"Well, I suppose the first thing you should know about us is that we have people everywhere."The Syndicate is The Empire of the criminal world. It maintains an iron grip on the Black Market, commands battalions of armed guards and controls large sectors of land (from districts to cities or whole planets). Its influence might extend towards law enforcement, labor unions, politicians and corporations, whether through blackmail, bribery, coercion or simple business. Its many activities include racketeering, extortion, kidnapping, gambling, smuggling and trafficking. In addition to standard Mooks, its security apparatus may consist of a Murder, Inc., Bounty Hunters, Professional Killers and the Corporate Samurai. You know you're in trouble when the Syndicate somehow boasts Pinkerton Detectives and/or Private Military Contractors. Often times, The Syndicate can be a bonafide N.G.O. Superpower. There are several ways to structure the culture and chain of authority within The Syndicate, but the most common would be for it to carry a distinctly corporate flavor. In this sense, the Syndicate operates its enterprise by setting up illegal monopolies or illicit criminal networks, all the while conducting themselves almost like a business clique (see The Exchange). On a semantic note, a "syndicate" is nothing illegal per definition, as it is simply a group of companies working together for mutual profit (the most immediate example would be television syndication). However, "the Syndicate" only has one meaning in modern Western popular culture. In this sense, it may have gotten its name from the so-called "National Crime Syndicate" of ethnic gangs and the similarly-vague "Commission," the Real Life governing body of the American Mafia. Both were organized by the Italian gangster Lucky Luciano and the Jewish gangster Meyer Lansky in the early 1930s. Not to be confused with a short-lived BBC1 Game Show hosted by Nick Ross, a longer lived drama of that name or the companies which distribute Newspaper Comics to the papers themselves or the video game of the same name. Compare the Nebulous Criminal Conspiracy and Nebulous Evil Organisation. Funnily enough, in Spanish "Sindicato" means both "Syndicate" and "Trade Union" (the same goes for the French "syndicat"). Make of that what you will. See also The Mafia (and its Russian cousin The Mafiya), The Irish Mob, The Triads and the Tongs, The Cartel, Yakuza, and Mafia Princess.
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- The Red Dragon in Cowboy Bebop. The whole reason Spike was almost killed the first place was because they wanted to silence him after he tried to leave.
- Demon Card in Rave Master.
- Enfant in Madlax is an international Nebulous Criminal Conspiracy with fingers in every criminal enterprise from weapon smuggling to political corruption to fueling a War for Fun and Profit.
- Les Soldats in Noir, although they also venture quite far into the Ancient Conspiracy territory. Indeed, the main conflict in the organization revolves between those who emphasize the Ancient Conspiracy angle, and those who just perceive themselves as The Syndicate - that is, the idealists and the pragmatists.
- The all-encompassing, running the entire world behind the scenes group in Darker Than Black is one of these and actually called "The Syndicate", but most the viewer ever sees of it is the cell Hei is in and the occasional one-shot agent they have to contact. Up until The Reveal of the conspiracy (which isn't all that ancient), there's not a high ranking Syndicate member to be seen — not even an Omniscient Council of Vagueness. It falls apart after Hei blows the lid of The Masquerade at the end of the first season.
- Gungrave is a series 100% based off of a syndicate and with its fair share of conspiracies. And zombies.
- Meiousei aka Pluto in Detective School Q.
- Detective Conan has The Black Organization.
- From One Piece, there's Baroque Works, a secretive but extensive criminal organization led by a pirate-turned-privateer-turned back to a life of crime. Said leader used the entire organization as a means to overthrow the government of the kingdom of Alabasta, all so he could comb the country for a legendary ancient weapon of mass destruction. The whole shebang collapsed at the end of its story arc, all of its major players sent to Impel Down.
- Intergang from the Superman comics falls into this, and is a credible threat even to powerful superheroes because they get their weapons and technology from The DCU's ultimate Big Bad and Evil Overlord, Darkseid. (They also make a few appearances in the Superman and Justice League cartoons, but as a lesser threat).
- The 100 (a.k.a. The 1000) is another example from The DCU.
- The Maggia in the Marvel Universe.
- In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Foot are supposed to be this, although they're not terribly effective at it. The Shredder and his men, it is eventually revealed, are pretty much a rogue faction of the main group (which mostly remains unseen outside the no-longer-canon Vol. 3), and the fact that Karai needs the turtles in order to stop the warring between factions does not bode well for the group as a whole. In the current story arc, it is revealed that most of the clan the world over had been killed by a group of mysterious warriors. So yeah...
- The Singh Brotherhood of The Phantom is a powerful criminal organisation which traces its origin back to the Viking Age.
