Created By: bulmabriefs144 on July 13, 2012 Last Edited By: bulmabriefs144 on January 10, 2013
Troped

Fictional Geneva Conventions

Rules of war, for a fantasy/science fiction setting

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
An Altering? But isn't that...
Prologue scene, Sunset Over Imdahl.

Ordinary war has rules. You can't go around killing innocents, you can't kill medics, you probably can't rape villagers or set fire to villages (at least not without orders), and you can't use certain weapons. After the first World War, hollow point bullets, some types of gas, possibly barbed wire, and in general much of the methods employed in that war were outlawed. For more information on the weapons that can't be used, see the other Wiki.

Now, what happens when you have a fantasy setting? There are obviously rules of magic, making certain spells impossible (such as resurrection in an All Deaths Final setting). But in a war, the must be certain rules, or people would be doing unthinkable things in a battlefield with nothing to stop them. For weapons, the rules are possibly the same as above (with the change that there is a larger likelihood of having swords than guns), so this will mainly discuss magical laws.

More Common Rules

Laws And Customs

  • The Great Houses in Dune have Kanly, a set of laws enforced by the emperor's Sardaukar. The big ones include having a legitimate grievance against the opposing house, and no use of atomics on humans.
  • Honor Harrington has the Eridani Edict, which requires attacking fleets to take out all orbital ships and structures and offer an opportunity to surrender before bombarding a planet.
  • Traveller has the Imperial Rules of War, which are an unwritten guideline as to how Imperial vassals will settle difficulties between them. Basically they boil down to, "Have fun boys, but don't make to much of a mess because The Emperor has means to punish you." "Too much of a mess" meaning no WMDs on the ground, war crimes, or excessive death and destruction.
  • The Inner Sphere successor states in BattleTech signed the Ares Conventions to limit civilian casualties. Rules include no nukes in atmosphere, no orbital bombardment of non-military targets, and no chemical or biological weapons. The Clans follow a more restrictive code of conduct called batchall based on highly ritualized warfare, which bit them in the back when they invaded the Inner Sphere.
  • The Unseelie Accords in The Dresden Files regulate the relations between various magical factions of the world, including duels and armed conflicts.


Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist (Brotherhood) one military scientist tells one of the protagonists an alternate reason why messing with human alchemy is forbidden (besides it being creepy, generally tampering with life, and the fact the Homunculi are using it as energy for their own ritual). It's also forbidden by the military, because a person could create their own invincible army to use against the state.
  • The anime Dog Days has rules so that their wars are more like a sporting event than actual war. They take place on special settings, and defeated creatures turn into animal balls rather than any serious injury. The thought of actually getting injured in war horrifies the people in that land.
  • Briefly mentioned in Haiyoru! Nyarani. During a cooking segment, Nyarko mentions the difficulties of acquiring an "ingredient" due the "Space Washington Treaty".
  • The Antarctic Treaty in Mobile Suit Gundam, which prohibits the use of chemical, biological, atomic weapons, Colony Drops as well as stipulating that POWs be treated humanely and the rights of neutral zones be respected. Considering the wanton destruction caused prior to the Treaty, it may be there was no formal treaties between the Federation and Zeon limiting warfare before the war.
  • Scrapped Princess: Ginnungagap is the strongest known military grade offensive spell in their world and is so powerful that it not only requires numerous high level clerics to simultaneously cast the spell, it must be sanctioned and unanimously agreed upon, by the High Council, for use.

