Mistaken For The Gardener
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At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking He was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

JON20:14-15 (NIV)

Basic Information

Named (as per the flavour text) for the famous, non-temporal example, this particular authority trope concerns a major authority figure who is introduced without their official regalia and engaged in some fairly mundane task and is thus mistaken for someone of much lower status.

This can serve a variety of functions. Sometimes it is merely to show the authority figure as a man of the people, on other occasions it serves, intentionally or not, as a secret test of character as the protagonists talk to an apparent menial and reveal aspects of themselves that they would not normally show to their superior. Of course this can go either way, depending on what exactly they show.

If the authority figure is deliberately disguised, it will fall closer to a test of character than if they are just going about their normal business. If it is just 'business as usual' it serves to introduce a ruler who doesn't stand on ceremony and is happy to get his hands dirty.

The ultimate expression of this is, of course, deities in human form - not only as per the flavour text, but in a variety of pagan legends as well, where their gods were famous descenders upon the earth for a variety of motives, some of them more moral than others.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • This is a fairly common trope, exercised by kings getting cows out of ditches, dirty and eccentric wizards, saints or bishops and admirals or generals who happen to wear a standard issue cloak or greatcoat. Equally, in modern civilian life, you have the director or HR manager who just happens to be sitting at the reception desk or filling the coffee machine when an interviewee appears. Use it on your players until they treat every NPC with respect … this, after all, being the reason these stories are so widely promulgated.
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