- Herr Wallenquist runs one of these in Sin City, where he is the prime benefactor of an assassins' guild that also specializes in the Black Market and indirectly controls the corrupt police precinct. In past stories, he has shown to have connections with other crime families such as the Lords and the Roarks.
- Vulture, in the 1950s Martian Manhunter strips, was a shadowy criminal group led by the enigmatic Mr. V. They flummoxed both J'onn and the police with their zany schemes, and every time that J'onn thought he'd finally caught Mr. V, it would turn out to be just another one of his Body Doubles.
- The LOVE organization in Kitsune no Ken: Fist of the Fox serves as this. It is stated to have operatives in every facet of society (including positions close to judiciary and law enforcement), and its top-ranking members, who make up LOVE's Council of the Dawn are individually the leaders of their own crime syndicates, all of which are incorporated into LOVE's activities. The crimes LOVE facilitates center around the production, smuggling and distribution of a narcotic called Gold Sand, and they are also involved in racketeering, counterfeiting of cash, smuggling, gambling on underground fights, kidnapping, and provision of weapons for smaller-tier criminals.
- Pick a Hong Kong triad film. Any triad film.
- Payback pits Anti-Hero Porter against a syndicate. Just a slight bit of playing and Lampshade Hanging goes on as it's discussed at several points that the movie's syndicate actually used to be called The Syndicate, but changed its name to The Outfit while Porter was recovering from his wounds.
- In Point Blank, Lee Marvin battled a remarkably organised organised crime organisation which was explicitly referred to as "The Syndicate". The Outfit Outfit was a loose sequel to Point Blank, and Charley Varrick inhabited a similar world
- The Umbrella Corporation in the Resident Evil movies.
- The SPecial Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion aka SPECTRE, in the James Bond movies.
- The Spiritual Successor of SPECTRE is Quantum in Quantum of Solace. Bonus points for having one of its members actually say, "We have people everywhere" about five seconds before being proven right.
- The Organization in the Virgil Tibbs adventure The Organization.
- Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation sees such a group actually called "The Syndicate", made up of discredited former agents from intelligence services from around the world. Their origin was not entirely criminal... The use of the name is a nod to the more conventional mob-like Syndicate from the TV series (mentioned below).
- ''Game of Death": In the 1978 version, Dr. Land's group even calls itself the syndicate, resides in the Red Pepper restaurant, controls the whole martial arts industry and takes its fair share out of bets.
- John Wick: Chapter 2 has the High Table, a council of crime lords from all around the world, including Italians, Russians, the Yakuza and even African warlords.
- The Arch-Enemy of Sherlock Holmes, Professor Moriarty, is the head of a mighty criminal organization filled with "a hundred broken fighting men, pickpockets, blackmailers, and card sharpers at the other, with every sort of crime in between." Holmes deduces that it is responsible for nearly all the undetected crimes in London, even powerful enough to threaten entire nations.
- The Syndicate in the Illuminatus! trilogy plays this trope to the tee.
- Umbra Corporation from A Game of Universe}} by Eric Nylund.
- James Bond
- As mentioned under Film, SPECTRE. Ian Fleming was worried that Cold War villains would get outdated and invented the organization as a politically neutral replacement for SMERSH. Their membership apparently consists of big names in the Mafia, the Unione Corse, various Secret Police forces, and, well, SMERSH. Apparently all those disparate groups can reconcile vastly different ideologies under the common banner of world domination.
- To hear James Bond tell it, SMERSH itself was one of these. They have no compunction against working with gangsters like Mr. Big, career criminals like Goldfinger, or serial killers like Red Grant (not as unlikely as it sounds- the US, at least, has historically used crime lords as intelligence agents).
- The Shadow Fist Society from Wild Cards. They're a rag tag bunch of street gangs united by Diabolical Mastermind Kien Phuc, and they easily rival, if not exceed, the influence of the local Mafia family. Part of it is that they willingly accept and employ Jokers and Aces.
- Older Than Radio: Les Habits Noirs (The Black Coats) novels by Paul Féval, written from 1863 to 1875.
- And he had an earlier prototype in the Gentlemen of the Night
- The House of the Jhereg in the Dragaera novels.
- Milo's syndicate in Catch-22.
- Phoenix Force sometimes battles MERGE (a criminal alliance of The Mafia, the Unione Corse, the Colombian cartels and the Mexican Mafia) and its Oriental equivalent TRIO — a union of the Yakuza, the Triads, and the fictional New Horde (a Mongolian crime group). Its members don't always get along.
