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The Syndicate
"Well, I suppose the first thing you should know about us is...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 (most immediate example would be the television syndications), 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, 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.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • The Red Dragon in Cowboy Bebop.
  • Demon Card in Rave Master.
  • Enfant in Madlax.
  • 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.
    • End of season 2 sees the creation of a New Syndicate, of which Mao and Kirihara are members.
  • 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.

    Comicbooks 
  • 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.

    Films 

    Literature 
  • The Syndicate in the Illuminatus!! trilogy plays this trope to the tee.
  • Umbra Corporation from A Game of Universe by Eric Nylund.
  • It's also called "The Syndicate" in the Whateley Universe. In this world of mutants with superpowers, The Syndicate is run by shadowy supervillains, and staffed with armies of minions and Mooks.
  • Older Than Radio: Les Habits Noirs (The Black Coats) novels by Paul Féval, written from 1863 to 1875.
  • The House of the Jhereg.
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Pick a Criminal Procedural. If it doesn't have The Syndicate, pick the next one: it's bound to be in.
  • The Star Trek franchise, particularly Deep Space 9, had 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 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 offical 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.

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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.
  • The Shadow Thieves in the Forgotten Realms. They double as a Religion of Evil, since they are the devoted worshipers of Mask, the god of thieves. Also the Zhentarim, who are thinking really big and have their hands deeply in politics, effectively even controlling their own small country.
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Webcomics 
  • Ronin Galaxy: The Akuma gang in the first chapter. Possibly the Moritomi gang from the second.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.


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