When the game was still in Early Access there was some talk about a rescue system, some people said it would serve as an alternative for the current thrall breaking mechanics, but I never heard anything about that anymore.
I dont know if this concept was put aside or if it was just a rumor, but thats something I feel this game could use. I think it could add plenty of random fun and life to the game. Here are some ideas:
There could have random NPCs all over the place, caged in hostile camps, locked in NPC wheels of pain, dying from thirsty in the desert sands, or other Exiles left to die on crosses, just as we start the game! The players could have a chance to interact with them, rescue them or simply slay them if they wish.
If rescued, some of these NPCs could immediately offer random materials or gear to return the favor, then go on their own way. Others could be crafting NPCs and require the player to escort them safely back to their bases. If successfully rescued they could become temporary thralls and assigned to working stations. Some could even have rare recipes, like the White/black dye or armor/weapons only available through this system (new gear). Once this timer is gone the NPC would disappear. Even if a rescued NPC dont have special recipes they could still serve as a regular high tier thrall, which would be useful for those who still dont have a permanent high tier thrall.
Some NPCs could be normal folks and offer temporary work to return the favor. Once escorted back to a base they could be assigned to produce regular materials, like wood, coal, stone, or even higher grade materials, like steel or brimstone if you happen to rescue a more rare/high tier NPC.
And of course, the player could just not bother and kill them, to loot their bodies, lol.
These are just some ideas.