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Recruitment By Rescue
It's that time of the millenium again, where the Evil Overlord comes out of his can and starts wreaking havoc. No worries, we gave The Hero a call, and he's jumping to it. Now he just needs a team, but there's a problem. Some (or, in extreme cases, ALL) potential allies are:

So what's a hero to do? Fighting the Evil Overlord alone is usually not an option (only losers do that), and neither is seeking out other, less preoccupied allies. That leaves The Hero with the job of rescuing his allies from their difficulties before he can recruit them. Written well, this is a great way to pull off a Debut Queue, introducing the cast while establishing the Hero's magnet credentials. Written badly, you might find yourself wondering why the One Man Party hero spends so much time and energy trying to get the help of people who cannot or will not help themselves.

This trope has long been a staple of the Role-Playing Game and Action Platformer genres, as well as games in other genres where team-based gameplay is mixed with a narrative. For the action platformers in particular, it's a bit of a tradition that you'll have to complete some challenge with the characters you have to acquire new characters.

Compare Sealed Cast in a Multipack, Avengers Assemble, Magnetic Hero.

Contrast Defeat Means Friendship and Defeat Means Playable, which are roughly the opposite of this trope (although there are some occasions where they overlap) as well as Recruited From The Gutter (where the act of taking someone into a group saves them).

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • This is Captain Luffy's recruitment MO. Pretty much every member of his crew got a Story Arc dedicated to solving some problem of theirs that prevented them from committing fully to Luffy's quest to find the titular One Piece.
  • Ronin Warriors started with all five heroes being sealed away. Mia and Yulie rescued Ryo in the second episode, and then Ryo proceeded to rescue the other four Ronins.
  • Many of the Pokémon Ash and his friends catch want to come with them due to this trope.

    Comics 

    Film 
  • In Eraser, Kruger saves people from the mob by faking their deaths and then setting them up in the Witness Protection program, telling them that they'll owe him a favor later. During the film, he calls in those favors, gathering a team.
  • This is how Leia is recruited in the first Star Wars movie. She went from Damsel in Distress to Action Girl as soon as they got her out of her cell aboard the Death Star and continued to be an active member of the Rebel Alliance and Luke's team of friends.
    • Technically also how Anakin was recruited in the prequel trilogy. A whole arc was devoted to Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon releasing him from Watto's ownership, including a long side quest about how Anakin was the equivalent of a race car driver, even though he was a slave.
  • The Adventures of Baron Munchausen had this as a plot point, as the Baron revisited the trail of his last adventure.
  • In the movie adaptation of The Shadow, the main character's first action after his enforced Heel-Face Turn is saving a guy from Cement Shoes and offering him a job.

    Live Action TV 
  • Angel: Fred joins the Angel Investigations crew after Angel rescues her from the alternate dimension of Pylea.
  • In a late episode of The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. Brisco & Bowler recruit two of their Magnificent Seven Samurai plotmates in this fashion: they promise Pete Hutter he'll be given a full presidential pardon for all crimes outstanding (he's in prison sharing a cell with a Scary Black Man who forces him to press his pants), and they pick up Whip Morgan as he's in the middle of being lynched by a sheriff for dating (or more) the sheriff's daughter.

    Literature 
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Dorothy rescues the Scarecrow from hanging in a field, oils the Tin Woodsman to rescue him from rust, and talks the Cowardly Lion out of his insecurities. All of them join her on her journey to the Emerald City.
  • This is how Illyria, the titular queen of the Secret of the Unicorn Queen series assembles her band of outlaws
  • in The Redemption of Althalus, two characters get recruited this way, Eliar is saved from being a prisoner and probable eventual nasty death, and Leitha is saved from being burned at the stake by a corrupt priest..
  • In one of the Dungeons & Dragons novels featuring the iconic characters, Regdar and Jozan end up recruiting Lidda when Jozan decides to save her from being hanged by a lynch mob. Then later it's inverted when Naull decides to join them after happening to be in the right place at the right time to save them from being killed by Giant Spiders.

