You are an Evil Overlord
who has just conquered another place, crushed the puny resistance
, set up the proper measures to keep people in line
and are ready to spill more blood for the blood god. Instead of simply annihilating the conquered enemy's armed forces, you have a much more efficient solution: add them to your own army. Les Collaborateurs
may serve as the sergeant to this new army, but often it is headed by a Fantastic Racist
who will rarely show much mercy for this battalion.
There are several regiments of the Battle Thralls:
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: This branch consists of a group of people who believes that might makes right. Because they were beaten in combat, they accept their new leader and will not question his loyalty. Their new leader is a source of enlightenment, and serving him is their highest honor. However, any who feel their honor has been insulted will gladly join with, or at least be neutral towards, the rebels. Those who do join La Résistance usually seek to regain their group's lost glory. In battle, they are often both strong warriors and skilled strategists.
- Barbarian Marauders: Brutish, wild and dumb. The Barbarian Marauder is perfectly fine with serving under the new Evil Overlord. He may terrorize the empire's enemies, but he usually fights for little more than his own amusement. Basically, sociopaths pointed in another direction. Their brutality is offset by their simple-mindedness. If their hedonistic needs are not met, they will pick apart your empire bit by bit.
- Engineers of Doom: They are responsible for preparing the empire for war. They rarely take sides in the conflict, only working to make sure the war machine is running. They will only fight the rebels if absolutely necessary. They are often the straight man of the Battle Thralls, being the voice of reason that prevents the Chaotic Evil and Lawful Evil groups from killing each other. If the opportunity is given to rebel, they may offer a token of assistance to the heroes but will usually refrain from directly sabotaging the empire's infrastructure.
- Taskmasters: Drill Sergeants Nasty Up to Eleven. They're the guys that stand behind all the Slave Mooks and whip them into shape. Though they usually outnumber the taskmasters, the Slave Mooks will rarely rebel against them.
- Enslaved Grunts: The lowest rank of Battle Thralls, basically rounded up and given a crude weapon or bomb. They are usually employed in a Zerg Rush against their enemies. They are regarded by both sides as target practice and friendly fire is often an issue. They rarely have the courage to stand up and fight against their overlords. If not "freed" by the rebels, they often realize that their lot in life is to die anyway and thus may sacrifice themselves for the emperor, no matter how hopeless the attack is.
- Sneaky Mercs: Thieves, bandits and other lowlifes who are more than willing to harm a helpless target but flee at the first sign of danger. Their role in combat is to act as the surgical knife of the lowlifes, stealing from, sabotaging, or terrorizing their enemies. They may boast about the fact that the empire has allowed lowlifes such as themselves to live instead of executing them.
- Alluring Amazon Slave Girls: The bedwarmers of the battle thrall army. To the Empire, they are a useful resource for keeping the ruling elite company during those cold nights after a hard day of plundering and pillaging, and they may be effective soldiers either. Mostly used to infiltrate resistance cells or the beds of defiant generals. They often become enamored with the main character if he is a dashing hero. Frequently one will realize that her love for the hero she is spying on is genuine. The Vamp version will often have a tragic romance with the ruler, eventually realizing that he does not care about her.
- Dogmatic Drones: Robot Mooks, a dogmatic drone army made of faceless robots united under a single leader, who either created them or gave them a purpose. Often in the Lawful Evil territory. They act as a deadlier version of a Zerg Rush. Unlike grunts, they generally don't have rebellious tendencies. Those that do rebel or otherwise break away from the main contingent are considered "defective".
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Anime and Manga
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: Mandalorian Clone Troopers in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. (Some Clone Troopers who valued their roots then to the Republic and later the Empire).
- In the Warhammer 40,000 background book Xenology, the Ethereals are hinted to have turned the Tau into Battle Thralls for the Eldar since their innate warp resistance meant they won't be controlled by chaos nor be wary of being manipulated by the Eldar. The source was poetic and symbolic, spread over sources from two races on opposite sides of the galaxy; the interpretation of the text as referring to the Eldar was in-universe and it could equally apply to the Dark Eldar and human-looking Necron infiltrators (which feature heavily in the book.)