Literature
  • The Mercenaries Code in the Childe Cycle. It works much like the Geneva convention, but also provides guarantees and responsibilities of Merc officers to their men. For example, if a Officer fails to do his duty or wanton endangers his men, that officer could be court martialed and executed.
  • Harry Turtledove's Darkness Series is largely based on WWII. This troper hasn't read them all, but based on this fact, one can assume something similar to the Geneva Conventions.
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover novels have the Compact that says any who would seek to kill must risk death in return, forbidding any type of ranged weapons. It's main purpose is preventing the use of the Darkovan psychic powers as weapons, but it also has the effect of outlawing things like bows and guns.
  • Less fantastical than some, but in Dune, almost the only rule of warfare is that using nukes against people is absolutely forbidden. Paul gets around this by using nukes against a mountain range, opening up a new pass to an enemy fortification.
  • The Unseelie Accords in The Dresden Files regulate the relations between various magical factions of the world, including duels and armed conflicts. Many of which are different than many of those above, for example, faeries cannot lie (although they can bend the truth by allowing you to come to your own conclusions), threshold and the laws of hospitality are very sacred, and especially, no fighting may be done on neutral territory.
    • The Dresden Files also has the Seven Laws of Magic which forbid things like killing, necromancy, mind-control, time-travel, transformation of others, etc. Interestingly, they refer only to humans, meaning one could perform necromancy on a dinosaur.
  • Terran Bonding Authority in Hammer's Slammers exists to enforce contracts between Mercenary companies and governments, as well as reduce or prevent atrocities.
  • In His Dark Materials it's mentioned that even in battle, fighters do not attack or touch each others' daemons.
  • Not a formal international law, but after the destruction of Suroch, New Crobuzon (from the Bas-Lag Cycle novels) shut down all of its attempts to weaponize the reality-warping force known as Torque. It's just too freakin' scary a thing to mess with, even for a city-state as ruthless as New Crobuzon.
  • The organized governments of the Honorverse generally abide by two sets of war rules. The Eridani Edict requires attacking fleets to take out all orbital ships and structures and offer an opportunity to surrender before bombarding a planet. This was imposed on the galaxy by the Solarian League with the threat of total annihilation of the offending government. The other set is the Deneb Accords, applied to declared wars between star nations and which amount to the Geneva Conventions IN SPACE!
  • In the previous Age in The Wheel of Time, both sides stopped using Balefire - a weave that erased people from existence retroactively - after reality literally started unravelling from its overuse. Thousands of years later, the weave is still banned, and Aes Sedai generally have their panties in a bunch about Rand's liberal use of it.
  • Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game. During the wars between the Buggers and humanity, the Buggers had never attacked a human planetary population, and the humans reciprocated by never attacking a Bugger-occupied planet. During the last battle between the Bugger and human fleets over the Bugger home planet, Ender breaks the (unspoken) rule. He uses the Little Doctor device to destroy the planet (and kill all of the Bugger Queens), thus ending the war.

Film
  • The immortals of the Highlander franchise have rules against fighting each other on holy ground, and using ranged weapons to incapacitate an opponent before closing in for the kill is considered "cheating".
  • In Star Trek: Insurrection, the Second Khitomer Accords bans the use of Subspace Weapons - devices capable of creating very unpredictable Negative Space Wedgies.

Live Action TV
  • In the Babylon 5 'verse, mass drivers (weapons that bombard planets with large objects such as asteroids) are forbidden by treaty. In the instance where they are used in the show however, none of the other powers have the will to enforce this treaty.
  • On Doctor Who the Shadow Proclamation covers several scenarios (besides the ones we haven't seen yet). Convention 15 deals with the cessation of hostile activities while parley is taken. Article 57 prohibits the destruction of a Level 5 planet if no laws were broken.
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Treaty of Algeron defined the limits of the Romulan Neutral Zone (namely violating the Zone without adequate reason could start a war). It also prohibits the use of cloaking devices for the Federation. It proves a plot point in the episode "The Pegasus".
    • By DS9, the Romulans made an exception to the treaty, and loaned a cloaking device for Starfleet use, in exchange for intel on the Dominion.
    • Another plot-relevant agreement is the Federation-Cardassian Treaty. It establishes a Demilitarized Zone, in which no military forces could be deployed, nor bases established. It also redrew the map, which resulted in colonies landing in each other territories. The Cardassians begin the undermine the treaty, and begin to oppress former Federation citizens. The Federation, on the other hand, fear another war and end up doing little to nothing to resolve any issues.

Webcomics
  • In the Webcomic Drowtales, there used to be several unwritten rules of warfare to limit collateral damage. The most important rule was that innocent bystanders are not to be harmed. Other rules include no poisoning water supplies and no fighting in the city. When the Nidraa'chal attacked, they broke virtually every rule, shattering the existing status quo of following the rules and causing future battles to ignore those rules.
  • In the Webcomic Flipside, one of the kingdoms is a constitutional anarchy, running on the premise of personal responsibility. That is, the only rule is against force. Bernadette breaks the law by holding a healer at swordpoint, meaning it does have some military context.

Video Games
  • Oracle of Tao has a One World Order running the world as an organized anarchy, conducting trade and keeping peace. Building troops is illegal, as is invasion of countries, or even ruling more than one town (you cannot, for instance, have an empire). The purpose is to prevent expansion of lands or governments. In terms of rules of combat, it is unclear if there are any, but war itself is frowned upon since it is typically for the purpose of gaining land or control.
  • Sid Meierís Alpha Centauri: The UN colonial charter prohibits the use of WMDs, though it is possible for factions in game to use chemical weapons and planet busters. Using the former will impose trade sanctions on the offending faction while the latter will cause every other faction, including allies, to declare Vendetta.
  • In Sunset Over Imdahl, Altering is forbidden. It later turns out Altering is Reality Warper magic, specifically causing a Stable Time Loop.
  • Star Ocean: Till the End of Time has a rule about not interfering with the technology of developing planets. Which is ridiculous for two reasons: first, between Crafting and Fayt's impact during the plot, this law is already broken if not shattered; and second, all of these worlds are effectively part of a game.

