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->''"The French system of conscription brings together a fair sample of all classes; ours is composed of the scum of the earth -- the mere scum of the earth."''
-->-- ''The Duke of Wellington on the British Army, 1813''

What you get when you take a RagtagBandOfMisfits and band them up with ''other'' Ragtag Bands of Misfits.

An army of thieves and whores is a military force made up of the lowliest dregs and losers of society. There's slaves, beggars, prostitutes ([[SonOfAWhore and their kids]]), robbers, outcasts, renegades, carnies, backstabbers, [[ArsonMurderAndJaywalking lawyers]] and in general everybody you wouldn't expect to see in a proper army.

There is a practicality in using them as a military force: [[BoxedCrook criminals]], especially serial killers, are more likely to be well-trained and experienced in the art of taking others' lives, and therefore, they are more efficient to use as killing machines rather than wasting time subjecting a {{conscript|ion}} to [[DrillSergeantNasty psychological torture]] which will [[WarIsHell result in PTSD-induced suicide]]. The major problem is how to keep your pets controlled so that they won't rebel. However, in fiction and Role-Playing Games, these armies of thieves and whores are often are portrayed as the heroes, because UnderdogsNeverLose, or because the concept of [[RagtagBunchOfMisfits ragtag underdogs]] [[LaResistance fighting against a dystopia]] is very appealing for RPG scenarios. These positive portrayals will [[SlobsVersusSnobs likely be put in contrast with the aforementioned dystopia]] which [[LightIsNotGood will be well-ordered and disciplined yet more unsympathetic and ruthless than our downtrodden misfits]]. There may also be a theme of uniting the downtrodden to stand against their oppressors.

The [[LegionOfLostSouls French Foreign Legion]] is often characterized this way, both in fiction and real life.

Less optimistic portrayals will feature "penal battalions" where criminals and the dregs of society such as thieves and whores will be conscripted into the military and sent out as [[WeHaveReserves cannon fodder]], or at least be TradingBarsForStripes. See also BoxedCrook.

In RealLife, this has often been the makeup of armies throughout history. Military life in the ranks was just too distasteful for someone to volunteer for it that didn't find civilian life just as hard unless he was motivated by ideology. When there was no ideological reason and no BarbarianTribe nearby to recruit from, this is what you are going to end up with. The pay was simply not good enough to attract respectable people, unless they were from [[OfficerAndAGentleman nobility]]; which sometimes had ''ancestors'' who were part of one of these. On the other hand, assembling them into a [[TrainingFromHell properly trained army]] was a rather hard task not only for reasons of literacy or discipline, but also due to the spread of chronic disease in a population with poor or no access to medical care and proper feeding and living conditions. A recruit from the poorest class in the [[UsefulNotes/VictorianBritain Victorian Era]] could be expected to have either latent [[VictorianNovelDisease tuberculosis]], syphilis, gonorrhea, bone diseases, or, worse, [[UpToEleven all of them together]], and in crowded military camps germs are easily spread. (The ordinary peasant recruit of the State army was not much healthier either. The British Army Medical Corps [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boer_Wars#Controversy_and_significance found out in 1899]] ''the majority'' of recruits were unfit for combat, even by the low standards of the time.)

Contrast the CarnivalOfKillers.


[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* Considering most of the protagonists are pirates in ''Manga/OnePiece'', almost every force that isn't the government or the revolutionaries fits under this.
** During his escape from Impel Down, Luffy manages to upend the entire system and collects a small army of hardened criminals.
** This trope is the reason why the four most powerful pirates are known as the Four Emperors; They don't have a single crew, but ''entire fleets'' to throw at their problems. When Whitebeard goes to Navy Headquarters to rescue Ace, he doesn't just bring his own crew- which is so big that it needed four ships to ride- but also a few dozen other pirate crews allied with him.
** During the Dressrosa Arc, the gladiators from the tournament for the Mera Mera Fruit form one to take down Doflamingo for his treachery. The pirate Cavendish even points out that Doflamingo's actions have basically united an otherwise uncooperative bunch of outlaws, renegades and champions from across the seas into a cohesive force dedicated to destroying him. After everything is said and done, [[spoiler:all of them decide to throw their weight behind Luffy for his efforts, giving the Straw Hats an army of ''5,600'' pirates]].
* In ''Manga/{{Naruto}}'', CorruptCorporateExecutive Gato uses an army of mercenaries and thugs to keep a leash on the general populace in the Land of Waves.
* The Black Dog Knights of ''{{Manga/Berserk}}'' were made up of the worst criminals of all of Midland. They were so bad that they were sent to a distant prison on the border of the kingdom for their war crimes. They're headed by a nasty piece of work of an Apostle by the name of Wyald, who has the distinction of being the worst {{Serial Rapist}} in the series.
* Askeladd's mercenary band in ''Manga/VinlandSaga'' consists of dregs and raiders who couldn't even find a lord to serve. Thorkell's band is more of a BloodKnight version, consisting of veteran warriors united in their admiration of their commander and their desire to find a good fight. [[spoiler:The two eventually come to blows. Askeladd's group rebels against him, leading Thorkell to [[RewardedAsATraitorDeserves kill them all]].]]
* In ''Manga/{{Bleach}}'' the original Gotei 13 consisted of the thirteen most vile and dangerous criminals in Soul Society. This trope still somewhat applies to the modern Gotei as many members, such as Kenpachi, would have been executed in other society.

