stannis Baratheon is also a very honourable character, claiming the Iron Throne because he feels it is his duty, despite his relatively small force. However his absolute devotion to the law and lack of charisma means he is disliked by most of the Seven Kingdoms, though those that know him well, like Ser Davos, greatly respect him
  • Dalinar Kholin of The Stormlight Archive' is this, he has dedicated himself to following the ancient Codes of War which have been forgotten for centuries, and ends up giving up his Cool Sword to a rival that tried to get him killed to save the slaves responsible for making sure he didn't get killed because he promised them he'd free them and it was the only thing his rival would accept in trade.
  • Guy Crouchback in Evelyn Waugh's Sword of Honour. The point of the trilogy was that he was the only one who was honorable.
  • The War Gods: Wencit of Rum, the last white wizard from Oath of Swords (and sequels) is forced to recruit all sorts of unlikely characters to take out the henchmen of the evil wizards he fights, because he won't use wizardry against non-wizards. He took a vow where his magic may only be used in self defense or against dark wizards only when they've been read the equivalent of Miranda Rights asking them to desist in the use of Dark Magic. The Oath is sworn to a thousand year dead empire with him as the only survivor, and he's still trying to enforce their law.

Live Action TV

  • In Doctor Who, the Doctor makes a point of not going back in time to change events in his own past. It's possible and easy to do, but it damages space-time — it's like choosing not to drive a car when you're worried about your contribution to global warming. In "Earthshock", even though he could pop back in time to the bridge of the doomed freighter in order to scoop up Adric and get him out of harm's way, he refuses. He has already witnessed the destruction of the freighter with Adric aboard.
    • How much of that is obeying legalistic/moral "law" and how much is literal physical law (we've seen really nasty metaphysical consequences from people crossing their own personal timeline and changing their own past before in the show) is up for discussion, as the Doctor rarely makes it completely clear when he refers to not breaking the Laws of Time which aspect he's referring to. Though it's worth noting that, in "The Waters of Mars", after actively choosing to outright change something he believes cannot be changed, his personality takes a very dark turn shortly after. In a sense, we watch him start throwing off the Fetters... and Evil Feels Good. At least until he gets a very rude awakening that shocks him back to his senses, as he realizes You Can't Fight Fate.
      • The best example of the Doctor being this is in the 10th Doctor's final Heroic Sacrifice. He can either sacrifice himself and save the life of an old man trapped in a room that's about to be flooded with radiation, or he can let the old man die. The Doctor shouts and rages against the unfairness of being "rewarded" with death after all the good he's done, but he never once even contemplates saving his own skin. Even when the aforementioned old man tells the Doctor not to save him, then begs him not to, then shouts and SCREAMS at the Doctor to walk away and save himself, the Doctor still refuses to let it happen and chooses to die in his place.
    • A straight example from Doctor Who is the Last Centurion, who must suppress the memories of what he has been for the sake of his own sanity and carry on as though he is just plain old Rory Williams - until things get really bad.
    • The Doctor outright acknowledges the fact that he has many self-imposed behavioral rules (not just time travel no-nos) in the Series 6 Episode "A Good Man Goes to War." When Kovarian assumes that "the anger of a good man is not a problem" (apparently she never heard what he did to the Family of Blood) he's quick to correct her.

  The Doctor: Good men don't need rules. Today is not the day to find out why I have so many.

  • Spock in Star Trek: The Original Series is one of the biggest examples of a Fettered hero. Since he could easily kick Kirk's ass with one hand tied behind his back (and actually does so on a few occasions), but sticks to his second-in-command role nonetheless.
  • Buffy tries to stop Willow's Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the Trio, as they are human criminals who should be judged by human laws. No doubt she had in mind her previous experience with Faith, who believed that being the Slayer meant she was above the law.

 Buffy: Being a slayer doesn't give me a license to kill. Warren's human.

Dawn: So?

Buffy: So the human world has its own rules for dealing with people like him--

Xander: Yeah, we all know how well those rules work.

