The Generic Villain on Minions and Suicide Missions

Sometimes one must be sacrificed for the good—sorry, benefit—of the many. And sometimes we find ourselves in a situation where the price is clearly marked, and happens to be counted in the lives of our minions. It can’t always be easy.

Now, we’re not exactly known for valuing human (or whatever) life by virtue of it being sentient life, or even life at all. Evil, what can I say? But on the other hand, there are reasons why it’s a bad idea to be known for sending people off on suicide missions, unless all of your minions are fanatical zealots who leap at the chance, anyway, and sometimes even then. One is that while minions are a renewable resource, they’re not infinite unless you’ve got some way to spawn them out of nowhere (and fanatical zealots in particular take a while to replace, let alone replace at any competence level.) Another is the issue of morale; if you’re spendthrift with your minions’ lives, those that still survive are going to realize they’re footing the bill. Last, it gives people doubts about your tactics—a suicidal mission may be the fastest to plan, but what’s to say there isn’t a better way, and if there is, what’s to say people aren’t going to realize it?

So what’s to be done?

Some people choose their ‘volunteers’ for suicide missions randomly. It’s useful in that it doesn’t look like you’re playing favorites (unless you’re (un)lucky and happen to get people who all have something in common, like being pains in the neck, on the random drawing), but on the other hand, if anyone can be selected, everyone can be selected, and there are many people who don’t work well when they know that one bad draw could get them killed. (Or, for that matter, people you won’t want to spare.)

Others use suicide missions as a punishment—for failure, for serious infractions, for not being funny at the right moment. On the plus side, that means you’ve got a set pool of volunteers, and the rest of your minions can be secure (and better behaved!) in the knowledge that as long as they do this, this and this, they won’t have to worry about being recruited for something they’re near-guaranteed not to come back from. The downside is that that makes it difficult when your pool runs out, and that if your definition of an appropriate crime includes things that might well have been an accident, you lose the benefit of it being Someone Else’s Problem and get a reputation as a tyrant. (Okay, that last is only the downside if minion morale matters to you.)

Then there’s asking for volunteers. Now, when what you’ve got is a full team of fanatical zealots, that’s actually not such a bad plan. When not, you’re going to need to be a bit more clever. Along with playing up the importance of the mission (a must under any circumstances, but particularly here), you might also want to make a point of playing up the slight possibility of surviving, and having a sufficiently impressive reward for a successful mission, just waiting for people to collect it. Note that while you can boost the reward to more than you can really afford because they probably aren’t coming back, if by sheer luck or the interference of the dark powers or what have you someone does come back, do NOT try to quietly get him or her killed so you don’t have to pay it out. Paying out the reward is good PR, encourages more people to volunteer—and if you’ve got a minion who could survive the usually unsurvivable, it should go without saying that that says said minion is competent, resourceful, and potentially very useful.

Having to send the minions out on suicide missions is pretty much inevitable; the big thing to figure out is how you’re going to do so to minimize the backlash.

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