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* The [[TropeNamers name comes from]] the rebel army raised against the tsar in ''Comicbook/NikolaiDante'', which does indeed consist mostly of robbers, prostitutes, pirates, and various people the tsars have trodden on.

[[folder:Fan Works]]
* ''FanFic/WeaverNine'''s Society is a dodgy group of outcasts, criminals, and fugitives forged into one of the most dangerous organizations on earth and united under Weaver's leadership. They are regarded as terrorists by most of the world and joining automatically grants a Kill Order. Based in Kenya and suspected to be the real power controlling most of Africa, they are classified as an S-class threat by the Protectorate.
* In ''Fanfic/EquestriaDivided'' most of the [[CircusOfFear Cult of Laughters]] infantry units are either [[MonsterClown psychotic cultists slash clowns]] or [[MindRape insane townsfolk]], [[OneNationUnderCopyright House Whitegold]] on the other hand has the Whitegold Militia and Sapphire Sirens units which are what you get when the thieves and whores get an actual military budget.

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* Hedley Lamarr organizes an evil version of one of these for the climactic battle in ''Film/BlazingSaddles''.
* [[Creator/NormMacdonald Norm [=MacDonald=]]]'s character from ''Film/DirtyWork'' at the end has a crack team assembled of senior citizens, homeless dudes, and "my loyal army of prostitutes", the latter two of which counted as a ChekhovsGun each.
* ''Film/FleshAndBlood'', features an mercenary band led by Martin (Rutger Hauer), as well as Celine (Susan Tyrell) and Polly (Marina Saura), two camp followers.
* In ''Film/RoboCop3'' [=McDaggett=], the boss of [=OCP=]'s armed force, orders the police to assist in evicting the populace of an entire district by force. The officers refuse and resign en masse. [=McDaggett=] decides the city's lowlives will do just fine, and proceeds to assemble a small army of them and attack. They're quite successful against the armed resistance, thanks to being equipped with body armor and heavy weapons (plus OCP had a tank), but then [=RoboCop=] shows up and slaughters the lot.
* The slave army in ''Film/{{Spartacus}}'' qualifies as this trope. In this case, however, the army loses.
* In ''Film/XXxStateOfTheUnion'', to counter the treasonous GeneralRipper's highly trained team of Marines, Darius gathers the local car-jacking outfit and arms them with weapons (then a tank they jacked). It's even lampshaded: "The fate of the free world in the hands of a bunch of hustlers and thieves."
* The Ravagers in ''Film/GuardiansOfTheGalaxy'' are a motley gang of SpacePirates whose only rule is to steal from everyone. In the climax of the film, they've been convinced to help the heroes take down the BigBad.
* ''Film/RogueOne'' has the [[Franchise/StarWars Rebel Alliance]] as one, hiring mercenaries, assassins, and saboteurs to get a chance against TheEmpire.
* In the French war movie ''Captain Conan'' (1996), the title character commands a unit of trench raiders which includes recruits from military prisons. Part of the plot involves a court-martial when several of these soldiers use the skills they've learnt to rob a nightclub.