Buffy: Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don't. We can't control the universe. If we were supposed to, then the magic wouldn't change Willow the way it does. And we'd be able to bring Tara back...

Dawn: And mom.

Buffy: There are limits to what we can do. There should be.


Tabletop Games

  • In Exalted, each type of Celestial Exalted has access to their own version of Righteous Lion Defense, a Charm that runs on this trope. It works by making a single emotional bond the Exalt has completely inviolable; they can't act against it themselves, and no one else can ever persuade them to do so, even with Mind Control Charms. Solars pick an Intimacy related to an all-encompassing ideal, Lunars pick one related to protecting a specific person, place, or thing, and Sidereals become absolutely devoted to carrying out a specific long-term plan (and can change to a new one when the first plan is complete).
    • Similarly, each Perfect Defense comes with one of the Four Flaws of Invulnerability, a condition based on one of the four guiding Virtues that you must fulfill if you wish to use the charm in the first place. If you choose Compassion, you can only use it when defending something you have an Intimacy towards; if you choose Conviction, you can't use it if you're going against your Motivation.
  • The Word Bearers in Warhammer 40000 are fanatics who live their lives by the Words of Lorgar, by which they achieve mastery over chaos. Or maybe, are deluded becoming it's slaves. Either way they are fettered -
    • The Eldar are also pretty good examples of The Fettered - the discipline provided by their codes keeps them on the straight and narrow.
    • Some Inquisitors and many loyal Space Marines also qualify.
      • More specific example: Zahariel in Descent of Angels, whose main motive in any circumstance has a 99% chance of being Duty.
    • The entire Tau race, with the Ethereal caste providing the fetter. Without it, they were on the verge of destroying themselves. With the Ethereals, they have conquered a significant area of space (still nothing compared to anyone), have a sort of Warp Drive Lite (99% less likely to lead to your horrific death at the hands of a daemon and only 7 times slower).
  • Dungeons and Dragons
    • The Book of Exalted Deeds had a ruleset called the Sacred Vow. By taking a sacred vow, one could gain measurable in-game benefits. Taking vows at all required a feat, and each each vow had to be selected as an additional feat. Of particular note was Vow of Poverty, which in a game that is focused on gaining equipment to become more powerful, would have to provide no small amount of benefit in order to be worthwhile - even with all the bonuses it piled on, it still isn't worthwhile past around level 6, because even awesome bonuses to various stats don't make up for lack of versatility. So it's only good for classes that can already be highly versatile without gear like metamagic rods or boots of teleport or antimagic torcs. So... useful on druids.
    • Paladins. are not only Always Lawful Good, but they must adhere to a Code of Conduct that includes "respecting authority, acting with honor (not lying, not cheating, not using poison and so forth), helping those in need (provided that they do not use the help for evil or chaotic ends) and punishing those who hurt or threaten innocents". Any paladin that commits a grievous violation of this code loses all of their paladin abilities. The Code of Conduct was removed in 4th Edition for a couple of reasons: first, to open up the class to paladins following non-Lawful Good gods. And second, because Killer Game Masters often used the Code of Conduct to force unwilling Paladins to fall, setting up no-win scenarios that required the Paladin to commit a violation or citing the slightest misstep as an excuse.
  • In Changeling: The Lost, Pledges can make a Fettered character very powerful indeed. The strength of the boon is proportional to how committing the task and how strong the punishment if you fail are. In its most powerful form, it can turn a mortal with no prior martial skills into a master of kung-fu if pledged to fight to the death for you under pain of an inescapable and painful demise.
  • In Unknown Armies from global level up, players can take on the powers of particular archetypal characters by certain behaviors. For instance, a person wishing to become a powerful fighter may stop shaving and start camping in the wilderness and hunting his food with his bare hands to become an avatar of The Savage. This makes him stronger, tougher, and eventually able to speak with animals. On the flip-side, all archetypes have particular taboos that cut avatars off from their powers for a limited time and weaken their link to the archetype - in game terms, decreasing their skill. Savages, for instance, cannot deceive people or have more than the most basic technological skill. Certain archetypes can only be channeled by one sex.
  • In Magic: The Gathering's "Shards of Alara" block, this is what best describes how the Bant (white-aligned) shard's "Exalted" mechanic works. In story, Bantians gain magical sigils that represent past heroic deeds, as well as a bond of duty to the one who conferred the sigil, such as a lord, kingdom, or even an angel. In gameplay, if a creature attacks by itself, creatures with Exalted will confer a small stat pump to it. If a player controls several exalted creatures, this can get very painful, very fast. Magic as a whole is this. Lead designer Mark Rosewater has emphatically stated over the years that "restrictions breed creativity".
  • Genius: The Transgression: the Peerage exists mainly to instil a good healthy sense of fetters in Geniuses. They're much better at not getting people killed or having machines explode from Havoc if they bear in mind that they have obligations. You'd do this too if you had seen what The Unfettered were like in Genius.