    Video Games 

  • Many BioWare games use this method of party-gathering.
    • Both Knights of the Old Republic games require you to get most of your party members out of some kind of jam before they'll join you. Often, you'll need to help them in order to accomplish some goal of your own.
    • The Mass Effect games generally have a few characters you can recruit like this, following the KOTOR model of "helping them to help yourself", plus a few party members who will join you for no cost.
      • Used and lampshaded in Mass Effect 2, where, as Mordin is explaining the task he wants out of Shepard as a condition for his recruitment, Shep quips, "Just once I'd like someone to say, 'sure, I'll help, no strings attached'".
    • Dragon Age: Origins has about half the party members recruited this way. Of the group, one needs to be gotten out of prison, another has to be unfrozen, a third is missing his wife, and a fourth is stuck in a tower full of possessed mages and won't leave until it's been reclaimed. There's also a poisoned war dog who needs an antidote.
      • Four of the party members for the expansion pack Awakening are also rescued. Oghren (the same one with the missing wife, above) is encountered while fighting too many darkspawn to handle alone, Anders the apostate mage is rescued first from darkspawn and then from templars (it's his seventh escape from the Circle of Magi, and it's implied that they're likely to execute him this time), Nathaniel is busted out of prison (where he was sent for trying to assassinate your Player Character), and Sigrun of the Legion of the Dead is rescued from a Fate Worse Than Death at the hands of the darkspawn (or disgrace and execution as a deserter by her comrades). Dragon Age II only uses this trope with Aveline, who is rescued from darkspawn in the prologue; the other party members get into (abundant) trouble only after you recruit them or in Back Story.
  • Before BioWare, Black Isle Studios and Troika Games used this trope as well.
    • Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura had a few characters you'd recruit like this. Most would join if you were sufficiently persuasive, but the more powerful and hard-to-find guys demanded you do a sidequest first.
    • Some characters in Baldur's Gate usually would join with you at the outset, with the expectation that you would help them with a sidequest of their own; if you refused to do the sidequest, they would eventually leave you. Others, like Viconia or Mazzy, needed a more direct and immediate kind of rescue.
    • Planescape: Torment used this a lot. On a few ironic occasions, you'd actually need to rescue your party members from a problem that you, personally, had caused in a previous incarnation.
    • Fallout 2 had a healthy number of recruits gathered in this way. Vic needed to be saved from raiders, Sulik needed to have his debts paid off, and Goris had to be broken out of an Enclave prison.
  • Neverwinter Nights 2 and its expansions used this trope often, typically by having you stumble onto a potential party member when they were in the middle of a fight.
  • John Cooper's crew in Desperados is gathered in this manner. Sam's on the run from an angry landowner, Doc is about to be hanged, Kate fell afoul of some poker players who believe she cheated, and Sanchez needs to be broken out of prison. Only Mia joins the group without being done a favor first, and she's got the excuse of having nowhere else to go.
  • Two of your companions in Diablo III are recruited this way:
    • You rescue Kormac, the Templar, from a demon cultist magical torture ritual and help him get his gear back from said cultists. You then have to help him take down a rogue Templar turned necromancer.
    • When you come across Lyndon, the Scoundrel, he's in a bit of a fix — the Thieves' Guild of some major city wants a relic that his friend has, and has sent a group of assassins to kill her and take it, and you have to help him fight them off.
    • Karyna, the lady you rescue from the Spider Queen, was also planned to be a companion (before her role as a "mystical" companion was taken by Eirena the Enchantress in Act II).
  • Starting with the big DK alone, you had to rescue the other apes one by one from K. Rool's cages in Donkey Kong 64.
  • Starting with Final Fantasy III, this was the standard way to gather party members. Almost every game since then has had some party members recruited in this way.
    • Variation in Final Fantasy VI, whose large character roster is a Venn diagram of characters who are originally recruited via this trope, those who are re-recruited via this trope in the World of Ruin as Celes puts the band back together, and those who are recruited this way both times.
      • Terra is first recruited into the Returners when Locke rescues her from Imperial enslavement and Mind Control in the game's opening minutes, although she doesn't "officially" join up until she runs into a But Thou Must a bit later. In the World of Ruin she doesn't get her fighting spirit back until she and the party have freed the town of Mobliz from the threat of Phunbaba, a roving monster.
      • Cyan is recruited when Sabin (and possibly Shadow) help rescue him from an Imperial attack on his homeland.
      • Locke, who definitely has a "saving people thing," recruits Celes to the team by saving her from— you guessed it— Imperial captivity.
      • Mog is taken hostage by a desperate thief, and his attempt to break free results in both of them clinging desperately to a cliff face. The party can choose which one to save; saving Mog recruits him, saving the thief gets you a rather crappy Relic. (Not to worry, the thief survives the fall.)
      • Relm and Strago are recruited after the party saves Relm from a burning building. They are re-recruited after the party helps Relm exorcise a haunted painting and Relm snaps Strago out of a Cult-of-Kefka-induced stupor respectively.
      • Sabin is re-recruited in the World Of Ruin after Celes relieves him of the burden of holding up a collapsing building by rescuing the child trapped inside.
      • Edgar is re-recruited after you help him rescue Figaro Castle from being trapped underground.
      • Shadow doesn't join the party permanently until you rescue him from the Cave on the Veldt in the World of Ruin, where he's been injured searching for a legendary weapon (which winds up being kind of lame anyway).