* Gaius Marius' legion in ''Emperor: The Gates of Rome'' is viewed by the more conservative Romans due to Marius abolishing the land requirement for entry, bringing in numerous poor citizens who otherwise would have had no means of supporting themselves. [[AFatherToHisMen And they love him for it]]. In the second book, Spartacus' slave army also qualifies.
* Since Marius also appears the the ''Literature/MastersOfRome'' series, his legion fulfills a very similar role, and plays a key role in the first book.
* Temujin's (Genghis Khan's) forces in ''[[Literature/{{Conqueror}} Wolf of the Plains]]'' starts out as one of these, as he initially builds up his forces by recruiting the various outcasts and nomads who would otherwise have nobody to stand with.
* The Night's Watch in ''Literature/ASongOfIceAndFire'' used to be a universally highly regarded [[TheOrder order]] that was erected to defend Westeros against [[GreaterScopeVillain the]] [[ZombieApocalypse Others]] but nowadays, it involves this trope to a large degree. While there are second/third sons and highborn illegitimate sons from noble houses who still join for the sake of duty and honor, many ''other'' members are criminals whose crimes were pardoned in return for joining and some willing volunteers are misfits of some sort. Other than the North, where the Night’s Watch is still considered a noble calling, most other realms see the Watch as essentially a joke [[SealedEvilInACan because the ancient threat of the Others is believed to be long-gone]] and few believe [[TheCassandra it actually has returned]]. Consequently, the Night's Watch has become ridiculously underfunded, to the point that of the nineteen forts manning the Wall, they can barely garrison three of them by the time the story begins. In ''A Storm of Swords'', some local prostitutes help the Night Watch fight off a wildling onslaught, making this a quite literal example of the trope. Granted, many of the Northern houses still know that the Watch is important and [[AncientTradition look at taking the Black as an honorable thing]] but the southern realms of Westeros don’t.
** In ''A Dance With Dragons'', Jon adds [[spoiler: wildling warriors and [[ActionGirl spearwives]]]] to the mix in an effort to build up their ranks and help defend humanity (Westeros and wildlings alike) against ever approaching threat of [[ZombieApocalypse the Others]].
** This world also has the Brave Companions, a.k.a. the Bloody Mummers, a mercenary company formed from those the rest of the sellsword community rejected. From what we've seen, they accept psychos, creeps, disgraced pedophile priests, mad doctors and common bandits from all Westeros and Essos.
* In one of the ''Literature/{{Spellsinger}}'' novels, the communist dragon Falameezar rallies the world's [[ButtMonkey rats and mice]] to rise up against oppression.
* In ''Literature/UnLunDun'', Deeba's army of rebels starts with the... extreme shoppers, and works its way up from there.
* Creator/MichaelMoorcock's short story ''To Rescue Tanelorn''. Narjhan raises an army of beggars from Nadsokor and leads them to attack the city of Tanelorn.
* ''Literature/PhulesCompany'' has the Omega Company. In the Space Legion in general asking about a recruit's past is a big taboo, and "Omega" is the unofficial "dumping ground" for commanders willing to get rid from recruits they deem unsuitable. Their own sergeant noted that the result "looks more like a schoolyard" and "separated the problem Legionnaires into two groups: the wimps and the hard cases". That is, either unable to function in an army (or society in general) or inveterate criminals. Then the protagonist business shark [[KickedUpstairs promoted]] to command this mob thought it's not as bad as it looks...
--> '''Phule:''' It's been done before. Specifically the Devil's Brigade... the first Special Service force, which eventually became...\\
'''Beeker:''' The Special Forces. Yes, I'm familiar with the unit. If I might point out, however, that was a joint U.S.-Canadian force. At the beginning, the Americans provided a motley assortment of rejects and criminals, as opposed to the Canadians, who donated a crack fighting unit. While you definitely have your allotment of criminals, I fear you're lacking the offsetting crack fighting unit to serve as an example.
* In ''Literature/TheSagaOfDarrenShan'', the vampeze get around their strict refusal to use projectile weapons by hiring human thugs and cutthroats. Debbie and Alice eventually come up with the idea for the vampires to join forces with humans for the same purpose. Those humans mostly end up being homeless people. It's justified because those are the people the vampeze are feeding off of, so they're only too happy to have a shot for revenge.
* Much of the British Army in the Peninsula as seen in ''{{Sharpe}}''--hence Wellington's quote below under RealLife.
* Victoria's newborn army in ''Literature/{{Twilight}}''. She basically turned whoever she could find. It doesn't work.
* The army John brings to fight the Crusades in ''Literature/DirgeForPresterJohn''. They're the cream of Pentexore, but they have no idea how to form an actual army.
* Played with in the Roman army in ''Literature/BelisariusSeries''. While it clearly has quite a few elements of this in it, and sometimes requires [[OffWithHisHead rigorous persuasion]] from Belisarius to keep them from indulging in war crimes, when put to it they can also act in an honorable enough manner to [[WorthyOpponent impress]] [[ProudWarriorRace Rajputs.]]
* Literature/TheBlackCompany is one of these. It was standard practice for the Free Companies not to ask questions about who you were or what you did before you joined up.
* Reynard ends up leading a literal one in ''Literature/TheReynardCycle''. By the third installment in the series it has become an EliteArmy.
* Another literal example in ''Literature/DarkOnesMistress'', with the ruler's army who are also TheSoulless.
* In ''Literature/TheNightAngelTrilogy'', in the second and third books [[spoiler: Logan]] essentially puts this together. Some of them become his bodyguards, others go back to the life they had for a bit, but mostly, he does this to redeem the once crime ridden country and give it hope for a corruption light future.
* In the Literature/{{Emberverse}}, Norman Arminger recruits motorcycle gang members into his army to act as enforcers, and become part of his aristocracy, while establishing the Portland Protective Association.
* Deconstructed with the Division Numero Uno in ''Literature/{{Victoria}}''. In this dystopian setting, a near-future America has grown so hopelessly decayed and corrupt that the Federal Government has to supplement its forces with literal deputized gangsters to put down rebellions against it, and the Division is the most famous such unit. It [[RealityEnsues turns out]], however, not to be very competent as a military force, degenerating into a [[RapePillageAndBurn drunken rampage]] as it is deployed against the LaResistance in upstate New England, and its excessive brutality ends up alienating most of the government's remaining supporters in the region.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* ''Series/GameOfThrones'':
** The Night's Watch, which offers atonement for anyone who joins. It ''used'' to be highly regarded by all and is still seen as a noble-calling in (only) the North, where there are still second/third sons and highborn illegitimate sons from noble Houses who join for the sake of honor and duty, but [[SealedEvilInACan because the ancient threat of the White Walkers is believed to be long-gone]] and few believe [[TheCassandra it actually has returned]], the Watch is seen by a joke by most southern realms and has become underfunded, forcing it to incorporate this trope to help fill out its ranks.
** The men of the Brotherhood Without Banners proudly proclaim that some of them were once swineherds but now they all fight for the people.
* The Bowzocks from ''Series/GekisouSentaiCarranger'' are pretty much the bad guys from ''Film/BlazingSaddles'' InSPACE, being an army of alien criminals hired to depopulate the Earth [[Franchise/TheHitchhikersGuideToTheGalaxy to make way for a hyperspace highway]].
* The eponymous Shtrafbat (penal battalion) of the Russian TV series ''Shtrafbat''. The first company is made up from criminal convicts and the second company is made up from political convicts. [[DownerEnding Very few survive in the end.]]
* The Maquis in ''Series/StarTrekDeepSpaceNine'' and ''Series/StarTrekVoyager'' is a milder example. Sure, there are people like Chakotay, Cal Hudson and Michael Eddington who deeply believe the cause is just and noble. But there are also Starfleet washouts, thieves, headcases, folks with ''severe'' anger management issues, and sociopathic killers. As Chakotay points out when one of his former crew turns out be the last one, they didn't have the luxury of sending out applications - if you could wield a phaser or fly a ship they'd take you.

