Short version:

The evil empire maintains different types of "armies"

One of which is a sort of Praetorian guard organization. And while I love history I can't help but feel absolute disgust by the actual Praetorian guards so our guys are fictional.

Now their training starts from 7-10 with 10 being the maximum age of acceptance.

Which leads me to wonder if there are any actual tangible advantages of having an insanely deadly training program?

The rate of success is about 30%.

The ultimate goal of the guards is to produce the most perfect soldier/bodyguard/assassin/ imaginable.

Men and women both lose their own identity and lose the ability to produce children. The setting does not matter. They are not worried about human rights. Children are forced in and almost brainwashed. They are taken from orphans and slaves so no family or identity to begin with.

They are tools of the emperor and nothing more. But they are expected to be the absolute perfect tools and most capable overall people in general.

They even train them to be advanced doctors and engineers...etc

So are there actual proven benefits of such a deadly training program?

What does history say for example? I mean sure the Spartans were known for years to be amazing warriors but it's not they were the only great warriors.

That leads me to stress the associated benefits of the deadliness of the training as opposed to just good training. Like good training trains them to face death yes. But this one expect a bunch of them to flat out die.

Basically I'm asking if we have the same exact excellent training program but in case A they don't expect 7/10 to die and in case B they think that letting those 7 die means that the 3 left are great. Does that indeed achieve that result? So. With good training would I have the same awesome guards?

Obviously there are a lot of things about the guard that I made but I simply want to focus on this aspect here.

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    $\begingroup$ In real history, the personnel of the Pretorian Cohorts were hanpicked distinguished veterans from the regular army. The point being that they actually did have twenty years or so of deadly training behind them, in actual combat. And they were much less than 30% of the candidates. (But the vast majority veterans were simply not chosen, instead of killed. The mortality rate in the Roman army was nowhere near 70%; it was not a very deadly station in life.) That's sort of how we do it even today; top level bodyguards and so on tend to people with military experience behind them. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Nov 4, 2020 at 0:37
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    $\begingroup$ The Spartans weren't amazing warriors the lost more than 50% of the battles they fought in. acoup.blog/2019/09/20/… $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Nov 4, 2020 at 1:46
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    $\begingroup$ The purpose of training is to produce as many good soldiers as possible. A high mortality rate during training is counter-productive or cost effective. Note it is not at all uncommon for trainees to have a poor start (perform poorly on many tasks assigned) but become much better later. George Armstrong Custer was last in his West Point class with a record number of demerits, but certainly proved a very capable officer in the Civil War. Even in your system the ones that you end up culling would quite likely make better than average soldiers in any other army, so why waste them ? $\endgroup$ Nov 4, 2020 at 2:30
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    $\begingroup$ You don't want to raise your troops from birth. Sooner or later they'll realize that they're putting in all this effort for little gain and take steps to correct that. $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Nov 4, 2020 at 3:26
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    $\begingroup$ Are there any fictional elements to your story that might give a good reason? Like perhaps you have a huge population but a limited number of spaceships. Maybe there's some magical or technological way of recovering the experiences of those who perish in training. Otherwise I would say absolutely not unless they serve a very specific purpose that cannot be filled by veterans. There are enough downsides to elite units in general, like talent drain. $\endgroup$
    – Morgan
    Nov 4, 2020 at 9:27

13 Answers 13


The Lethality Isn't the Point:

There are two major reasons the lethality is so high. One is to create a reputation of insane training to mythologize these soldiers. The second is that the government simply doesn't care if they die.

The program probably does work. The lethality creates fear in the survivors, and a sense of superiority in them as well. You intensely train anyone who survives and select on the basis of loyalty, you'll get a body of effective loyalists. I'm thinking more along the lines of Janissaries.

You are drawing from human beings you don't value, so if they die, so what? It's not like you're recruiting from among the successful citizens. To everyone who sees all this death, they imagine (much like the Spartans) that these guys must be truly better. The reputation of your elite soldiers is more important than the reality. Since you established that death isn't relevant, it doesn't necessarily tarnish the reputation if they die. Only that they achieve the mission or die trying.

Nicolae Ceausescu famously created a cadre of fanatical followers from orphanages. These fanatics fought on long past the point of any real hope of success. The fear of fanatical loyalists is bigger than the reality.