- Time Scout's criminal empire is composed of The Mafia, The Mafiya, the Yakuza, and many Corrupt Politicians
- Donald Westlake's Parker novels featured one of these, run along 60s corporate lines. Parker had some trouble with them in the first few novels, but arranged a détente of sorts after helping a new leader ascend to power. Parker even did a couple of jobs for them thereafter on a strictly cash basis.
- The Star Wars novels have Black Sun, the most powerful criminal organization of the galaxy. It's an Empire within an Empire (though predating it by centuries) and has a cozy arrangement with Palpatine (for example, providing logistical support to the construction of the Death Star) who considers it valuable enough that its leader, Xizor, is a respected member of the Imperial Court, the third most powerful man in the galaxy, and a rival to Darth Vader himself. Its upper rank members are all rich and powerful in their own right - Xizor is the CEO of the galaxy's largest transportation company, one of his underlings Durga leads a Hutt crime family that rivals Jabba's, etc. Later novels reveal that Black Sun accumulated most of its power not by bribery or intimidation, but by gathering information to blackmail high-level officials into cooperating, making it as much a private intelligence agency as a crime syndicate, and one the Bothans alone can outdo.
- The other main criminal element in Star Wars novels are the Hutt syndicates, called "kajidics." Those are family-based clans that have a loose governing body but fiercely compete with each other for control of the underworld. They are closer to traditional gangsters than Black Sun, mostly concentrating on control of the slave trade or the spice (drug) trade rather than Xizor's high-stakes games in galactic politics. The two most powerful kadjidics in the original trilogy era were Desilijic (Jabba's organization) and its main enemy Besadii (Durga's organization, which eventually ends up being absorbed by Black Sun, at least until Xizor's death).
- In The Iron Teeth web serial, the Broken Wheel Company disposes of goods for the various bandit bands in the Iron Teeth mountains. They are also rumored to be involved in assassination and other illegal activities.
- Pick a Criminal Procedural. If it doesn't have The Syndicate, pick the next one: it's bound to be in.
- Star Trek:
- Several shows in the franchise, including Deep Space 9, have the Orion Syndicate, although since most of the major characters were (essentially) military personnel it tended to be more of an around-the-edges nuisance than a direct threat.
- "A Piece of the Action" in Star Trek: The Original Series has Kirk arrange for the formation of a syndicate of mobs. It's all for a good cause, of course: the planet in question is run by mobs straight out of 1920 Chicago, so The Syndicate is the closest equivalent to The Federation for the moment, and it helps to keep the Iotians working together.
- In The X-Files, the Omniscient Council of Vagueness is actually called "the Syndicate" (among other things). They are an international conspiracy of politicians and businessmen who discovered the existence of aliens after the Roswell Incident, and a few years later managed to negotiate a temporary truce with the homicidal aliens, buying themselves a few decades in return for assisting the alien colonization.
- Alias had the Alliance, K-Directorate, the Covenant, etc.
- The infamous Shocker of the long running children's TV show Kamen Rider definitely fits into this one considering that it spawned a lot of evil organizations after.
- Chuck is known for its evil organizations like FULCRUM, Fulcrum's parent company The Ring, and the current incarnation of the Syndicate: Volkoff Industries.
- The Impossible Missions Force faces off against The Syndicate several times.
- The criminal organisation Niska represents in Firefly was never given an official name, but is usually referred to simply as 'the Syndicate'.
- The Stargate-verse has the Lucian Alliance, a network of drug smugglers and black market dealers that developed into a consistent secondary threat to the Tau'ri after the Goa'uld Empire collapsed.
- In Lolly's flashback episode of Orange Is the New Black, the voices in her head tell her that a couple of bike cops work for the Syndicate, who in turn work for Starbucks who don't want her selling her own homemade coffee.
- A few such syndicates exist in Shadowrun, and from time to time you'll be asked to infiltrate their corporate headquarters during your missions.
- In the Old World of Darkness, The Syndicate is the economic arm of the Technocracy.
- Dungeons & Dragons: Your typical Thief's Guild in a big city will be one of these. Depending on the setting, a variety of other guids, like an Assassin's Guild or Mage's Guild, might be involved in nefarious criminal schemes.
- Exalted brings us the Guild, a syndicate so wealthy and influential that it qualifies as an N.G.O. Superpower, despite being a mortal-run organization in a world ruled by Physical Gods.
- The Orzhov Syndicate. Officially, they're a church. Officially. Everybody on Ravnica knows that they're in charge of big business as well as organised crime... and if you owe the Orzhov a debt, you're going to pay it off, even after death.
- The Free Enterprise secret society in Paranoia.