[[folder:Myths & Religion]]
* In Christian metaphor [[ChurchMilitant The Church]] sometimes compared to this, as every member is a repentant sinner; and sometimes at one time a literal thief or a whore.

[[folder:Puppet Shows]]
* G-rated version in ''Film/MuppetTreasureIsland''. [[spoiler:Most of them turn out to be full-on villains with only Long John Silver standing out as AffablyEvil, except Sweetums, who sides with Captain Kermit.]]
-->'''Kermit:''' ''Who hired this crew?!'' This is undoubtedly the seediest bunch of villains, cutthroats and scoundrels I ever laid eyes on so ''who hired them?!?!''

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* The Lost and the Damned in the ''TabletopGame/Warhammer40000'' universe are a villainous (well, [[BlackAndGreyMorality more villainous than usual]]) version -- they make up various Chaos armies, and are composed of mutants, murderers, heretics, and assorted scum of the Empire.
** From the same universe, the Imperial penal legions follow this trope straight, being armies primarily conscripted from the inmates of Imperial prisons. When the Planetary Defense Force contributions to the Imperial Guard from worlds that serve as incarceration centers, the line between "penal legion" and "Guardsmen" become indistinct.
** Most Penal Legions are formed of people that are desperately trying to clear their records by volunteering instead of accepting execution; given that the PLs are sent to some of the worst parts of the fighting and are considered expendable, this often ends in RedemptionEqualsDeath. It's worth noting that there is no shortage of capital offences in the Imperium (this is an army where you can wind up executed for standing on the same ''planet'' as a heretic) so it's not uncommon for people to be eligible for induction into a Penal Legion for some really odd reasons, to our sensibilities.
** The now discontinued Salvar Chem Dogs. An Imperial Guard regiment consisting entirely of drug addicts, thieves and psychopathic thugs, who are kept in check only by their addictions and promises of large quantities of their fix. They're also motivated by being allowed to keep anything they loot.
** In fact, you could probably look at ''any'' Imperial Guard regiment raised from a Hive World, and it will probably be this trope. It's even mentioned that one possible way to raise a regiment from a Hive World is simply sweeping through the Underhive, herding the street gangs onto a space ship, summarily executing the ones who make too much noise, and replacing the old gang colors with uniforms.
*** Gunmetal City from the Dark Heresy RPG regularly raised regiments both from the cream of their local enforcers and from mass conscription of the local gangs. It worked quite well... as long as the resulting regiments were stationed on different planets from each other.
*** Earlier editions made a point that Astartes chapter recruiting from a hive world is essentially this. However the fact that Astartes practice mind wipe and hypnosis during training probably helps.
** Dark Eldar, essentially Drow in space. Despite their appearance and KlingonPromotion-based society, their raids in material space have perfect discipline, for they are [[YourSoulIsMine all too well aware what will happen to them if they die there.]]
** Ratlings (hobbits InSpace) are a short human subspecies prone to thieving, drinking and fornication at the drop of a hat. They are, however, excellent snipers and cooks, the first of which makes them accepted by officers and the second by the Guardsmen. They also have a reputation as running the informal black markets that pop up in every military camp anywhere.
** All of these pale in comparison to the Night Lords. Most pre-Heresy legions recruited from maximum security prisons as policy, but even the Night Lords had a reputation for being extra-awful psychos, a legion for the ''real'' scum who would be rejected from any of the other legions and only allowed due to the Night Lords' lax recruitment standards. These guys were so bad that their Primarch Konrad Curze - think a mix of Franchise/{{Batman}}, Franchise/ThePunisher and [[Film/ApocalypseNow Kurtz]] as an AxCrazy giant demigod whose ''modus operandi'' was to be the worst person on his planet so nobody else could take his place and ended up brutally murdering every single criminal until the sewers were blocked by mutilated body parts, ''[[EvenEvilHasStandards hated what the Night Lords legion became]]''. It's even implied that Curze actually allowed an Imperial assassin to kill him because he was ''that'' deeply horrified by what he'd created. The Night Lords basically run on this trope played for NightmareFuel and it's hardly surprising they fell to Chaos.
* ''TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons'' adventure [=CM=]1 ''Test of the Warlords''. The domain ruler Longtooth has "Longtooth's Legion", an army of five hundred thieves armed with bows and swords.
* ''TabletopGame/{{Exalted}}'' has the Vermillion Legion -- or, as it had every reason to be called, "the Red-Piss Legion". Had, as thanks to its general, the LadyOfWar Tepet Ejava, it's now a BadassArmy. Which is a very good thing, as she's the ''nice'' candidate for the throne of [[TheEmpire the Realm]].