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    $\begingroup$ "Oops, our top sniper died in the hand-to-hand training." "Should we train them to suit their strengths?" "nah, what good is a sniper that can't brawl?" - Moron Commander talking to a trainer $\endgroup$
    – IT Alex
    Nov 4, 2020 at 16:09
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    $\begingroup$ @IT Alex I suspect hand-to-hand would come before advanced sniper training. General abuse first while they aren't worth the trouble to train... $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Nov 4, 2020 at 21:53
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    $\begingroup$ @DWKraus For traditional military training where you just spend a few months to get someone from recruit to ready, I would agree, but these are children who spend about a decade in training before becoming adults. You can't teach a 7 year old Krav Maga and expect him to still be proficient at it when he turns 17; so, all skills will need to be practiced over time. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Nov 6, 2020 at 15:06
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    $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki But after the first few years, you can shift them to be the ones inflicting the deadly military training, rather than the victims. $\endgroup$ Nov 7, 2020 at 22:39
  • Hide brainwashing failures:
    Your lethality rate will randomly kill many who are good enough, just unlucky at the wrong time. But the instructors can surely assure that anyone who looks questionable does die, without a formal inquiry and court-martial.
  • No washouts:
    Imagine a situation with 30% graduates and 70% screwups. What are you going to do with those who don't make the cut? Send them to a regular unit to grouse about how they almost made it?
  • Accustom them to fatalities:
    A military unit with just 10% fatalities is grievously hit. In anything like a normal war, it would be taken off the line to recover and integrate replacements. Consider the origin of the Roman term decimate.
    Your guards have that loss rate in each year of their training. They get used to step into dead men's shoes and to carry on regardless.
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    $\begingroup$ Washouts Typically you do not select candidates with even the slightest tendency to "grouse" to even enter the training program for elite units. No one is going to care what the ones who complain say. The kind of people who fail during a course at this level are the type who blame themselves (at worst) or just chalk it up to reaching their limitations. $\endgroup$ Nov 4, 2020 at 6:53
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    $\begingroup$ I think Accustom them to fatalities from this, along with the last line from The Lethality Isn't the Point would be a compelling argument. The aim could be to build an army of fanatical devotees, willing to fight to the last. They're accustomed to a dog-eat-dog world, of seeing friends die every day. Holocaust survivors talk about the dehumanising nature of concentration camps, making the few survivors ruthless through necessity. You could play on similar themes. $\endgroup$ Nov 4, 2020 at 14:15
  • $\begingroup$ @StephenG, how good will the prediction be if the selection is before the age of 10? Easy to influence, but also easy to misjudge. $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    Nov 4, 2020 at 16:05
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    $\begingroup$ I am of the view that selection at such an early age is utterly pointless in the first place. However in such a system the entire society would be to large extent "brainwashed" by the entire culture and system being focused on duty in the first instance. Taking the evil Nazis as an example, we know that you can "educate" (definitely not the right word) children to become dedicated soldiers without the need for actual violence against them (at least not in the physical sense). The Nazis essentially made it fun, (like the scouts). Youth SS were fierce and often fought to the death. $\endgroup$ Nov 4, 2020 at 16:31

The Lethality Is The Point

As you've noticed, the actual Praetorian Guard were a common source of dissent. Being close to power makes you the power brokers. Being physically close to the leader presents opportunities for assassination.

The point of the lethal training is not to produce guards that are better fighters on the individual level, because that tends to end up being tactically irrelevant, but guards that are the most loyal possible. Hence your destruction of all other possible bonds of loyalty. It's the candidates that are least loyal that end up getting killed.

And because the other candidates kill them, they have that blood on their hands. They're already morally compromised. They never have to ask the question "would I murder for the Emperor?", because they already have done.

This produces Maoist or North Korean levels of political stability through brutalization.