- In the Belisarius Series the Rajputs and Kushans are Proud Warrior Race guys; both of them defected though the Kushans defected earlier (the Rajputs had to be left so that Belisarius would have someone decent to fight through most of the plot). These two are more Worthy Opponents than the rather grim jackboots described above; the Rajputs are aristocratic warriors and the Kushans tough professionals, not totally unlike Romans. Their skill at siegecraft makes them Engineers of Doom as well as a Proud Warrior Race The Ye-tai are barbarian marauders; while brave enough, they tend to be uses as taskmasters, driving the conscripted peasant grunts whose main purpose seems to be to get killed one way or another. The sneaky mooks appear as well in the form of assassins which range from street thugs to ninja-like Badass Stealth Experts. Interestingly, the last are what Link seems to trust must.
- The Seanchan in Wheel of Time capture and enslave female magic-users with enchanted leashes that enforce obedience and use them in combat. They consider them more like Attack Animals than this trope.
Live Action TV
- Barbarian Marauders: Khorne Berserkers in Warhammer; they're more of a freelance group. If you don't give them enough victims or opportunities to fight, they will gladly turn on you.
- In the Dungeons & Dragons Dark Sun setting, Enslaved Grunts come in both slave soldiers and gladiator varieties
- Clan Warriors in BattleTech are Proud Warrior Race Guys who are expected to, if captured in battle, serve their captors as bondsmen and women. Often they are made Warriors of their capturing Clan and this practice enables Clans to add new genes and Bloodnames to their gene pools. This caused some confusion when they invaded the Inner Sphere, whose major powers typically return prisoners of war to their home nations at the soonest possible convenience.
- The Chaos Dwarfs in Warhammer Fantasy use orcs, hobgoblins and goblins in this role, since there are not enough of them to fill out their army.
- Star Control is the Trope Namer with the Hierarchy of Battle Thralls led by the Ur-Quan Kzer-Za, although you learn more about them in Star Control II.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Thraddash. Possibly overlaps with the Barbarian Marauders (they're proud, but also dumb as bricks and unapologetically violent to a fault). The Yehat in Star Control II are a more straight example; being classic Proud Warrior Race Guys who serve the Ur-Quan Kzer-Za willingly under orders from their Veep-Neep Queen; in the first game, the Yehat were part of The Alliance of the Free Stars.
- Barbarian Marauders: The Ilwrath. They live for evil and became Battle Thralls to the Ur-Quan Kzer-Za solely for the purpose of obtaining sacrifices for their dark gods. The VUX are a bit of a subversion; they're intelligent and very eloquent, they're just narcissistic as heck and are heinously violently solely because they consider every non-VUX lifeform (humans especially) in the universe uglier than they are.
- Engineers of Doom: The Umgah. Pranksome geneticists that can be helpful if you can figure out why they're so quirky.
- Enslaved Grunts: The Spathi, a race of cephalopod cowards. The Mycon might also apply here, in the "living bomb" sense - they joined the Ur-Quan Slave Empire in order to gain new worlds to terraform by burying their children into its crust.
- In general, Kzer-Za policy limits the slave part of it — a race becoming Battle Thralls is supposed to be a choice by that race (with the alternative being Slave Shielding), but the choice is final... even if an Umgah practical joke made you think you were choosing to be Slave Shielded.
- Dogmatic Drones: The Mycon are the unholy combination of Planet Eaters and a Horde of Alien Locusts.
- The backstory reveals that the Ur-Quan themselves were Battle Thralls for the Dnyarri millenia ago. The green Kzer-Za were Engineers of Doom while the black Kohr-Ah were Enslaved Grunts. The reasoning behind the Ur-Quan's enslaving or killing of other species is to ensure that this never happens to them again.
- You can recruit such thralls in the first Medieval Total War. Specifically, the expansion pack, Viking Invasion.
- Still further back, in the Shogun: Total War expansion Mongol Invasion, the Mongol's basic, cheap infantry units are basically Korean captives / vassals pressed into service.
- In Warriors Orochi, the Wei and Wu became Les Collaborateurs and Battle Thralls with Orochi
- Yuber from Suikoden is a mix of Barbarian Marauder (he destroyed a whole village because he was bored while waiting), Enslaved Grunt (he can be summoned and will work for the ones responsible for doing so.. at least until he's in danger) and Sneaky Merc (he actively seeks, craves and creates chaos and participates in most wars. However once he feels that he is in danger he will flee, usually by teleporting, and abandon the squad he was commanding and the battle he was fighting).