* The Capitol faction of ''TabletopGame/MutantChronicles'' has two flavours. The traditional one is the Freedom Brigades, which consists of volunteers willing to trade ten years of brutal service in the solar system's worst hellholes for a clean rap sheet and Capitol citizenship. The other flavour is the Free Marines, Capitol's most famous special forces outfit. In order to be eligible for the Free Marines, you have to have served for at least two years in another special forces unit, been decorated for gallantry under fire at least three times, been recommended for promotion, and been sentenced to death by a court martial.
* The ''TabletopGame/VampireTheRequiem'' supplement ''Requiem For Rome'' has the Peregrine College, a collection of the vampiric underclass.
* ''TabletopGame/BattleTech'':
** The 17th Recon Regiment, Camacho's Caballeros, is described as half Battlemech regiment, half gypsy caravan, being a big, tightly knit, and constantly squabbling bunch of extremely talented pilots. Their best scout kills HumongousMecha on foot and is the literal [[SonOfAWhore daughter of a whore]] and former petty crim, while the regiment itself is full of very capable warriors who probably couldn't go four days in a more traditional unit without being put in a brig.
** The entire Ghost Regiment division of the Draconis Combine, composed largely of the {{Yakuza}} of the day, which ranges from old hands following their own personal code of honor to thuggish bullies. Being less hidebound due to not having to follow the demands of the samurai code of honor instilled in traditional units, the Ghosts can pull all sorts of nasty stunts without getting more than a reprimand.
* By the time of the last battles in ''TabletopGame/{{Twilight 2000}}'', the U.S. Army was willing to take pretty much anyone they could get, including Soviet defectors and forcibly conscripting locals. By 2000, many regular army units on both sides had degenerated into banditry.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* The eponymous team of ''VideoGame/TeamFortress2'' consists of a hyperactive Bostonian hoodlum, an Australian game hunter turned assassin (not a crazed gunman!), a delusional, nigh-anonymous pyromaniac [[TheFaceless dressed in an all-concealing jumpsuit]], a crazed civilian who believes he's a soldier, a chain-smoking French quintuple-agent, [[HerrDoktor a saw-wielding German quack with mad scientist tendencies]], a drunken Scottish swordsman/explosives expert, a Russian boxer with a ChainsawGripBFG, and a shotgun-toting GadgeteerGenius Texan with a robot arm. The last one is the sanest of the group, and he ''cut off his own hand to attach a robotic replacement to the stump'', which speaks volumes about the rest.
* The Player's army in every ''VideoGame/FireEmblem'' game will be this by the end, though it also includes many nobles and trained soldiers as well. You will recruit anybody, despite their background, who even remotely dislikes the antagonists or is friends with someone already in your group. May be justified depending on the exact game; despite the presence of nobles, the player is rarely in command of any sort of disciplined military force, and when they are, it's usually a mercenary group who really would take on anyone who could earn their keep and be trusted not to kill everyone else.
* In ''VideoGame/AssassinsCreedII'' Ezio assembles a (literal) army of thieves and whores (and mercenaries) to oppose Borgia rule, and in ''VideoGame/AssassinsCreedBrotherhood'' he adds an army of Assassins to the mix, people he recruited simply for standing up to the Borgia.
--> ''Ezio, who are the true nobles of Venezia? Men like Carlo Grimaldi and Marco Barbarigo? No! I say we are; the thieves and ''mercenari'' and whores!''
* You can assemble one in ''VideoGame/AgeOfEmpiresIII'', either by hiring them from the Saloon building or summoning them as mercenary group. For some reason, they are more expensive than conventional army. The Asian dynasties invert this, by hiring the [[TheAtoner Repentant]] version of them from Monasteries. They aren't any better or any worse than the ones summoned from Saloon, though.
* The main characters of ''VideoGame/ValkyriaChroniclesIII''. The Nameless includes repeat arsonist, convicted murderer, brothel madame, con artist, draft-dodger, sadistic dominatrix, trigger-happy alcoholic, and money-grubbing mechanic. [[ClearMyName The leader is charged with treason]]. What a merry band of undesirables! This is just one of the many, many way the game is DarkerAndEdgier compared to its earlier installments.
* ''Franchise/ResidentEvil'': The Umbrella Corporation has multiple mercenary units. The Umbrella Biohazard Countermeasure Service, first introduced in ''VideoGame/ResidentEvil3Nemesis'' is comprised largely of convicts, including death row inmates. While their stated goal was to rescue personnel trapped in Raccoon City, it's revealed in-game that the real reason Umbrella sent them in was [[RedShirtArmy so they'd get slaughtered]], allowing the corporation to evaluate the military applications of their various monsters.