Video Games

  • To go with the Havik example in The Unfettered, in Mortal Kombat, Knight Templar Hotaru, leader of the elite police force in Order Realm. So obsessed with upholding the law that he'll lock up his own friends until they're old and grey for a minor infraction.
  • Disgaea 2 Cursed Memories's Adell, so much. If he makes a promise, he's not going to let pesky little things like "logic", "sanity" and "horrible, painful death" get in the way of that.
    • Valvatorez from the fourth game makes a point of following any oath or promise he makes down to the letter, regardless of how silly, unreasonable, or downright dangerous it is.
  • Shirou from Fate/stay night, even if said ideals tend to be somewhat naive, is a prime example of The Fettered. He can only use his magic specialty because of his ideals and because he puts no value on his own life.
  • Mega Man. He can fight Dr. Wily (apparently using the logic of "You'd be surprised what you can live through"), but can't Just Shoot Him, as he's fettered by the First Law of Robotics. Were he ever to apply the Zeroth Law, however...
  • Warcraft III has Prince Arthas, devoted to his kingdom, who makes the wrong choice when faced with good vs lawful vengeance at the end of the human campaign as a result of being majorly played by the Lich King
  • Dissidia Final Fantasy presents the Warrior of Light as one. He is bound quite tightly by his loyalty to Cosmos and devotion to Light. To the point that he is perfectly willing to (and has) repeat the events of the battle between Cosmos and Chaos unto infinity. If he gets the opportunity to Screw Destiny, he's going to take it, and save Garland into the bargain if he can.
    • Terra chooses not to use her full power most of the time, because she's scared of losing control. With good reason too, her powers are so incredible that she was specifically headhunted by Kefka to fight for the side of Chaos.
  • Paragon Shepard in Mass Effect is one of the crowning examples. S/he's an absolute Badass in every way, but everything that s/he does is done to make the galaxy safer. The Paragon ending of Mass Effect 2 illustrates this point perfectly: The Illusive Man tells Shepard to save the technology from the Collector Base, saying that it would a valuable asset in the war against the Reapers. Paragon Shepard refuses, as the technology is powered by the genetic material of colonists who were killed by the Collectors, and chooses to destroy the base with a nuclear bomb rather than compromise his/her moral values.

Shepard: "I won't let fear compromise who I am."