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    $\begingroup$ The US Secret Service is fanatically loyal to protecting those holding public office (at least that part of the service assigned to that task is). They're elite and very highly trained. No killing required to train them, find them or indoctrinate them. You start by identifying the people with the psychological profile you want and who also have the physical and mental abilities you require. I am at a loss why anyone thinks killing or brutalization is needed to train people like this. You start with people who already believe in what they will be doing - a well proven model. $\endgroup$ Nov 4, 2020 at 14:30
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    $\begingroup$ Indoctrination is more of a necessity if the leader is unelected, unpopular, and themselves brutal. Hence my North Korea reference. $\endgroup$
    – pjc50
    Nov 4, 2020 at 14:31
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    $\begingroup$ Hitler and Stalin had no trouble at all finding very keen and willing suitable candidates for their own equivalents of the praetorian guard. There are always people who need practically no training or indoctrination who will do the job because they already believe in it. $\endgroup$ Nov 4, 2020 at 14:34
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    $\begingroup$ @StephenG You are correct - that can work, and we know in the past it has worked quite effectively. But it is not the only way. If you are evil, and don't care about paying a high cost in blood to get what you want, as the OP stated, then what is being proposed can work. Consider what GRRM has to say about how the Unsullied are trained in Song of Ice and Fire: that is horrifically brutalistic and brainwashy to one of the furthest extremes I've ever taken it, and the result is one of the most elite fighting forces in that world. $\endgroup$
    – Ton Day
    Nov 4, 2020 at 19:40
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    $\begingroup$ @TonDay GRRM wrote fantasy so it's not really a proper counter argument to real world examples. Also note that in the real world the failed candidates (who are still alive !) have the potential to make up a strong and large auxiliary force to backup the main bodyguard units when they need more numbers. If you kill them off you are limited to the elite force regardless of how large the threat is. $\endgroup$ Nov 4, 2020 at 19:49

Nah. What Victor Davis Hanson shows in this book is the reason that western nations win against collectivist and totalitarian nations is exactly because they don't put soldiers like you describe into battle. They put independent, intelligent, motivated individuals into battle, and let them make their own decisions.

Example: During the first Iraq-Gulf war, the pattern was like so. When a forward Iraq unit detected the enemy, they would need to call it in to their superior, who would call it in to theirs and so on. Usually back to HQ. It would take a general-rank officer at least to order an air strike. This could take more than 2 hours to produce action. By this time, the enemy had moved, often to the forward scout's position and killed or captured him.

When a western forward unit detected the enemy, a soldier of rank as low as sergeant could call for an air strike, and it could be there in minutes. And it would be guided in the last few minutes by direct radio between the sergeant and the pilots. So the enemy would get smashed.

Or, to put it another way, quoting from memory the movie "Full Metal Jacket." The marines don't want robots. They want soldiers who will be frosty and tough and stay alive by killing the enemy.

From 300 Spartans standing up to the vastly superior numbers of Persians, to Charles Martel standing up to the invaders, to Cortez standing up to vastly larger numbers of American natives, to the Allies beating the Axis in WWII, the side with personally motivated free-to-innovate soldiers is more likely to win.

You might want to say there was technological advantage. There also, the advantage goes to the side where people think clearly, independently, and individually. Capitalism produces technological advance and the wealth to pay for new weapons, ships, etc. And it depends on individuals being able to think on their own, independently, clearly, and not directed from above.

Robots don't create. They don't create innovative battle plans. They don't create new weapon systems. They don't create wealth.

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    $\begingroup$ Many of your examples are not really examples. I can think of at least three other reasons besides capitalism that Cortez didn't have to call his superiors to organize an air strike. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Nov 4, 2020 at 18:30
  • $\begingroup$ Roman Maniple warfare is probably a better example than the Spartan stand at Thermopylae for Ancient examples of this. While the Spartans did have more individual authority in battle than their contemporaries, Hoplite tactics made maneuvering very difficult. In contrast, Roman battle lines were intended to move around and shuffle a lot which made the authority of Roman low ranking officers to call their own shots in battle much more meaningful $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Nov 4, 2020 at 20:52
  • $\begingroup$ Yes. But this has nothing to do with deadlines. This is standard theory. for example the roman cohort system. Why? Flexible cohorts that are lead by veterans who are promoted based on merit. Flexibility of the officers are proper training is something I don't need a lot of reading to get. Interestingly both can be achieved with or without high failure rates. Also a good command structure uses all soldiers. The smart, the average, the brave, the cowardly. It is a matter of proper utilization. Sun Tzu himself says so $\endgroup$
    – Seallussus
    Nov 4, 2020 at 21:42
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    $\begingroup$ The totalitarianness of the nation doesn't necessarily correlate with the army structures. A great example of this is the battle of France in 1940, where you have a totalitarian nation with a motivated independent army, and a democratic nation with an authoritarian top down army. Which one won? the totalitarian nation with a motivated independent army demonstrating the same scenarios you talk about with regards to iraq. $\endgroup$ Nov 5, 2020 at 13:27
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    $\begingroup$ Wrong. An army's success is a function of proper tactics, training, having a controlled incentive, dumb luck, willingness to sacrifice lives and above all, technology. Democratic vs. totalitarian plays next to no role here. The present-day totalitarian China (which is both capitalist and communist, depending on whether you look its economy or ideology) is likely to prevail over whatever single adversary there is to confront it. Independent, intelligent and motivated indigenous people were all but wiped out by totalitarian systems (e.g. monarchies) due to the latters' technological advantage $\endgroup$
    – jaam
    Nov 6, 2020 at 0:32