* ''VideoGame/DragonAgeOrigins'' has the Legion of the Dead, a dwarven army composed of anybody willing to give up every single aspect of their former lives in order to take up arms against the darkspawn. A funeral is held for every new member and in all ways save the obvious they are considered dead by society. Thus, if you're bankrupt, wanted, disgraced, insane or somehow otherwise unfit to live among normal people, you can join the Legion and be accepted and pardoned. And many do. Even non-dwarves can join if they wish (something absolutely unheard of anywhere else in dwarven society) because the Legion is chillingly aware it is a RedShirtArmy-in-waiting and takes all the bodies it can get.
** If anointed king, the progressively pragmatic Bhelen Aeducan opens up service in the regular army to Orzammar's Casteless as a means of social advancement.
** Even the Grey Wardens are less extreme in presentation but ultimately just as inclusive and binding. In theory, anyone can be conscripted -- from blood-soaked psychopaths right out of the hangman's noose and the lowliest slaves to princes, kings and lords -- and in particular apostate mages (who'd otherwise be executed, lobotomized or imprisoned) are free to fight right alongside everyone else. Their job is to stand between the darkspawn and the world, giving up everything (lives included) so the realm can exist in peace, and they are equally legendary and reviled for their heroism and absolute ruthlessness. In practice the order's reputation has dwindled over the years and there are now far fewer high-status Wardens, leaving a fighting force of oddballs, criminals and peasants sometimes unaware of the sacrifices Gray Warden are expected to make.
* In ''VideoGame/StarCraft'', approximately 50% of the enlisted in the armed forces of the Confederacy of Man/Terran Dominion are brainwashed criminals (running the gamut from thieves and murderers to the occasional political prisoner).
* At one point in ''VideoGame/NeverwinterNights2'', your character is given command of a unit of Greycloaks, Neverwinter's civilian militia. If you want, you can recruit new Greycloaks by offering amnesty to any criminals who'll join your forces. This will drastically reduce your army's quality though.
* In ''VideoGame/MassEffect3'', Shepard can make a deal with Aria T'Loak, an asari crimelord, for one of these. In exchange for helping her get command over the three major mercenary groups of the Terminus Systems, she will send a fleet of said mercenaries and criminal scum to help the war against the Reapers.
* In ''VisualNovel/LongLiveTheQueen'', Elodie can grant a mass amnesty to prisoners to fill out her army if Nova is in peril.
* In ''Videogame/LostTechnology'', the backbone of [[Main/TheSyndicate Alcatraz's]] armes are rogues and pirates.
* ''VideoGame/MountAndBlade'' allows you to recruit captured bandits into your force. In addition, your ''normal'' recruits are common peasants who have joined your army in hopes of a better life; your job is to turn them into [[BadassArmy something more than that]].
* The Exiles of ''Videogame/WildStar'' are composed mostly of this, not that they have much choice in the matter.
* The Courier in ''VideoGame/FalloutNewVegas'' can assemble one from the various factions in the Mojave, recruiting their support in the Second Battle of Hoover Dam to turn the tide for either the NCR, the Legion [[spoiler: or [[WildCard themselves]]]].
* [[ArmiesAreEvil Blackwatch]] from ''VideoGame/{{Prototype}}'' is implied to be this. They need men willing and able to shoot civilians or even each other on the suspicion of being infected/talkative. In comic tie-in to the first game, Peter Randall (who would later become the division's general) was shown to be a fairly unhinged platoon leader during the Vietnam War, and in ''VideoGame/{{Prototype 2}}'', when asked what he would be doing if he wasn't in the unit, a Blackwatch soldier implies he'd either be dead or in prison.
* Space Pirate Militia in ''Videogame/MetroidPrime3Corruption'' are made up primarily of captured slaves and criminals forced into service. Their service mostly consists of acting as canon fodder at for the space pirate vanguard, rations for the rest of the space pirates and anything else which requires disposable bodies.
* Videogame/Borderlands2: [[spoiler:[[AloofAlly Br]][[BigGuy ick]]]], of all people, is the leader of such an army on Thousand Cuts, and the most likely to have the dirtiest, most bloodthirsty bandits with at least a common goal. He is obliged to [[WhatMeasureIsAMook let you kill them though]], because [[BrutalHonesty they're]] [[TooDumbToLive stupid]].
* In ''VideoGame/SabresOfInfinity'', the Tierran Army becomes this after the first year of war. By this time, they've run out of volunteers, and so they're forced to resort to [[TradingBarsForStripes emptying out the prisons]] to fill the ranks. This leads to your troop (as a Lieutenant) being mostly composed of lower-class conscripts, with correspondingly bad effects on all of the unit's stats.
* ''VideoGame/{{Tyranny}}'' gives us [[TheHorde the Scarlet Chorus]], which is a loose pack of SocialDarwinist gangs made up of whatever conscripts survive the brutal initiation rites. Mixed in are criminals and psychopaths who ''[[JumpedAtTheCall willingly join]]'' the armies of an EvilOverlord in exchange for a promise of free reign to wreak havoc. The only thing keeping the Scarlet Chorus under a semblance of control is the Voices of Nerat, a gleefully psychotic HumanoidAbomination whose centuries of TortureTechnician experience, soul-devouring ways, and pure creepiness [[EvenEvilHasStandards terrify even the Chorus' most hardened killers]].