- Pretty much how Dark Eldar society is organised in Warhammer 40,000. They live in an impossibly vast inter-dimensional city called Commorragh, and it is ruled and enforced by the Kabals, which are basically like a mix between crime syndicates, pirate fleets, and the old medieval Italian city state families. They constantly battle for dominance through political and military means, with the Kabalite Warriors being made-men, and Archons are basically Godfathers. A warrior can climb the ranks of a Kabal by killing those ranked above him.
- A subversion appears in a GURPS book of NPC villains. The villain is a homeless schizophrenic who was more or less literally raised by a television. He sincerely believes that there is an interstellar (he's in a science-fiction universe) crime syndicate, that he's a member of it, and that it sends him messages and instructions in mysterious ways(he interprets random happenings and the voices in his head as such). He's completely deluded, but has managed to convince a number of the local lowlifes that he's for real, and as such has a surprising degree of influence in his local area.
- Grand Theft Auto:
- Grand Theft Auto: Vice City: Tommy Vercetti's criminal organization (Vercetti crime family) operates as a powerful organization based in and around Vice City.
- Grand Theft Auto V: Trevor Philips Enterprises (or TP Inc.) is a powerful conglomerate dedicated in the production of methamphetamine. It is run by one of the three protagonists, Trevor Philips which is a company that deals with arms and drug dealings syndicate. They have connections with some Mexican Cartels and some rednecks are usually hired as muscle, guards or operatives. Trevor can also buy a lot of business in San Andreas.
- Far Cry 3: Hoyt's criminal organization is an inmensely powerful organization dedicated in drug trade and human trafficking. And as if that was not enough, he has an army of bloodthirsty mercenaries at his disponsal.
Hoyt: "I'm a hunter myself. The noblest of professions. But you know, I like to hunt real game. I can offer you travel to slave markets in Rio, Hong Kong, New York. This is a global enterprise. Globalisation is the future, bringing things from far away to me."
- Classic PC hit Syndicate featured... you guessed it, a Syndicate.
- And the player plays a team of its agents, no less.
- A little subverted though as while they're no strangers to playing dirty, the implication is that most of their income is from at least semi-legitimate sources.
- Playing dirty might be putting it a little lightly. The game's story and setting are a pretty shamelessly obvious example of Black And Black Morality.
- The unnamed crime syndicate run by Mr. X in the Streets of Rage trilogy.
- John Woo Presents Stranglehold, being the sequel to classic Hong Kong film Hard Boiled, has three of them: the Golden Kane headed by Yung Gi, the Zakarov syndicate headed by Damon and Vladimir Zakarov, and Dragon Claw headed by Mr. Wong.
- Star Wars Expanded Universe:
- The Black Sun criminal syndicate, which exists in some form or another during every period of the GFFA. Though dissolved after the Vong War, it makes a comeback during the Legacy era.
- The Zann Consortium from Empire at War: Forces of Corruption essentially evolves into a galaxy-wide syndicate by the end of the campaign.
- The Exchange in the Knights of the Old Republic games.
- The Guild in Jade Empire.
- Front Mission has two of these - one in the main Front Mission universe and another in the Gun Hazard universe.
- In the main Front Mission universe, the "Grimnir" led by Morgan Bernard (who also functions as the series Big Bad).
- In the Gun Hazard universe, "The Society" led by Henry Sherwood.
- The Black Dragon to which Kano belonged and their rival parent group the Red Dragon from Mortal Kombat. Likewise, Sub-Zero's Lin Kuei and their rivals, the Shira Ryu, to which Scorpion once belonged. The White Lotus Society, to which both Liu Kang and Kung Lao belonged, is the "good guy" variant of this trope.
- The crime syndicate called "The Syndicate" in Oni.
- In the MMORPG Ragnarok Online we have Rekember Corporation. When something bad is happening you can be 90% sure that Rekember has it's fingers in it.
- In EVE Online, there is an entire region of 0.0, lawless, space called The Syndicate. It was once described as a good place for a vacation by a Gallente Senator.
- The Syndicate in Jak X that is run by Krew's rival gang leader and practically runs Kras City. Fixes all the Combat Races, hires mercenary drivers, sabotages Jak's vehicle, and kills Blitz's father, though that happened before the game's events.
- Shadaloo started out as this, but as the series progressed, became more of a Nebulous Evil Organisation.
- The plot of Ace Attorney Investigations centers around an international smuggling syndicate.
- Nile in Hotel Dusk: Room 215.
- The Z Syndicate from Custom Robo. Strangely, the organization was originally formed for benevolent purposes, before the lieutenants decided to make it a criminal group and ousted their leader.