Your Praetorians are promoted Gladiators

There are plenty of military elite units that only accept the top N% of candidates, and send the rest along to be regulars or dismiss them back to civilian life where they can be useful for other things. Killing them just squanders your manpower... unless you are profiting from their deaths.

If your training itself involves participation in a blood sport, then even those who die in the arena will serve the main purpose of their existence which is actually entertainment. In Ancient Rome, no one was worried about losing valuable warriors to gladiator combat because their dying generated tons of revenue for the state.

One surviving account shows that a quality gladiator could be worth as much as 700,000 sesterces (~7 million dollars by today's currency). In contrast, a Roman legion costed about 2000 sesterces per person per year; so, a single gladiator could produce enough revenue on his path to becoming a Preatorian Guard to raise enough money to deploy hundreds of regular soldiers. In this fashion, you could field more regular troops by killing your sub-par recruits for entertainment than by sending them off to become regular troops themselves.

For your Praetorian Guard, you could require that soldiers participate in multiple arena fights both to prove their merit and to raise money for the glory of the empire. With this solution, you get your "money's worth" out of them whether they live or die. The fact that you are left with an elite fighting force of Coliseum champions when you are done is just a bonus.

Another advantage here is that Gladiators are duelist, not field soldiers. Experience with this kind of fighting is better suited for personal guard duty and policing as the Praetorians were mostly responsible for.

  • $\begingroup$ So in the premier tournament, the top prize tier is a pardon for whatever made them a gladiator and a billet in the Praetorian Guard. It sounds a bit like the backplot of The Running Man, with a little more independent confirmation that the winners receive their prizes. $\endgroup$ Nov 5, 2020 at 14:34
  • $\begingroup$ You dont really want to promote slaves & criminals to Praetorians for obvious loyalty issues. While gladiators were mostly undesirables, some of them were professional athletes who were better trained, better armed, and won... most of the their fights. I you replace these gladiators with the OP's training program then your Praetorian's training include slaughtering enemies of the state in their training program which might help with indoctrination. Individually, these warriors would normally survive a battle, but if they have to survive many fights, that would account for the high death rate $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Nov 5, 2020 at 22:54
  • $\begingroup$ You've got a point, and I do agree that slaves and criminals make for poor bodyguards. I mainly wanted to get in the movie reference. $\endgroup$ Nov 6, 2020 at 16:00
  • $\begingroup$ Right, but the conclusion, it would benefit from being deadly, It would be extremely hard to get people to enter a contest with only 30% of survival unless you carefully hid the truth. Even then it implies some sort of complication. $\endgroup$
    – Tomás
    Nov 7, 2020 at 18:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Tomás Pro Gladiators often died before hitting retirement age but the true danger of the job was obfuscated by how often they won. Let's say they won 95% of their fights, but in 5% of their fights, they received a fatal wound despite winning (so most people don't see those guys die). It looks like these guys are unstoppable, but after just 11 fights, 70% of them would be dead. People with narcissistic personalities never believe they will fall in a minority; so, Rome had no shortage of people who believed they would never die in the arena. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Nov 9, 2020 at 15:47

Disregard for injuries could improve training.