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* The citizens of [[CitadelCity Mechanicsburg]], ancestral family home of the titular ''Webcomic/GirlGenius'' Agatha Heterodyne, descend from the army of thieves and whores who followed the [[TheDreaded Old Heterodynes]]. It's all InTheBlood for them, because when the Siege of Mecahnicsburg begins in earnest, the attackers find themselves having to [[http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php?date=20111116#.VM_IRS5FYuc fend off]] surprisingly effective attacks from shopkeepers and artisans in town.

[[folder:Web Original]]
* In ''Roleplay/TheGamersAlliance'', the Union Workers has an army of well-trained thieves, mages, assassins and the like.
* The CORE in ''Webcomic/{{SSDD}}'' relies heavily on conscripted criminals from its member nations for CannonFodder. Tessa was sentenced to two years for assaulting a police officer, and one of her squadmates was a petty thief.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* From ''WesternAnimation/SamuraiJack'', [[spoiler: the [[BigDamnHeroes army besieging Aku's tower]] in the SeriesFinale fits the bill. While some, like the [[BraveScot Scotsman's family]] and the Spartans are trained and skilled fighters, many are simply allies of Jack under Aku's rule with nothing to lose, including [[BadassPacifist Monkey-Boy's tribe]], the [[FreeRangeChildren ravers]], the [[PettingZooPeople dog archaeologists]], the [[HandicappedBadass Blind Archers]], and [[FishPeople the Triceraquins]] with a HumongousMecha thrown in for good measure.]]
* The Gumm-Gumms from ''WesternAnimation/{{Trollhunters}}'' were originally small, unorganized tribes of barbaric trolls ruled under a king. When [[BigBad Gunmar the Black]] killed that king, he replaced him as their leader and turned them into an organized army set to conquer the world.

