What do Stormtroopers, Orcs, and Foot Soldiers have in common? A menacing appearance? Maybe. Big, shiny weapons? Possibly. Work for an evil Overlord? Probably. But the one thing they share most is final and absolute, and there is nothing more final than death.
Cannon Fodder (also known as Mooks) - Numerous and disposable opposition, often soldiers wearing identical outfits, who exist solely to be mowed down by the hero.
This trope has a reverse effect as well, for nameless people on the good-guy side who are going to die, sometimes because you know what they're wearing.
Symptoms of common Cannon Fodder include:
- Terrible aim
- Awkward comic relief
- An unwillingness to retreat
- Continuous reinforcements
- Audiences cheer upon their death
- Audiences laugh upon their death
- Fighting in the open, or one at a time, and
- Exaggerated spasms before hitting the ground
Main characters often like to sneak around Cannon Fodder, knock them out and take their clothes, or snap their necks and dispose of their bodies in a nearby hallway ... where no one will ever find them ...
Cannon Fodder can serve an effective purpose when incalculable odds are pinned against the heroes.
But ultimately, it's an opportunity for the hero(es) to show off - a warm up before facing the real enemy.
Have I used Cannon Fodder before? Since I write sci-fi and fantasy, it's practically built in. The difference is I like to turn the tables a little by making them more competent and more of a threat. If my heroes manage to win against an army of no-names, you can bet they'll get messed up and be out of commission for a while.
Have you used Cannon Fodder in your writing? Do they pose a threat? What's your highest body count?
I'm David, and nobody tosses a Dwarf!