Created By: Earnest on April 12, 2011 Last Edited By: Earnest on May 11, 2011

Life Leash Slavery

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This is a characterization trope where a character is forced into the service of another through controlling a device, drug, or magic that keeps them alive. The "leash" is usually some sort of life support, a Restraining Bolt with built in Explosive Leash, or a chemical dependence that only the "owner" can supply.

Usually this is used on good aligned or chaotic characters by evil ones, since this is too much a Jerk Ass move for a reasonably good character to use. Of course, if you need to keep the Token Evil Teammate on a tighter leash... In any case, the character likely hates being controlled, strongly dislikes or loathes the things they're forced to do... they just happen to value their life more than dying, though the sufficiently heroic will do a Heroic Sacrifice / Face Death with Dignity rather than fulfill a heinous order. If they can take a Zeroth Law Rebellion, they will, and if offered a means to cut the leash without dying, they'll take it.

Compare Kid with the Leash. See also Jerkass Genie.

  • This is a major point in the game Enslaved, the girl protagonist puts a slave collar on the hero that both forces him to obey, and will kill him if she dies.
  • In The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, Wonder Man was coerced into helping the Enchantress because her magic kept him from disintegrating.
  • Rag doll in Sinister Six was kept in line because his employer supplied him with a cream that kept his skin from tearing off due to his contortionist abilities.
Community Feedback Replies: 10
  • April 12, 2011
    In Sora No Otoshimono, the angeloids wear a collar with a few chain links that are leading nowhere, but they are magically connected to their master.
  • April 12, 2011
    A version of this crops up in The Lord of the Rings - Frodo uses his possession of Gollum's "Precious", the One Ring, to keep him under control and acting as his guide. Ultimately, of course, Gollum leads Frodo into a trap so he can get his hands on the Ring.
  • April 12, 2011
    Overlaps alot with Restraining Bolt
  • April 13, 2011
    May also overlap with Phlebotinum Dependence and Phlebotinum Muncher.
  • April 13, 2011
    Stargate SG 1: Until dicovery of tretonin, Jaffa were dependent on goa'uld symbionts that only Goa'uld can provide. Factions of Jaffa who openly opposed Goa'uld had to attack other Jaffa and stole their symbionts to survive.
  • April 13, 2011
    And on that note, the Dominion in Deep Space Nine ensured the loyalty of their foot soldiers by genetically engineering them to be addicted to Ketracel White.

    To elaborate, the biggest difference between this trope and Restraining Bolt is this trope is a motivation rather than a means. Put laconically, this trope would be "A character is coerced into obeying a villain who has means to keep them alive or easily kill them." as opposed to "An object or spell that forces a character to follow its ethical code."

    This can be due to the character either needing something to stay alive, or having an immediate threat to their life if they refuse. Where this and RB wouldn't overlap is if the character is coerced because the bad guy has possession of their Soul Jar, an Explosive Leash on their neck, or if the bad guy had dosed the hero with a virus that requires constant treatment to keep him from dying. At no point is the hero's morality forced to be different by a device, they're instead compelled out of necessity.

    It would overlap with Phlebotinum Dependence and Phlebotinum Muncher when it's used to coerce, though the addiction might not necessarily be to phlebotinum (just something rare or expensive), it may well be an antidote or medicine that's constantly needed.

    Which reminds me of another example, Thufir Hawat in Dune was poisoned by the Harkonens to get him to work for them. To ensure his loyalty he's given the antidote daily, and refusing to work for them means he doesn't get his dose.
  • April 14, 2011
    • in the Known Space novel Destiny's Forge, Kchula-Tzaatz controls the puppet patriarch Scrral-Rrit with a poisonous zzrou implant, which will kill him if Kchula activates it or if he loses lifsigns.
  • this might be Cant Live Without You, although Life Leash plus or minus Slavery could make a good redirect
  • May 9, 2011
    This is how the protagonist in Neuromancer is made to go along with the plot.
  • May 11, 2011
    if suverted one may found that they have foundHappiness in Slavery or that they are working for the enemy for something More Than Mind Control