Community Feedback Replies: 46
  • July 13, 2012
    Rognik
    The anime Dog Days has rules so that their wars are more like a sporting event than actual war. They take place on special settings, and defeated creatures turn into animal balls rather than any serious injury. The thought of actually getting injured in war horrifies the people in that land.
  • July 13, 2012
    Earnest
    The Dark Arts usually qualify for banned magic.

    In a lot of settings all technology or Magi Tech is also considered banned.
  • July 15, 2012
    TBeholder
    Just split The Laws And Customs Of War as In Universe trope from Useful Notes if you'll find enough examples...
  • July 15, 2012
    Generality
    Less fantastical than some, but in Dune, almost the only rule of warfare is that using nukes against people is absolutely forbidden. Paul gets around this by using nukes against a mountain range, opening up a new pass to an enemy fortification.
  • July 15, 2012
    MiinU

    Anime and Manga

    • Scrapped Princess: Ginnungagap is the strongest known military grade offensive spell in their world, and is so powerful that it not only requires numerous clerics to cast the spell simultaneously, it has to be sanctioned and unanimously agreed upon, by the High Council, for use.
  • July 19, 2012
    MiinU
    bump.
  • July 19, 2012
    Zsuzsa
    I don't know if this qualifies as a "fantasy" or not, but Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover novels have the Compact that says any who would seek to kill must risk death in return, forbidding any type of ranged weapons. It's main purpose is preventing the use of the Darkovan psychic powers as weapons, but it also has the effect of outlawing things like bows and guns.
  • July 25, 2012
    TBeholder
    also, it's better to cover all appliable "common" examples with "The Dark Arts" umbrella.
  • August 11, 2012
    MiinU
    bump.
  • August 12, 2012
    Koveras
  • September 7, 2012
    zarpaulus
    I started on a YKTTW called "Fictional Laws and Customs of War, in contrast to the Useful Notes page The Laws And Customs Of War which is about the Real Life Geneva Conventions. Though all the examples I thought of were Sci-fi. I think we should probably merge these two.
  • September 7, 2012
    Omeganian
    I don't think Goodkind is a good example. There are plenty of deadly shields there, and the whole series is full of Combat Pragmatism.
  • September 7, 2012
    SharleeD
    • Not a formal international law, but after the destruction of Suroch, New Crobuzon (from the Bas-Lag Cycle novels) shut down all of its attempts to weaponize the reality-warping force known as Torque. It's just too freakin' scary a thing to mess with, even for a city-state as ruthless as New Crobuzon.

    Not sure if restrictions on the use of mundane weapons by speculative-fiction characters count, but the immortals of the Highlander franchise have rules against fighting each other on holy ground, and using ranged weapons to incapacitate an opponent before closing in for the kill is considered "cheating".
  • September 7, 2012
    Elyandarin
    in the previous Age in The Wheel Of Time, both sides stopped using Balefire - a weave that erased people from existence retroactively - after reality literally started unravelling from its overuse. Thousands of years later, the weave is still banned, and Aes Sedai generally have their panties in a bunch about Rand's liberal use of it.
  • September 8, 2012
    zarpaulus
    You know I think we might need a "Fantastic Geneva Conventions" for all speculative fiction, not just fantasy specifically. There's certainly enough sci-fi examples. Kanly, the Eridani Edict, the Ares Conventions...
  • September 8, 2012
    Q
    To borrow half the title from the other YKTTW, perhaps this should be renamed to "Fictional Geneva Convention"?
  • September 9, 2012
    Chabal2
    Implied in Monstrous Regiment, where Commander Vimes says there will be no first use of magic in the upcoming war. The Discworld magocracy is firmly devoted to preventing the use of magic, as the last time that happened was analogous to thermonuclear warfare.
  • September 11, 2012
    Arivne
    Assuming this is expanded to include science fiction:

    Literature
    • Orson Scott Card's Enders Game. During the wars between the Buggers and humanity, the Buggers had never attacked a human planetary population, and the humans reciprocated by never attacking a Bugger-occupied planet. During the last battle between the Bugger and human fleets over the Bugger home planet, Ender breaks the unspoken rule. He uses the Little Doctor device to destroy the planet (and kill all of the Bugger Queens), thus ending the war.
  • December 28, 2012
    bulmabriefs144
    Merging laws and customs into here, as specifics.
  • December 28, 2012
    robinjohnson
    • In His Dark Materials it's mentioned that even in battle, fighters do not attack or touch each others' daemons.
  • December 28, 2012
    BeerBaron
    • The Elder Scrolls universe generally frowns upon Necromancy, and even has a few specific rules against it. In Morrowind, the Tribunal Temple strongly opposes it with death sentences for those who practice it. In Oblivion, the Mages Guild bans the practice as well.

    And a Sci-Fi example:

    • The Council races in the Mass Effect trilogy are bound by the Treaty of Farixen, limiting the number of dreadnaught class star ships each is allowed to have.
  • December 28, 2012
    zarpaulus
    Why are there examples in the description?
  • December 28, 2012
    StarSword
    ^Yeah, they need to be moved to the example section.

    Also, there's another set of Honorverse laws of war that should be mentioned.

    Literature:
    • The organized governments of the Honorverse generally abide by two sets of war rules. The Eridani Edict requires attacking fleets to take out all orbital ships and structures and offer an opportunity to surrender before bombarding a planet. This was imposed on the galaxy by the Solarian League with the threat of total annihilation of the offending government. The other set is the Deneb Accords, applied to declared wars between star nations and which amount to the Geneva Conventions IN SPACE!
  • December 28, 2012
    Chabal2
    A strange example in Ciaphas Cain when he considers the fate of prisoners in a conflict and is acutely aware that they won't be treated as prisoners of war. What makes it strange is that the Imperium doesn't use those rules either: prisoners are only kept alive until interrogated then executed.
  • December 28, 2012
    zarpaulus
    Video Games
    • Sid Meiers Alpha Centauri: The UN colonial charter prohibits the use of WMDs, though it is possible for factions in game to use chemical weapons and planet busters. Using the former will impose trade sanctions on the offending faction while the latter will cause every other faction, including allies, to declare Vendetta.
  • December 28, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    Live-Action TV

    • In the Babylon 5 'verse, mass drivers (weapons that bombard planets with large objects such as asteroids) are forbidden by treaty. In the instance where they are used in the show however, none of the other powers have the will to enforce this treaty.

  • December 31, 2012
    marcoasalazarm
    Dunno if it would fit in this particular Trope, but the 'Rebuild of Evangelion' film series has a mention of something called 'The Vatican Treaty' which limits the amount of active Evangelion units that a single country can have at any given time to just three.

    It is without a shadow of a doubt some contrived plot point which is used to keep Unit-02 on ice until the final fight of the movie and allow Asuka to be the test pilot of Unit-03 without excessive fuzz (but much Fridge Logic), but it's understandable why it's there-having seen just one Evangelion Unit raising hell against conventional armed forces on 'End Of Evangelion' and being pretty damn near-unstoppable, it's obvious that allowing anybody a large number of them is just asking for him/her to try to become a warlord, but being that they are a necessity to stop the Angels, it's just for the most part an attempt to keep control.
  • December 31, 2012
    Ryusui
    Considering we have Minovsky Particle to describe elaborately thought-out fictional physics, perhaps we should delve into the Gundam bucket again and call this Antarctic Treaty?
  • December 31, 2012
    Specialist290
    ^^ That's an interesting point; we should probably open this up to fictional arms proliferation treaties as well.

    ^ Except there's nothing about the phrase "Antarctic Treaty" to lead someone unfamiliar with Gundam that it's about the laws and customs of war as opposed to a treaty of alliance or something. (Minovsky Particle works because newly-discovered things are named after scientists all the time in real life.)

    I'd say that the ideal solution would be to move the Geneva Convention Useful Notes to a page titled after them, which would free up "The Laws and Customs of War" as the title for this trope. In absence of that, though, "Fictional Geneva Convention" works.
  • January 1, 2013
    randomsurfer
    On Doctor Who the Shadow Proclamation covers several scenarios (besides the ones we haven't seen yet). Convention 15 deals with the cessation of hostile activities while parley is taken. Article 57 prohibits the destruction of a Level 5 planet if no laws were broken.
  • January 2, 2013
    ElCheViva
    Descent: Free Space and its sequel feature the Beta Aquilae Convention (BETAC). Neither game goes into much detail about BETAC, though it apparently gives rules on the treatment of prisoners of war and civilians.
  • January 2, 2013
    Gatomon41
    Anime and Manga