Even in modern climbing, parkour, sparing, fencing, running, horse riding etc. injuries happen, despite an emphasis on safety. You get lots of fractured bones from falling or torn tendons. Even with modern medicine such injuries can cause permanent problems or at the very least take months to heal. There are also overuse injuries. The best athletes are often the ones who manage to avoid injuries and are able to train huge volumes without suffering from overuse injuries.

If your story takes place in a medieval setting the medicine and physiotherapy will be much worse and even a relatively simple bone fracture can turn into a lifelong disability. Quite a few of the injuries will also be deadly.

Hard training will mean lots of such injuries but at the same time the few individuals who manage it without permanent damage and minimal downtime will be extremely good athletes.


Your survival rate is perfect. Make it only a third survive, and then you have a truly elite force.

It's a known issue that most soldiers don't fire in combat. Only a third regularly fire, as most people don't want to kill others. As such, the evil empire may want an elite force filled with killers who do fire. They from their own studies of soldiers recognize that most are filled with mercy, a quality they detest. As such the training program, while not lethal to killers, is especially lethal to any who refuse to shoot. This weeds out those who do not shoot to kill easily.

In terms of producing the most effective force this is ineffectual.

There are training methods that can counteract this lack of firing issues, and studies in later wars found lower no shoot rates, and more soldiers means more people who may prove to be exceptional. But, if you want to get people who kill easily, this method is great.

Training doesn't produce exceptional guards, assassins, or warriors

This is another historical issue that people have with schemes like this. Most people aren't, for reasons of upbringing, genetics, or whatever that good at killing people. You can't train people into being super soldiers with just raw training, brutal or otherwise.

This has been tried repeatedly with assassins and soldiers. The assassins often turned themselves in to the target, unwilling to kill, and the soldiers proved ineffective. Most people aren't natural born killers.

What you need is already exceptional people. So, this second training program shouldn't take raw recruits from peasant villages. They should take recognized soldiers from existing armies who have proven themselves.

War does not forge men, but it tests them to see who will break or not, and sharpens their blades. Those who are exceptional could enter this training program, and face the death toll. Those who are not willing to kill at the drop of a hat will be weeded out, and only psychopaths with a fanatical loyalty to the state will be left.

  • $\begingroup$ It's not a 30% death rate - it's a 30% success rate. So OP is already doing what you suggested. $\endgroup$
    – Starsong67
    Nov 5, 2020 at 8:48
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    $\begingroup$ I'm prior Military, and upon attaining some rank was expected to study this phenomenon. During Viet Nam it was discovered only 30% of soldiers directly fight back when engaged by the enemy. Great research went into the psychology of fighting and killing. Most modern militaries now see 90% or higher rates of soldiers in combat demonstrating a willingness to kill. $\endgroup$
    – TCAT117
    Nov 5, 2020 at 9:24
  • $\begingroup$ Wasn't that study questioned and found to be incorrect or unusable? $\endgroup$ Nov 6, 2020 at 4:40

Based on suggestions posted in the other answers, I would like to propose an alternative solution. The evil of the evil empire can be more subtle and much more effective than just taking orphans off the streets. You need to accomplish a few things here:

  1. Select individuals with appropriate psychological profiles (in terms of violence and fanatical loyalty)
  2. Maintain an aura of mystery and exclusivity about the whole thing.
  3. Be efficient about it, since nothing is as evil as an efficient system.

Rather than attempting to force candidates into a position they don't belong in, provide free education for the masses. This will allow children to find their optimal skillset regardless of their ability to kill, minimizing wasted talent. Have the teachers look out for students that seem more predisposed to violence (as they will probably do voluntarily anyway), and send them to special military schools.

Up to this point, you will have transparency, and the support of most of your people, especially if a military career is suitably glorified. Most of the students in military schools are going to be regular soldiers, but you will have performed the first practical step of your selection. You are also on your way to creating a better army, since you can train most of the selected kids with skills more focused towards fighting.

Further screening in the military schools by specially trained staff will identify the real psychopaths that you are looking for. Have these kids disappear under mysterious circumstances and sent to the bodyguard training facilities. There will be two main types rejection from these facilities:

  1. False positives from the winnowing process: kids that are really not psychopathic enough to do what you need them to do. You can send them back to military school (e.g. as an officer) or even regular school, unless you don't want any details about the facility to be leaked.
  2. Uncooperative elements: kids that are plenty psycho, but refuse fanatical obedience, even after all the brainwashing. You can't release them into your orderly, educated society, and you can't work with them, so do the math.