[[folder:Real Life]]
* The British Army of UsefulNotes/TheNapoleonicWars. Almost entirely made up of the lowest orders of society anyway, convicted criminals made up perhaps a third of the manpower. Their commander in the Peninsular Wars, Sir Arthur Wellesley (perhaps better known by his later title as UsefulNotes/TheDukeOfWellington), described them as "the scum of the Earth". Though he also added, "It is only wonderful that we should be able to make so much out of them". He was right -- they overlapped with BadassArmy.
** Wellesley is also reputed to have said, "I don't know what effect these men will have on the enemy, but by God, they terrify me."
** "Convicted criminals" in Wellington's army often included debtors, poachers, petty thieves, and others whose crimes were either minor by modern standards or were committed because the perps were down on their luck. It is harder to estimate how many would have been hardened professional criminals.
** The French Royalist army was a deconstruction of this. After the Revolution the Republican government controlled all the manpower available and the Royalists had to recruit from mercenaries and not the best of mercenaries from contemporary accounts. Interestingly the most effective Royalists were partisans like the counterrevolutionaries of the Vendee; these were usually peasants who had their own grudge against the new government, namely their clamping down on the authority of the Catholic Church and accompanying secular programs.
* During UsefulNotes/TheRiverWar in Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, the Egyptian government responded to the Mahdist uprising by sending Colonel William Hicks south with an Egyptian army. Most of these troops were criminals, many even ex-rebels against the Egyptian government, some marched to the front in shackles. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Hicks' men [[CurbstompBattle were annihilated by the Mahdi]].
* The Argentinian navy in the 19th Century was something of this. In fact, because most of the convicts that comprised his crews wouldn't remember the sails names, but were experts at card games, Admiral Brown had the sails renamed to cards names.
* Imperial Russian Navy during the UsefulNotes/RussoJapaneseWar became so short of manpower by the moment Admiral Rozhestvensky's fleet set sail, they sent the worst recruits, untrained peasants and convicts for crews. The admiral had whipped them ([[ATasteOfTheLash sometimes literally]]) into shape during the 4 months of the trip to Pacific.
* The Dirlewanger Brigade of the Waffen-SS from UsefulNotes/WorldWarII. The unit was originally made up of poachers, but was ultimately ranked with any criminals or mental patients the SS could find. Even the rest of the SS was disgusted with them, though that said, their "disgust" was probably based not so much on their behavior as the fact that the brigade was made up of a large number of people who the SS would normally have gassed or shot. Their actions were heinous but "the rest of the SS" was up to ''genocide'', so they were probably considered at worst a reflection of the kind of barbarity they would expect from such a bunch, rather than the ''other'' kind of ''professional'' and ''civilized'' barbarity practiced by themselves.
** There was a more pragmatic reason for which both Heer and SS soldiers hated them: when drunk, hysterical or out of control (that is, most of the time they served), [[http://www.warsawuprising.com/witness/schenk.htm Dirlewanger's men robbed, beaten or shot even other German troopers. Keeping them under control involved public hanging and shooting of the offenders]], sometimes by Dirlewanger's own hand.
** [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedrich-Wilhelm_Kr%C3%BCger SS General Friedrich-Wilhelm Krüger]] (a man who never had any qualms against organizing genocide in Poland): ''"Unless this bunch of criminals disappears from the General Government within a week, I will go myself and lock them up!"''
** By late 1944-early 1945, Dirlewanger's men [[http://www.thedarkpaladin.com/dirlewanger.htm used cloth masks when Army or SS photographers were around]], due to their [[RapePillageAndBurn evil reputation gained during the Warsaw Uprising]] (to which the Reich leadership [[WhatAnIdiot contributed willingly, documenting a lot of things by film and photo]], to make an example of the death of rebellious Poles).
* The "Ever Victorious Army", at least in its earliest incarnation. Formed in 1860 in Shanghai during the Taiping Rebellion, the initial force was recruited by Frederick Townsend Ward (and his backers) mainly from Europeans present in Shanghai, the "scum of the Shanghai docks": Beached sailors, mercenaries, criminals, deserters and expatriates. Those who survived and stuck around became the officer corps for an army of several thousand Chinese soldiers, and this army of dockside scum grew and evolved into possibly the most veteran, well-drilled, and tactically innovative fighting force of the period, first under Ward's leadership, and then under Charles George "Chinese" Gordon.
* Before Creator/SunTzu earned his fame, he was given a test from the King: turn 180 concubines into a small army. He pulled it off, though [[YouHaveFailedMe he had to punish some of his officers before they would take him seriously]].
* The Continental Army in UsefulNotes/TheAmericanRevolution started out as this. It was made of people who didn't have any experience of warfare, who didn't have any strong officers who could inspire strong discipline among them, many of them deserted the "army" to go back to their families and farms and didn't return in weeks. It suffered from lack of food, uniforms and ammunition, bad language and diseases were infecting the army so hard that hardened UsefulNotes/SevenYearsWar veterans were shocked by it, most of the soldiers only fought the revolution half-heartedly, alcohol was consumed in great volumes, etc. It's said that when UsefulNotes/GeorgeWashington got to see the "army" he had accepted command of, he had a HeroicBSOD for half a hour before he started cleaning it up.
** In some cases, ironically, the problem of the Continental Army was the reverse. New Englanders at least were small farmers and storekeepers who were too well aware of their dignity as middle class folk to take to military discipline and needed a commander who could work with their cultural eccentricities before they became effective. Historian Fred Anderson draws a picture of that in several of his books.
* Both sides in UsefulNotes/TheAmericanCivilWar suffered from this, but a special mention goes out to [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louisiana_Tigers Wheat’s tigers,]] [[WretchedHive “The sweepings of New Orleans.”]] a unit that Jackson reputedly hid from international observers, not to prevent international observes forming a poor impression of his army, but to stop them getting robbed by the troops and their camp followers. Their reputation on the battlefield was, however, excellent.
* By the end of the UsefulNotes/ThirtyYearsWar, every army involved.
* The ''Musta Nuoli'' (Black Arrow) battalion of the Finnish Army, led by legendary [[ColonelKilgore colonel Nikke Pärmi]], whose men were volunteer convicts and prisoners. He claimed after the war that the felons and white collar criminals were excellent soldiers, while political convicts were notoriously unreliable.
** ''Konnakolmonen'' (Crook Three), the 3rd Jäger Company of the Pori Brigade, Säkylä. It is an enhanced discipline unit for those conscripts who have criminal records when conscripted.
* This trope was deconstructed by the French Army during the {{UsefulNotes/Franco Prussian War}}. It had terrible morale, was plagued by alcoholism and petty theft, and to top is all off, it was run by {{General Ripper}}s who bordered on {{General Failure}}s. They were [[CurbStompBattle given a thorough beating]] by the [[ProudWarriorRace Prussians]].