- Halo's Covenant has most of these, with the Prophets in charge:
- The Elites (Sangheili) are the Proud Warrior Race Guys, of course. The Brutes (Jiralhanae) are the Barbarian Marauders. The Grunts (Unggoy) are, well, the Enslaved Grunts. The Jackals (Kig-Yar) are the Sneaky Mercs. The Drones (Yan-Me) are, you guessed it, the Dogmatic Drones. And the Engineers (Huragok) are, naturally, the Engineers of Doom.
- All that's missing is the Alluring Amazons.
- Valkyria Chronicles: the battle thralls make up a significant part of The Empire's military might. Some of them even rise to become the Imperial nobles' right-hand men, such as Radi Jaeger.
- Darcssen finds a special niche amongst Europan battle thralls: as engineers of doom. Just look at the Calamity Raven and their advanced death-machines. Heck, even Isara technically is one: without adoption by the Welkins or her inventions, she would never be considered a full-fledged citizen of Gallia.
- In Dragon Age, the Qunari give their mages, whom they call "Saarebas" or "dangerous thing", this treatment after it becomes apparent that they can't ignore the advantages that magic brings to the battlefield. They are chained up like animals and are kept on a leash with special control rods.
- Near the end of its reign, Rome, the classic Vestigial Empire, was hiring a lot of barbarians, because its own army was depleted. They even hired the Huns at one point to take down the Burgundians. The Huns quickly figured out there was a lot more gold where their paycheck came from, and spent several years shaking down the Eastern Roman Empire, who had fairly unprofessional soldiers. Then Attila got cocky and took on the West. The West had trained soldiers and every Barbarian Tribe that Attila had ever wronged on their side. Not surprisingly, Rome won, and Attila died on his wedding night (not of a nosebleed as is commonly thought; his heavy drinking caused a hemorrhage in his esophagus, and killed him with a combination of choking on his own blood and shock) Now here's where Rome made a huge mistake: it let its Western army slack off, and discriminated heavily on the barbarians. Then, the barbarians all teamed up to form The Horde and carried out what is still considered to be the greatest ever Rape, Pillage, and Burn ever conducted. The raid was so devastating that not only were barbarians all over Europe able to reclaim their land while the Romans just stood there staring at the bonfire they used to call 'home', but they actually destroyed 400 years worth of technology. Dark Age Europe ensued.
- Rome did it for centuries: for their neighbouring Germans, serving in the Roman army was a way to get honour (as they knew that surviving the training meant you were a badass) and improving living conditions for themselves and their families upon discharge (they were allowed to settle inside the borders and got citizenship for themselves and their children). The difference was how it was done: for most of the time, the barbarians were split up and sent to serve inside units raised from fully Romanized populations, thus isolating potential troublemakers and expose them to Roman values until they adopted them. Sadly a series of civil wars and a major military campaign after emperor Valentinian III's death ended up depleting the Western army, with general Ricimer (commander in chief of the army and, by then, the real power behind the throne) opting to not have the veterans train new recruits raised from inside the empire but to have barbarian tribes replace the destroyed armies. As soon as that was done, Rome lost Spain, Africa and Gaul to the barbarians for good, and the empire in Italy would soon fall to the barbarians in the army deciding they're better off without emperor.
- The elite Janissary forces of the old Ottoman Empire, later becoming a powerful military caste in their own right, began technically as Battle Thralls, mainly from the then newly-conquered territories such as Greece and Bulgaria. The Ottomans would acquire suitable young boys for the Sultan from those territories specifically for this purpose, making it also a Real Life case of TykeBombs.
- Well, almost a real life case of Tyke Bombs. They were taken back to Istanbul and given extensive training (in reading, history and religion as well as fighting), so it would sometimes be years before they'd see actual battle.
- The Egyptian Mamluks had a similar origin as the Janissaries, though they eventually took over the country and ruled it until being conquered by said Ottomans.
- The reason why the Mongols can show up in great numbers and plow through Muslim and Christian nations (nobody expected the Mongol horde!) is because they made battle thralls out of every tribes they conquered along the way. And it was a long, long way.