Alright, time to break away from the sole hero to the quirky group. I’m talking about the power rangers, the teenage mutant ninja turtles, team RWBY, the monk and his disciples, the five-man band… and so much more.
This group is for when you need a little bit more diversity in your roster, but still pretty identifiable. We’ve got the leader, the lancer, the big guy, the smart guy, and the heart. Sometimes there’s a sixth ranger. (No points for guessing where that comes from.)
As you might imagine, they’re pretty self-explanatory. We got the guy in charge, the big one, the smartass, and the one who keeps them all together. Keep in mind, the leader isn’t always the protagonist — that might actually go to the lancer or the heart. It all depends on who you want the protagonist to be, and, hey, if you want, they can all be the protagonists. Sometimes less is more, and sometimes more is more. Funny, huh?
The original five-man band comes from the Journey to the West. Which follows the merry adventures of the Buddhist monk, Xuanzang Sanzung, and his disciples, Sun Wukong (aka, Sun Goku [yes, that Goku], Pigisy, Sandy, and the dragon horse…thing).
Sanzung is the leader of the bunch, as he’s the one who the plot follows, and the one who gathers everyone up. And, whether or not they like him, they do all listen to him because he’s their ticket into getting back into Buddha heaven. Sun Wukong, on the other hand, is the lancer. He’s generally the guy who gets the stuff done. If Sanzung is the guy who handles the big picture, then Sun is the guy who handles the day to day stuff of demon-slaying, trap eluding, and of course, priest rescuing.
Pigsy is the trickster of the group and is technically the second lancer, but at times, he also falls into the smart guy lineup. Mostly because unlike Wukong, he’s very lazy and prefers to outsmart his enemy’s vs beating them into submission. Sandy is the big dude, mostly because he’s the tallest. There’s not much to say about him, as he tends to hang back. Finally, we have Yu Lung, the dragon horse. Which, while he sounds awesome, he doesn’t really do much outside of being the mount of Sanzung.
As you can see, the five-man band wasn’t quite as defined as it is today, so, instead, let’s take a look what makes each member of the band important. First: The Leader.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. The leader is the guy in charge, or the guy every rallies around. Basically, it’s his or her goals that drive the rest of the team forward. He can be any number of things, from a jack-of-all-trades, to a wizard who can’t take a hit, to the guy who’s all about taking hits. What they can do not important, but why they do what they do is.
The lancer is usually the foil to the leader. If the leader is calm and level-headed, then the lancer is the aggressive “fire instead of blood” kind of guy. If the leader is a nice guy, then the lancer is the selfish dude. Basically, whatever the leader isn’t, the lancer is. Think of Han Solo to Luke Skywalker.
The big guy is the one who usually takes care of all the heavy lifting and may be a touch philosophical as well. Think of Beast from the X-men or Chewbacca. Honestly, the big guy is usually a pretty one-note character, but one way to look at another way of doing it is like Arthur Morgan from Red Dead Redemption 2. He’s a big guy, sure, but he’s also the guy who takes care of all the smaller stuff that the others aren’t likely to see. In this case, the big guy is also remarkably versatile as a character.
The smart guy, aka, the one with the plans, is usually not strong, but he’s the guy who you go to when you need to break into an evil overlord’s fortress… or just figure out your tax returns. Think of the smart guy like Charles Xavier, or Princess Leia.
Yes, I will keep referencing Star Wars.
Finally, the heart, or the chick as TV tropes calls it. The heart is made to keep the group together, usually by acting as the one everyone likes or at least tolerates. If the leader pushes the group forward, then the heart is the one who keeps them all together. Like a little sister or little brother, the rest of the group will most likely try their hardest to keep them out of harm’s way.
And just like that, that’s the five-man band. Keep in mind though, these are just guidelines, not ironclad rules to be followed like scripture. Play with each of them as you wish. It’s all up to you.