The Generic Villain moves into leadership and organizational structure.
The common image of our kind of organization is that of one cackling overlord, a few lieutenants with impressive-looking costumes, various classified employees doing classified things (you know, mad scientists/mages, the odd spy or two, the average five year old child on the advisory board), and a horde of faceless and only vaguely competent minions.
I don’t mind the image; it can come in handy. What I mind is having to adhere to it even behind the curtain. Sure, it’s easy to take your minions for granted. There are usually too many of them to remember individual names, the uniforms make them all look alike, and some people don’t even see their faces. But what would we do without them? And what greater things can we do with them?
For this reason, it is important that our minions see themselves as something more than cannon fodder. To this end, several steps can be taken.
One must for this sort of public relations campaign, if you are an established Hand, is to have an older, more grizzled minion, probably a veteran of a prior evil scheme. Extra credit if this individual is missing an eye, hand or other useful anatomy, and will cheerfully tell the younger sorts a tale of its loss, of rehabilitation and support on the part of your organization, and of how to avoid having the same thing happen to them. This demonstrates to them that they, too, can live to that age, and that we will indeed help them if such a thing happens to them—along with providing useful advice! (Note: while it is possible to get this effect with a random beggar and memory implantation, actually having a minion of this sort is preferable. Less evidence to falsify.)
Name tags or some other individualizing gesture can have a number of uses. One is making them feel that they are considered individuals. Another is expedition of conversations with them: you can refer to them by their names rather than saying “You!” all the time, ensuring both that the right person will be put on the right job, and that you can maintain the “not cogs in a machine” image. Yet another has to do with the heroes; they can mow down nameless, faceless foes right and left, but a name tends to imply a life to them. A purpose. A future. Not something to be brushed aside. Furthermore, aren’t people with names generally more effective than people without, due to resonance with the Laws of Dramatics?
Above all, give them training. Good training, not this Stormtrooper Academy nonsense I keep hearing horror stories about. Again, this serves two purposes. For us, it provides more competent minions, ones that might actually be able to stand up to those irritating protagonists for a change. But for the minions, this is an assurance. Don’t we take better care of the things that we’ve put resources into? Why, then, wouldn’t the same apply to them? Wouldn’t the training imply that they were valuable, a needed resource, and not just cannon fodder? Then, when we need to use them as cannon fodder anyway, either they won’t realize that’s what’s going on, or they’ll realize that the situation is vital enough that volunteering is worth it.
The best part? Then the heroes come knocking, trying to lure them away or thinking that they can just breeze through, and end up facing a team of dedicated, competent, and fiercely loyal subordinates.
Making your job easier. Making the protagonists’ job harder. Preventing defections en masse and ensuring that the minions will deal with their own traitors.
What’s not to like?