It’s Friday. You’ll probably be bored. Read this.

Stormtrooper Effect

The Stormtrooper effect, also called Stormtrooper syndrome, is a cliché phenomenon in works of fiction where minor characters (cannon fodder) are unrealistically ineffective in combat against more important characters (almost always the protagonists “equipped” with character shields). The name originated with the armed Imperial Stormtroopers in the original Star Wars trilogy, who, despite their considerable advantages of close range, overwhelming numbers, professional military training, full armor, military-grade firepower, and noticeable combat effectiveness against non-speaking characters, were incapable of seriously harming the protagonists. The effect is generally employed either to increase the dramatic tension of an action scene or to accentuate the heroes’ fighting prowess.

The Stormtrooper effect is, in fact, much older than the Star Wars trilogy, and is common in cowboy films, action movies, martial arts films, and comics. It is often a source of mockery by critics, satirists and fandom, but it is generally recognized as bringing a camp appeal to works which employ it because of its use in quickly and effectively heightening a story’s dramatic atmosphere. One of the reasons the effect had never previously been named is due to the highly erudite and self-deprecating nature of science fiction enthusiasts.


Taking into consideration the nature of Redshirts in Star Trek (minor characters who usually die quickly after being introduced), the pseudo-philosophical question of “What would happen if Imperial Stormtroopers and Redshirts got in a firefight?” is well-known among fans of both series. The simple answer is that the Storm Troopers would mercilessly slaughter the Red Shirts, as they are not major characters and thus receive no protection from the Stormtrooper Effect.


The Inverse Ninja Law is a similar phenomenon that occurs frequently in martial arts movies, and role playing games. It is also sometimes called the Anime Ninja Effect or the Rule of One.

The Inverse Ninja Law states that the effectiveness of a group of ninja is inversely proportional to the number of ninja in the group. While a single enemy ninja is often portrayed as a significant threat to the protagonists, a large group of ninja is significantly less of a threat, and as such is easily defeated. This is sometimes applicable to other close combat “oriented minions as well.

Accordingly, effectiveness, e, should be computable given the number of ninja, n, and some as-yet-undetermined proportionality constant, k, as follows:


continues at Wikipedia

One Reply to “It’s Friday. You’ll probably be bored. Read this.”

  1. re: It’s Friday. You’ll probably be bored. Read this.

    Despite mentioning Pratchett and _The Last Continent_ the article doesn’t mention the dedication to _Guards, Guards_. Something like, “…10 minutes into the movie, they attack, one at a time, and are slaughtered. No one asked them if they wanted to do this.”

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