The death rate in these facilities will likely be higher indeed: those who are not amenable to becoming a loyal follower have no choice but to serve as an example to others. The actual details of the training can be taken from the more successful programs throughout history. The survivors will reappear as members of an elite unit, sworn never to discuss the details of their training, or something like that.

There are likely many flaws with the proposed system, but on the surface it is fairly efficient (and arguably even humane). Rather than punishing or otherwise wasting resources on individuals who are likely to become a social liability, provide them with discipline and use them to further your evil goals in a constructive manner. Only extreme cases are eliminated, and you really do your best to use the manpower you have efficiently. No wonder the empire is so feared by its poorly organized opponents, yet supported by its citizens!

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    $\begingroup$ Good input. I actually agree and already have some of these system. Orphanages are actually run by the state, there is a sort of welfare. And above all else instructors are diligent in picking up kids with potential talent and ability. Some people here simply disregard my literal paragraph about only focusing on one aspect of the story and rant about other stuff. Anyway thank you. $\endgroup$
    – Seallussus
    Nov 4, 2020 at 22:06

That training is worthless.

Perfection doesn't come from mall-ninja fantasy. It comes from a professional military that sends cadets to military academies. As many as that nation can afford to send.

What you need is a selection process. Like with nearly everything else in the universe, ability will follow a normal curve. Most will be of average ability, with progressively fewer who are capable of each level beyond that. You've seen these curves plotted out in school, the so-called "bell curve", haven't you?

If they can have many thousands of soldiers (or even millions), a few dozen or a few hundred will show themselves to be capable of being "elite". What you need isn't a training regime (or not that alone), but a method that selects the most capable.

And your description doesn't even fit the bill for a good selection methodology. You don't want a system that kills them... better soldiers aren't made by killing (some of) them during training. The difficult trick has always been to train them without killing them, since no one ever gets anything right on the first try. Let's use a martial art as an analogy. In particular, judo. No one knows instinctively how to perform judo techniques. They must be learned. They can be deadly (spiking someone's head into the ground is a good way to screw them up permanently). But to learn them, you must be able to practice them... something that's difficult to do if you're constantly killing training partners. Judo's success as a martial art owes much to its founder developing techniques that prevent (or at least mitigate) the students killing each other during practice. Figuring out what motions/actions can be done without causing permanent harm, and how to perform those.

If this had not happened, if judo killed most students who practiced, and if you could just have billions practice it until only a handful remained... those wouldn't be the "most elite judo students ever". They'd just be the luckiest, or maybe the biggest/strongest. Their technique, such as it was, would have suffered for it, and likely someone who would have been better at it ended up dead in a training center before he could become the best.

Then look at the psychological profile of someone likely to survive such a training regime. Anyone who isn't a lunatic is selected against because they'll stay far away, while people who are borderline suicidal (or non-borderline psychopathic) will gravitate towards that.

In summary, the systems that produce the most elite soldiers are very unlikely to resemble male teenage badass fantasies.


Frankly, no. There isn’t a big benefit to the training outright killing 7 out of 10 trainees.

  1. You’ve invested a lot into your trainees. Your evil empire had to provide food, clothing, medicine, etc, while they’re being trained. Not to mention the training itself. It just doesn’t make sense to throw that many resources at your trainees when the grand majority won’t be able to pay back their keep.

2). I have to think having that many people dropping would kill cohesion, which is what you really want in an army or guard like this. It’s just hard to develop the mindset of ‘I must not let down my comrades’ when you know darn well that most won’t make it regardless.

3). You risk loosing a truly great warrior to one off day. The idea that the best person will always be triumphant is just wrong. All you need is your dumbest trainee get one lucky shot and there goes Achilles’ reincarnation.

3.5). Similarly, maybe Bobby hits puberty early and gets an edge, while Tommy’s a late bloomer. In your scenario Tommy probably dies. But if we’re not killing kids for the sake of it, then it turns out a 16 Tommy shoots up a foot and becomes an absolute beast while Bobby settles into the lower middle of the pack. Kids progress at different speeds and early aptitude isn’t a 1to1 indication of their future abilities.