- City of Heroes: Going Rogue: has the Syndicate. Essentially, after the Hamidon Wars, Emperor Cole began cracking down on organized crime. This only caused it to "get more organized," and in the end, every gang in the city had banded under the name of the Syndicate. Players will run across members of the Syndicate, whose Primal Earth counterparts are heads of other gangs.
- The Syndicate (or rather, a syndicate, because the actual names are randomly generated) attacking the station is one of the possible events to occur on Space Station 13. Effectiveness varies based on the intelligence of the syndicate members, but usually, being a team of three or more foes armed to the teeth with energy swords and bombs and hell bent on destroying the station, they're near the top of biggest threats to the station.
- The Pizza Bat corporation in No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle is in control of a mafia the size of a small army. Needless to say, they pretty much run the city.
- The Syndicate in Saints Row: The Third is a consortium of three powerful gangs, firmly in control of the city of Steelport and environs. The Saints themselves run a media empire and essentially run the nation by the next game.
- World of Warcraft has a faction of rogues called the Syndicate. It's a subversion in this case as the Syndicate is a meaningless, almost powerless faction only feared by low level characters.
- Final Fantasy Tactics A2 has Khamja, a shadowy criminal clan so powerful that it basically runs the country the game takes place in.
- In Final Fantasy XIV, the Syndicate of Ul'dah is actually an official part of the city-state's ruling government, alongside the Sultanate. Most major decisions are made by vote with the Syndicate members and the Sultana. It's common knowledge that the Syndicate are corrupt and only looking out for themselves, and the Sultana is essentially reduced to a figurehead despite her efforts.
- Assassin's Creed: Syndicate (what a surprise): This time around, the Templars exert control over London through drug trade and organizing local street thugs (along with a few legal but horrible means, like child labor). Your protagonists have the option of forming their own good-aligned syndicate to combat them.
- Xenoblade Chronicles X: At first, it's assumed that the Ganglion the heroes are fighting against are an alien race bent on destroying humanity for some reason. Later in the game we learn that the Ganglion is actually a crime syndicate... and not a particularly powerful one in the grand scheme of things. At least, not compared to the government they operate under, the Samaar Federation, who have control over multiple entire galaxies.
- The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind has the Camonna Tong, the native Dunmer Mafia. They're involved with nearly every seedy operation going on in Vvardenfell, particularly smuggling and drugs. They invert the Ruthless Foreign Gangsters trope, as they are much more ruthless than their Imperial import counterpart, the Thieves' Guild, who avoids murder and generally practices Honor Among Thieves. The way they operate is very Mafia-esque, with Orvas Dren as the kingpin of the operation while they conduct business out of legitimate bars and taverns. More recently, they've even gotten involved with the Sixth House cult, whose promises of driving the Empire out of Morrowind meshes well with the Tong's utter hatred of outlanders. The Tong has two members of the House Hlaalu council in their pocket, and also have control over the Fighters Guild due to controlling the faction leader's gambling debts. As if that weren't all bad enough, they also take it upon themselves to enforce Morrowind's pro-slavery laws, which includes hiring bounty hunters to ruthlessly hunt down escaped slaves while they themselves are known to use slaves as drug mules. Finally, their leader, Orvas Dren, is planning to have his brother, Duke of Vvardenfell Vedam Dren, assassinated.
- Ronin Galaxy: The Akuma gang in the first chapter. Possibly the Moritomi gang from the second.
- In Samurai Jack, it is revealed in Season 5 that Aku's regime welcomes outlaws, bandits, gangsters and evil organizations. Interestingly, most of the antagonists have connections to Aku, from lowly thugs to ruthless mobsters, assassins and slave drivers.
- The Dark Hand of Jackie Chan Adventures is originally portrayed as this, having connections to nearly every major international crime out there. Because of Villain Decay, however, it is no longer the case.
- Of course, there needs to be a mention of THE number one syndicate in all of western animation... MAD.
- Huntik: Secrets & Seekers has The Organization, which reportedly has agents the world over, has the power to erase bank accounts, and can even take over governments.
- Mentioned in A Charlie Brown Christmas. Lucy remarks that "We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket. It's run by a big eastern syndicate, you know."
- The Spectacular Spider-Man: L. Thompson Lincoln's outfit is this (in fact, he's was probably meant to Kingpin, the example listed under Comics). He's the secret identity of The Big Man of Crime in New York, and bit players in the underworld think he's a myth- meanwhile, Lincoln himself is publicly believed to be an odd-looking philanthropist. By season 3, there's a three way straggle over his power base between him, the standard Mafia, and the growing super villain community.