  • Disgaea 3 Absence of Justice has Raspberyl and her Girl Posse Kyoko and Asuka, dedicated demon Delinquents who staunchly follow all the rules demons are supposed to break. They have to maintain their perfect attendance record, and have their own self-imposed curfew, which keeps them from joining your party full-time until they graduate.
  • Vhailor from Planescape: Torment adheres to the Mercykillers' creed and his unflinching belief in justice and retribution. Anything else is a secondary concern, up to and including that trifle that he's been dead for the last century or so and the fact that he's lost most of his memories. If you actually point the former out to him, his reply is essentially that while there are criminals still alive to punish he's not about to take time off simply so he can obey the laws of physics. If you take the time to describe the Final Boss' sins to him, his belief that said sins merit punishment actually makes him more powerful for that fight.
  • The Gray-beards and the Blades in Skyrim are both examples of this, though they have very different goals. The Gray-beards dedicate their lives to the "Way of the Voice", meditating on the meaning of the Thu'um instead of actually using it to accomplish anything. Makes sense since the Way was created by the Dragon Paarthurnax who has spent thousands of years repressing his innate desire to dominate others, and the fact that the Thu'um is incredibly deadly to anyone without the power of the Voice. The Blades are dedicated to serving the Dragonborn and exterminating the Dragons whom they see as Always Chaotic Evil they're right too - even the "good" dragon Paarthurnax they want you to kill says it's not a good idea to trust a Dragon. The Blades will actually cut off ties with you despite everything you've done for them if you refuse to kill Paarthurnax.



  Ben: "I wrote "Good" on my character sheet and I jolly well meant it! Unlike some people!"

  • Equius of Homestuck is so STRONG that he could defeat anyone if he wanted to. Unfortunately, he's so bound by his extreme loyalty to the trolls' blood-based hierarchy that he doesn't even try to prevent Gamzee from strangling him, because Gamzee ranks higher than he does.

Web Original

  • In the serial superhero story Worm, the main character endures severe bullying at school, made worse by the fact that one of her chief tormentors is her former best friend, who inexplicably turned on her. It would be easy to use her powers to fight back, but the main character is an aspiring superhero trying to preserve her secret identity and cling to some sort of moral code(as difficult as that becomes), and tries to cope by throwing herself into the superhero/supervillain life as an escape. There's even more temptation for revenge when she befriends other superpowered kids who offer to help her, and the bullying escalates to the point where it seems unlikely that she'll be able to go on for much longer in the future without doing something about it.

Western Animation

  • Aang from Avatar: The Last Airbender definitely is this. He is the Master of All Four Elements, with near God-Like powers at time, and he could do whatever he wants. However, his own personal adherence to the sanctity of life means that he refuses to kill deliberately- he won't even kill Fire Lord Ozai, a man who was willing to commit complete genocide of an entire people. In the end, he is about to kill him, and would have, if he had not stopped himself. Instead, his purity of spirit allowed him to bend Ozai's spirit and destroy his bending.

Real Life

  • Max Weber's social actions delineate "Rational" and "Instrumental" actions. The Fettered and The Unfettered are people defined exclusively by, respectively, Instrumental and Rational actions.
  • First World militaries are this. They voluntarily follow The Laws and Customs of War, and punish those who break them. Even the worst Curb Stomp Battle is nothing compared to what they could do to someplace if the gloves were fully off. Even if a "First World" military can ignore the masses, they can't ignore each others. It's one thing to be total assholes to some obscure "Third World" people, but once your fellow First-Worlders get a sense that you're willing to do the same to everyone, expect your erstwhile allies to gang-up on you.
  • Anyone with a conscience. We don't think about this much in daily life, until we encounter someone who isn't. You'll learn quite quickly why being The Unfettered is not usually a good thing. Meetings between parties with severe Values Dissonance usually end with one side viewing themselves as this trope and the other as the opposite or vice versa, which often results in conflict.
  • The U.S. Constitution was designed with this in mind by dividing government into sections and establishing roadblocks to prevent any one group or individual from seizing too much power.
  • Islam calls for Muslims to be this at all times, ESPECIALLY during times of war. Much like modern first world militaries, no picking fights, no killing those who surrender, no surprise attacks, no attacking people with whom you have treaties, no mistreatment of prisoners, no targeting civilians... Islam in general teaches that anyone can be either the best or worst of people by following rules of good conduct and pursuing intellectual and spiritual growth. The fettered are described in the Quran as those who do what is right, even if it is hard, which makes them great among people.
  • Civilization only exists because most people are The Fettered.