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The Heroes may be saving a Distressed Damsel. They may be fighting against The Empire. Being a hero is a hard job. But it has its perks. And one of the biggest is...

PLUNDER![1]

Yes, indeed even our heroes need something to satisfy their sense of mischief and avarice. They need to take joy in depriving their foes. For our heroes make money the old fashioned way: they steal- wait- plunder it. When done by soldiers in a war, this is sometimes called "Spoils of War"[2] However, the Geneva convention actually allows for soldiers taking anything neccessary for warfare from the enemy. That is, you can plunder ammunition, guns and fuel (as it allows you to keep on fighting and prevents the enemy from doing so) but you can't steal someone's watch, food or valuables, for example.

Within games, it is like Experience Points (and commonly both used, as well) - a reward from defeating your enemies. The difference may be generally more less certainty in what you may get from your enemies where with Experience Points, it is generally clearly aligned by certain parameters.

Related to this is Pirate Booty which is a treasure hoard gathered by pirates when they do this. Compare Kleptomaniac Hero and Rewarding Vandalism, which are the video game equivalents of this trope. The villainous equivalent is Rape, Pillage and Burn, where stolen property is not the only offense. As well, the common gaming term of this trope is "loot, lewt, or 13\/\/7".

Examples of Plunder include:


Film

  • In Lawrence of Arabia following the storming of Aqaba the Bedouin turn their attentions to plunder. In another incident later, Lawrence explains that this is part of his men's pay. Which of course it was, as they had no other clear reason to care whether they were ruled by Prince Feisal or the Sultan.
  • The Patriot: one of the principal financial motivations for some of the French-Indian war veterans to join Mel Gibson's protagonist was the ability to sell back every English gun or uniform found or recovered.
  • The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. After defeating Prince Koura, Sinbad has the opportunity to gain a "crown of untold riches". He generously gives it to the facially-disfigured Vizier instead, and the crown restores the Vizier to normal.
  • Spoofed in the After the End B-Movie Battletruck (aka Warlords of the 21st Century).

 Big Bad (to The Dragon): "Tell the men to Inventory and Requisition."

The Dragon (to his mook): "Tell the men to Inventory and Requisition."

Mook (to everyone else): "LOOT! LOOT!"

  • Zulus are shown rifling British dead at Isandhwana in Zulu.

Live Action TV

  • Firefly: The crew of Serenity, being more or less space pirates/space bandits, literally live off of plunder (as in, the most valuable plunder is packages of manufactured food, which sells for a high price), though all their plunder comes from the very rich, or people who died before the crew showed up. This exchange near the end of the episode Ariel is fairly indicative:

 Wash: How much did we get?

Mal: Enough to keep us flying.

  • In Band of Brothers the soldiers go through the mansion of a Nazi grandee and find a large supply of expensive wine. After which they solemnly enact an Ancient Military Custom...
    • Later, Major Winters shows his friend Nixon (who has a major drinking problem) Hermann Goering's wine cellar warehouse. The expression on Nixon's face is priceless.
    • Also, Ronald Spiers' collection of silver, and other various characters collecting everything from Hitler's personal photographs to Luger pistols.
  • In The Pacific, a Seabee on Peleliu says he is looking for a Japanese sword to take home. The Marines, who have just been through some very nasty fighting, give him a very dirty look.

Literature

  • Merry Brandybuck: "One thing you have not come by in your travels is brighter wits" (explaining why he and Pippin are feasting amid the ruins of Isengard in The Lord of the Rings).
    • In The Hobbit Bilbo is promised this. As it belonged to the Dwarves in the first place, it was kind of Re-Plunder.
  • Horatio Hornblower, although Hornblower never gets as much of this as he likes because he is too busy fighting the war to turn aside to trifles like prize-money. Almost every time he does get any, something keeps him from profiting.
  • Jack Aubrey of the Aubrey-Maturin series is more fortunate in the matter of prize money; when he has money problems, they tend to come from unfortunate investments on land.
  • Aiel in The Wheel of Time look forward to plundering wetlander settlements, though they have a strict custom of only taking 20% of what is available.
  • Sharpe devotes a fair bit of time to the loot and plunder that most of the British, French and Spanish armies get up to (not to mention the army wives, who worry even the Badass Richard Sharpe). Of particular note is the looting that occurs at the end of Sharpe's Honour, a real incident where the retreating French baggage train was captured by British soldiers, and Sharpe and Harper (taking the place of some unknown soldiers) captured the Marshal of Vitoria's royal baton and King Joseph Bonaparte's royal jakespot.
    • Sharpe actually gets into trouble in one book because some of the items he and his men took technically did not qualify as legitimate military plunder under the conventions of the time. For political reasons the army cannot just tell the lawyers to go to hell so he is sent to an out of the way output till the matter blows over.
  • One of Rudyard Kipling's "soldier" poems, Loot deals with this:

 Now remember when you're 'ackin' round a gilded Burma god

That 'is eyes is very often precious stones...

  • Flashman's attempts to have a chapter on foraging and decorating included in the British Army Manual get nowhere.
  • Honor Harrington made a substantial amount in prize money (see Real Life section below) under some of her earlier commands. Even some of the junior officers did fairly well out of more successful anti-piracy operations.
  • In the Malazan Book of the Fallen book The Crippled God a character alarmingly notices that the common soldiers in the Bonehunters army stopped caring about plunder. This signifies that the Badass Army is turning fanatical in their purpose.
  • Citadel (AKA Run Between the Raindrops) by Dale Dye. During the battle of Hue the protagonist (a combat reporter) goes to a camera store to find a Marine smashing up a box camera and complaining that the others stole all the good expensive Japanese cameras. The aghast protagonist points out he just smashed up a Hasselblad worth over a thousand dollars. In another scene some high-ranking US and Vietnamese officers complain that the Marines stole money from a bank vault and demand a court martial of those responsible. The Marine CO, who's got more sympathy for his men than these people, retrieves the money and claims they 'found' it. The Vietnamese officers promptly divide up the cash among themselves.