4). The only arguable benefits to the training being so deadly are really to desensitize them to violence and death, and to incentivize excellence. It’s just that there are much better ways. You can desensitize them just as easily by having them kill those you’re not investing in, (slaves, criminals, etc.). Incentivizing would work better by using shame or dangling prestige in front of them, rather than expecting the fear of death to be proper motivation.

It really seems you want to train this guard in something like the Spartan Agoge system. Which is fair enough, they’re known as the best warriors for a reason. But as harsh as it was, as a rule they survived training to serve Sparta.

If you really want only the best of the best serving your Pretorian guard, your evil empire is just better served choosing the top 30% who proved themselves over a decade and a half and having the others serve elsewhere, rather than taking those who happened to survive.

  • $\begingroup$ 1/2. I really like this answer and would have chosen it if not for that fact that most of those factors are already addressed in how I would set it up. For starters only those who show talent and promise are forced to join. Then they would be gradually introduced to danger and tests. No point in trying to make a 10yo fight a lion. Cohesion is achieved through the overall program. Wasting people is a good point but not an issue here. The empire is huge. Many tests are made to insure that dumb luck does not decide the fate of a trainee. $\endgroup$
    – Seallussus
    Nov 6, 2020 at 5:12
  • $\begingroup$ Then they even join as half members later to gain hands on experience. Resources and waste are not an issue. Like I said they are chosen with talent to begin with and the emperor sees providing the "basics" for all people to be part of his job. Anyway I totally agree and this your point are great. That is why I felt they deserve to be discussed and provide feedback. Thanks. $\endgroup$
    – Seallussus
    Nov 6, 2020 at 5:14

Getting rid of undesirables

You are an evil overlord, quick to get rid of problems by ... getting rid of the people with the problems. Now, any society has its share of undesirables. The poor, the orphaned. The marginalized. The downtrodden.

As a card carrying member of the forces of evil, you view these folks mostly as a drain on resources better spent elsewhere. Worse, to you they're not people needing help, they're a constant breeding ground for unrest, both politically (riots) and more conventionally (theft, organized crime).

But you're also no fool. You can't just openly kill off these folks. They're theoretically your property, just like your other subjects, who have this crazy idea that also means they're under your protection.

Instead, you recruit the Diamonds in the Rough extensively from these groups. This also has a side benefit of making intrigue harder. This group won't have members from the rich and powerful serving in it. At best it will have disowned heirs or orphaned last survivors.

That many of them die off is a benefit. One more Diamond recruit is one less potential problem down the road.


The point isn't to kill them, but to remove any hesitation to kill

Human beings are generally not accustomed to kill each other. So I would assume will be the case for the average citizen of your evil empire. Even soldiers in the middle of a firefight will hesitate to use lethal violence against their foes. Sure, corner someone and their fight or flight instinct will make them attack. But when they have the advantage? They will hesitate.

How many refuse to use lethal violence is disputed and hard to actually determine. High estimates puts it at 90%, but it might be much lower. As the world builder, you can make this number quite high though.

This hestitation can be overcome through training. But simulating real combat enough to be effective at this is challenging. But if their training actually involves lethal combat? They will get used to taking lives and to kill on reflex. If they fight as groups, they will also form close bonds with their comrades. This elite unit will have it's members fight almost like highly experienced war veterans right out of training.


Your evil empire is WWII Germany. that means an all out prolonged war that makes all the population into potential soldiers. As said above by Nosajimiki, the trainnees death toll wouldn't be tolerable unless it comes with a compensation. In this case being that they fought in the war and helped achieve some part in military objectives.

Only in the context of "everybody is going to die anyways unless we kill the enemy" that death rate is conceivable.

It couldn't be a trainning process alone, but a desperate series of short trainings and battles that would nonetheless give you deadly soldiers.

Germans had a limited amount of prime weapons that would allow some of the young soldiers to survive without experiencing a defeat in their first combat. Which plays a crucial part for a soldiers moral and therefore their formation.

Another way they achieved this is by switching combatants between different warfronts, from a lighter one (east for pilots, west for infantry etc) to the harder ones.


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