  • Inverted in Chrono Trigger, where both Frog and Ayla are (seperately) recruited after they save you.
  • Also a standard in Fire Emblem. When you're not recruiting characters straight off the battlefield, you're rescuing them from enemy forces, which prompts them to join your roster.
  • Kirby 64 The Crystal Shards used this as well. The other characters weren't "party members" as such, but they'd start helping you through levels after you'd gotten them free of the Dark Matter's influence.
  • Mini Ninjas used this; part of the game's backstory is that the Ninja Master sent out each of his more experienced ninjas one by one to defeat the Evil Samurai Lord, until only two were left. With those two, you have to rescue the others on the way to finish their job.
  • Panel de Pon/Tetris Attack: All 8 of your friends starts off Brainwashed and Crazy. After defeating them one by one, the party of 9 goes to confront the four actual bad guys, and become playable.
  • Pretty much everyone you recruit into your group in Persona 4 has to be rescued from the TV world and their Shadow taken down so that they can gain a Persona to join you in the hunt for the killer who's been throwing people into the TV world. With the exceptions of your two starting party members, all of them were thrown into the TV world by the killer. The only playable character who does not have to face his or her Shadow is the protagonist, and that's because Izanami gave him the power to manifest Personas.
  • This is one way to recruit pokemon in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon.
  • In Puzzle Quest: Challenge Of The Warlords, you get half of your party members this way: You rescue Seraphne from an Arranged Marriage, Flicker from minotaur slavers and Patch from assassins. Winter joins you after you help clear his territory of Lord Bane's minions. In the Plague Lords expansion (or the iPhone version, you rescue Galnoth from the Dark Elves. You also first meet Darkhunter when you help him fight off an orc, though he won't join you until after you help him with his current manhunt.
  • In Secret of Mana, this is inverted with your first party member, who is recruited a bit after she saves you from being cooked alive by goblins.
  • Most of the potential followers in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim will follow you after you have completed a sidequest for them (although not all sidequests involve getting them out of a tight spot).
  • In Sonny, Sonny befriends Veradux as a new travelling companion when he helps the latter defend himself against the soldiers he stole some experimental armor from.
  • In StarCraft, The Sons Of Korhal start out as the terrorists rebelling against the evil Confederacy. They first enter the story after they rescue the forces under control of the player as well as Jim Raynor from a zerg horde. The rest of the compaign becomes about helping the Sons Of Korhal defeat the Confederacy. Next the Sons Of Korhal rescues Edmond Duke, a Confederacy officer from the zerg, who aids the Sons Of Korhal with valuable intelligence on the Confederacy.
  • In Starcraft II, Ariel Hanson joins for a few missions after the colony she is on is rescued, as does Gabriel Tosh after his first mission, and even Valerian Mengsk and Horace Warfield, prince and general of the Dominion you're opposing respectively, join your team when you get far enough.
  • Invoked often in the Suikoden series.
    • Suikoden II: Ayda is recruited by using one of your Listening Runes on Feather, which triggers an event where the party must help Ayda defend him from a flock of griffons. If you successful, she expresses her thanks and stays behind at the Forest Village, to treat his wounds. Return to your castle and spend the night. Ayda shows up the following day with Feather, in tow, and both join your party.
    • Suikoden V: After a lengthy quest, involving the people of Lordlake, that involves unravling truth behind the uprising, the theft of the Dawn Rune, and finally a naval battle to destroy the Hate Fortress, all of the Lordlake related characters join your cause and your party.
    • The same is true for the people of Sable, who are beseiged by an imposter of the Prince, along with a group of bandits, and the Dragon Calvary, who fail to come to Falena's defense due to Dolph taking over the dragon's den and threatening to destroy their eggs. Each involves a story related quests that require the Prince to come to their aid, after which, they side with his army.
  • Tears To Tiara 2: Hamil rescues first Artio then Elissa and Daphnis from slavers working for The Empire. They quickly join The Party, though not for this reason alone.
  • In Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood and Assassin's Creed: Revelations, Ezio recruits new Assassins from the oppressed populace in this fashion. When you encounter an NPC who's being harassed by guards, you can fight off the guards and the grateful NPC will gladly join the fight against tyranny.
  • In Saints Row: The Third, the Boss recruits Oleg, Kinzie, Zimos, and Angel by saving them from a tight spot.
  • In Marvel Ultimate Alliance, for some reason Blade is trapped in an oversized claw game in Murderworld. After the heroes rescue him, he joins them (and becomes a playable character).
  • In the flash game Vertical Drop Herozes, the villains are explicitly stated to have trapped the heroes (standard fantasy classes) to prevent them from interfering. You play as them when you rescue them.
  • In Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Tommy plans to rob a bank and asks Ken for help recruiting crew members. Ken's about to suggest Cam Jones, but then remembers he's been arrested. Tommy's solution: break into jail and bust Cam out.
  • The Updated Re-release of Super Mario 64 for the Nintendo DS has the player start out with Yoshi, who was sleeping and has to rescue Mario, Luigi and Wario in order to get through Peach's castle.
    • Yoshi's Island DS as well had the Yoshis collect the baby superstars (No that's literally what they're called) who are kidnapped by Kamek. Even Baby Bowser joins in, because he wound up in a jungle whilst Bowser from the future was trying to kidnap all the heroes who'd oppose him in the future.

Putting the Band Back TogetherTeam Shuffle TropesSneaky Departure
Recruited From The GutterIndex to the RescueRedundant Rescue

alternative title(s): Recruitment Mission
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