Tabletop Games

  • Source of the Nile: When an explorer wins a fight with natives he can plunder their village but that costs him victory points, reflecting perhaps that folks back home really don't like to think about that part of it.
  • In Chaosium's early Call of Cthulhu adventures the investigators could almost always find some kind of valuable treasure among the Cthulhu Mythos menace's belongings. It's not clear whether this was unconsciously based on Dungeons and Dragons type games or a practical decision due to the investigators' need for money to carry on their work.
  • Shadowrun adventures usually have this trope as well. Even if Mr. Johnson stiffs them on their pay and dead enemies have no money, PCs can at least loot and fence the enemies' equipment.
  • Most RPGs (since many of them are spiritually descended from Dungeons and Dragons) have you discover all kinds of money and equipment when going through dungeons.

Video Games

  • Sid Meiers Pirates: Every time a ship is captured, they show this quite deliciously.
  • In a CD-ROM game based on the show Arthur, if one succeeds in finding a treasure chest in the scuba diving minigame, a newspaper article with a picture of Arthur surrounded by the treasure will appear.
  • Borderlands allows you to plunder enemy weapons, grenade mods, and cash.
  • A game play mechanic in Fire Emblem: Thracia 776. Since you get very little money on your own, the best way to get items and weapons are to Capture enemy units, strip them of their possessions and then release them.
  • The average RPG has the gameplay mechanic of "When it's dead, loot it.". The moral implications of robbing the dead rarely come up, because getting cool new stuff is always fun.
    • Partially subverted in Elona. Looting the bodies of monsters you kill yourself is OK, but looting dead adventurers' bodies (most have been dead for long) aren't-- there is a karma penalty for the latter.


Web Comics

Real Life

  • In Herodotus' Histories, King Croesus is captured by King Cyrus and they watch Croesus' city burn:

 Croesus: What are your men doing?

Cyrus: Burning your city and taking your treasure.

Croesus: I have no treasure left. That is now your treasure they are taking.

    • Later on, after the Battle of Salamis, Persian dead were washed ashore for the Greeks to rifle. The Athenian politician Themistocles perhaps thought being a scavenger might lose votes. So he told a companion, "Help yourself, for you are not Themistocles."
  • According to legend, after the Siege of Vienna a local storekeeper came out to watch the soldiers rifling the Turkish camp. One soldier found a bag full of black beans. He almost threw it away in disgust but the storekeeper went up to him and bought it. This was the founding of Vienna's first coffeehouse. Enjoy it folks!
  • A variant: Capturing an enemy warship intact netted Royal Navy officers a substantial monetary reward in the Wooden Ships and Iron Men era.
    • Indeed. And a lot of the country estates of Jane Austen s friends were "unwillingly subsidized " by France.
      • Though it wasn't quite a "reward". The Navy bought captured ships from the ships' crews that captured them, and the ships' crew split the money, according to ancient custom. It was cheaper and quicker for the Navy to get ships that way than to have them built.
  • One book described Israel as "The second largest exporter of Soviet arms" because of all the gear it had "acquired" in the course of their relations with surrounding powers.
  • The British attack over the Rhine into Germany in World War II was named "Operation Plunder." While the pilfering was of a rather touristy kind (Cameras, choice wines, nice pictures) the British took the name of the operation as a rather tacit permission to go to town. Officers generally looked the other way.
    • The British are generally quite good at this. See any Invasion of any kind by English, Scottish or Welsh troops.
  • Looting the enemy dead was generally seen as perfectly acceptable for much of history. The biography of Rifleman Benjamin Harris, an English soldier in the Napoleonic War, describes how when an officer saw him searching the corpses of the French after a battle, his only action was to inform Harris that the French soldiers typically hid money by sewing it up inside the layers of their coats.
  • British Diplomat Harold Nicholson once grumbled that American soldiers marching through a town was an unusual nuisance-because according to him they had enough well educated people with them to know what was worth stealing.
  • The so-called Monuments Men in World War Two were former academics and curators authorised to protect cultural works of art in the path of the Allied armies; they ended up tracking down and preserving many works of art stolen on an organised basis by the Nazi regime.
  • The US first infantry division actually converted itself into a motorized division this way in France. During the German retreat they captured and hot-wired enough German vehicles-and probably stole some from the civilians too but we won't talk about that-that they could carry the entire force.
  • When the Swedish army retreated from Norway after King Charles XII was shot thousands of them froze to death. The local Saami who found the bodies were not late to "re-distribute" the stuff they could find. However, this being the early 1700s and the Saami having little use for the fancy sleds (that some officers rode (and died) in) or cannon one of the most popular items to "aquire" was the soldiers' wigs. Appearantly they were really warm and the Saami used them as insulation under their fur hats.

Notes

  1. Followed by Loot, Treasure, Money, Riches, Gold, Lucre, Boodle, Booty, Dough, Graft, Goods, Items, Moolah, Pillage, Prizes, Spoils, Swag, Bling
  2. And is outlawed as a practice by many modern military forces, not that it doesn't still happen on some scale.
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