    Literature
    • The Mercenaries Code in the Childe Cycle. It works much like the Geneva convention, but also provides guarantees and responsibilities of Merc officers to their men. For example, if a Officer fails to do his duty or wanton endangers his men, that officer could be court martialed and executed.
    • Terran Bonding Authority in Hammers Slammers exists to enforce contracts between Mercenary companies and governments, as well as reduce or prevent atrocities.
  • January 3, 2013
    partner555
    In the Webcomic Drowtales, there used to be several unwritten rules of warfare to limit collateral damage. The most important rule was that innocent bystanders are not to be harmed. Other rules include no poisoning water supplies and no fighting in the city. When the Nidraa'chal attacked, they broke virtually every rule, shattering the existing status quo of following the rules and causing future battles to ignore those rules.
  • January 3, 2013
    electronshock
    Can be a reson for [1]
  • January 3, 2013
    zarpaulus
    Some suggestions for sci-fi rules:

    Rules of warfare in science fiction settings tend to be comparatively simple:
  • January 3, 2013
    zarpaulus
    @electronshock: You don't put internal links in "[[ ]]'' brackets unless you are giving it text different than the title. No Transhumanism Allowed with no spaces would have been sufficient.
  • January 7, 2013
    Frank75
    Time Travel isn't outright evil, but tends to make a mess of history, so nobody really wants it.
  • January 7, 2013
    AgProv
    Literature: the Fantasy universe of Mary Gentle's Grunts has a War Crimes Tribunal, the interprets and enforces the local version of a Geneva Convention. An Orc warlord is found guilty of atrocities and breaking the Rules of War (no surprise there).

  • January 7, 2013
    bulmabriefs144
    Yay, I can post again. Time to add examples.
  • January 7, 2013
    StarSword
    @zarpaulus: One minor point: I'd pothole "orbital bombardments" to Death From Above rather than Colony Drop since the latter specifically refers to deorbiting something to hit the target, whereas "orbital bombardment" could just be orbit-to-surface shots from garden-variety lasers/kinetic guns/missiles.
  • January 7, 2013
    Gatomon41
    I think the trope needs to be expanded to include a science fiction context along with the fantasy ones.

    Live-Action TV

    • In Star Trek The Next Generation, the Treaty of Algeron defined the limits of the Romulan Neutral Zone (namely violating the Zone without adequate reason could start a war). It also prohibits the use of cloaking devices for the Federation. It proves a plot point in the episode "The Pegasus".
      • By DS9, the Romulans made an exception to the treaty, and loaned a cloaking device for Starfleet use, in exchange for intel on the Dominion.
      • Another plot-relevant agreement is the Federation-Cardassian Treaty. It establishes a Demilitarized Zone, in which no military forces could be deployed, nor bases established. It also redrew the map, which resulted in colonies landing in each other territories. The Cardassians begin the undermine the treaty, and begin to oppress former Federation citizens. The Federation, on the other hand, fear another war and end up doing little to nothing to resolve any issues.

    Film

    Anime
    • The Antarctic Treaty in Mobile Suit Gundam, which prohibits the use of chemical, biological, atomic weapons, Colony Drops as well as stipulating that POWs be treated humanely and the rights of neutral zones be respected. Considering the wanton destruction caused prior to the Treaty, it may be there was no formal treaties between the Federation and Zeon limiting warfare before the war.
  • January 8, 2013
    bulmabriefs144
    Suggesting a split into two trope mebbe? One called Fantastic Geneva Conventions, one called something like High Science Rules Of War. We'd need to pull many of the example outta here first.
  • January 9, 2013
    Gatomon41
    ^ That may work better, since it seems that there's enough material for two articles, one a Useful Note, another a trope.
  • January 10, 2013
    peccantis
    What's wrong with Rules Of War? Most of the worlds in the example have no place called Geneva, much less any version of an international contract about rules of war made in such a place.
  • January 10, 2013
    Gatomon41
    ^ First, it may be confused with The Laws And Customs Of War, which reals with Real Life conventions and traditions. Two, the focus is on speculative elements and how warfare would be conducted then.
  • January 10, 2013
    bulmabriefs144
    Have we got a section to split the science stuff into yet? Otherwise, when this gets five hats or whatever, it will have to be done retroactively.

    Nvm, I added a few more common science fiction ones that do in fact overlap with some equally nasty things you could do with magic.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=eh7leu0jl7txw30vjy6goysu&trope=FictionalGenevaConventions