Even in the chaos of war there are rules. You can't go around killing innocents, you can't kill medics, you probably can't rape or pillage, and you can't use certain weapons. Hollow point bullets, some types of gas, possibly barbed wire, and in general much of the methods that had been developed in war have been restricted or outlawed for decades, even before World War I brought it to promise.. For more information on the weapons that can't be used, see The Laws and Customs of War and the other Wiki.
Now, what happens when you have a fantastic speculative setting? Where magic spells or high tech weapons could wreak more damage than imaginable? In any war, there must be certain rules, or people would be doing unthinkable things in a battlefield with nothing to stop them.
These may be enforced by a group such as a Fictional United Nations.
Oddly, any use of this trope tends to result in the Broken Aesop that making war less destructive makes it more likely; without heinous consequences for conflict, people are more willing to enter it.
These are common rules that can apply to most Speculative fiction genres:
- Generally, no Necromancy (this doesn't include resurrection, which is a task of high-level priests or doctors). Having obedient mindless soldiers is creepy and a single person with this power can use it against his own government.
- No possession/body snatching.
- No death shields (usually allowed forcefields, and walls of fire, but you seldom see anything where people die if they cross it).
- No poisonous or biological weapons or magic.
- No Time Travel. (To a lesser extent, other temporal effects / spells like Rapid Aging are also forbidden.)
- Oddly enough, often no Creating Life (it could extend wartime indefinitely, along with concerns of cheapening life). Sapient Golems and Robots may or may not count as life.
- And no using nothingness, especially not to erase people from existence.
- No orbital destruction technology or spells.
- Nothing is ever to be Powered by a Forsaken Child.
- No violation of neutral territory.
Laws within a Science Fiction Setting
Most SF settings tend to be based off modern warfare. As such, conventions tend to include rules regarding the proper treatment of Prisoners of War and Civilians. Overall, the story will focus on what technologies cannot be used.
- No Nuclear Weapons.
- No destroying inhabited planets. Or life-sustaining stars.
- No killing civilians. Even more so forbidding the use of superweapons on or near civilian populations.
- No weapons that could screw around with the laws of physics negatively.
- Prisoners of War are supposed to be protected and provisioned for.
- No Colony Drops. Even if they are your colonies.
- No turning people into death machines without their permission. And even with their permission it's a grey area.
Laws within a Fantasy Setting
There are obviously rules of magic, making certain spells impossible (such as resurrection in an All Deaths Final setting). In addition to those, there are certain customs that regulate the use of magic in war.
- No permanent curses, especially not petrification or soul-sucking.
- No usage of The Dark Arts, in general. This includes the more inhumane scientific things, in a sci-fi setting.
- No summoning beasts from the Otherworld. (angels/demons may be okay. Most magical settings draw the line at Eldritch Abominations)
- No Reality Warper abilities. Ritual Magic also may fall into this category, since rituals involving multiple casters can qualify as a Fantastic Nuke.
- No weaponizing Wild Magic. There is a reason it has "wild" in its name.
- "Acceptable sources of fuel for Blood Magic" and "Prisoners of War" are non-overlapping concepts.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist 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 warriors will either get turned into cute little balls of fluff or (if they're cute girls) their costumes get shredded. Since the setting is full of actual horrible monsters, the war games serve to keep the soldiers in fighting shape should a serious threat arise, and it fosters friendly relations between the different countries so they can aid each other at a moment's notice.
- Briefly mentioned in Haiyoru! Nyarani. During a cooking segment, Nyarko mentions the difficulties of acquiring an "ingredient" due the "Space Washington Treaty", then quickly realizes she said too much.
- 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.
- In Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, the Antarctic Treaty is brought up mostly in the context of the Titans' decision to abandon it; neutral territory is not respected, and chemical weapons are often intentionally used against civilians.
- In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny, we have the Treaty of Junius, which was meant to do away with a lot of the problems that came up with the first war. Its main caveat was that it was supposed to restrict the usage of nuclear weaponry and cut down the number of weapons both sides could have. However, since it did nothing to stop Blue Cosmos and their Logos masters, we got more war with all of the caveats ignored.
- In Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, it is explicitly mentioned that the Dáinsleif Anti-Armor railguns were banned since the Calamity War. Which goes to show how hypocritical Gjallarhorn is when they plant a few on a Tekkadan transport and then use this as an excuse to go to town with the Dáinsleifs they hold in reserve in the final arc of the anime.
- 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.
- The Vatican Treaty of Rebuild of Evangelion. The most plot-important part of the rules set on it is that they disallow any country from having more than three active Evangelion Units at any single time, no matter how many they have available. In order to appease this treaty, Unit-02 is put in cryogenic suspension for part of the film, making Asuka the pilot of Unit-03 instead of Toji and setting up a Chekhov's Gun that is fired when Mari decides to conduct a Grand Theft Prototype and use it to battle Zeruel.
- While not many details are provided regarding its specifics, it is mentioned on the backstory of Mai-Otome that the titular super-powered action girls are considered Person of Mass Destruction material and that there's a law called SOLT (standing for "Strategic Otome Limitation Talks/Treaty—a clear stand-in for the real SALT) in place to prevent the kingdoms from proliferating with them.
- Macross Delta mentions the Ormond Treaty, which seems to take the place of the Geneva Conventions in the New UN galactic society. While it does contain clauses regarding the humane treatment of prisoners of war, much like the real Geneva Conventions, those rules do not apply to mercenaries, and the heroes are a mercenary organization, not part of the New UN's actual military. Things are even worse for Freyja, because, as a native of Windermere, she's technically guilty of treason.
- In Chrysalis Visits The Hague, Equestria had the ancient Council of Harmony, described as the pony equivalent to the International Criminal Court, backed up by its own version of the Rome Statute. The fact that it was pretty much stillborn from the start and never did much to punish war crimes and offenses against ponykind didn't stop Equestria from reviving the Council for the specific purpose of prosecuting Big Bad Queen Chrysalis as a Kangaroo Court.
- The Grand Treaty in Forged Destiny regulates what all Castes are allowed to do during a war for all 4 Kingdoms. It is meant to prevent needless bloodshed due to differences in levels, as well as an overwhelming amount of Grimm from spawning and overrunning whole areas. Its basic rules state:
- No member of the Hero Caste can be used against other Kingdoms.
- No Soldier Caste or relevant Class may kill the Labour Caste, except in the case of self-defense.
- No Labour Caste may draw arms against the Soldier Caste, and any village must surrender, unless garrisoned by the Soldier Caste.
- Several stories in Kanril Eleya's arc in The War of the Masters reference efforts to convene the Seldonis IV Tribunal to handle accusations of war crimes in the conflicts involving the Moab Confederacy. This references a treaty named in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
- 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.
- Star Trek: Nemesis mentions in passing that thalaron weapons, which break down organic matter via technobabble, are banned by interstellar treaty.
- In Men in Black 3, after Jay goes back to MIB headquarters, and demands to speak to Kay, to talk about their fight the night before, Agent O tells Jay that Boris the Animal, a Boglodite killed Kay in 1969. When Kay mentions some weird symptoms he's experiencing, Agent O deduces that he's suffering from the effects of a messed up Temporal Paradox, and reveals that soon after it was invented, the MIB Organization successfully lobbied for Time Travel to be made illegal all over the universe, citing the possibility that someone might use it to change history for their own needs. In the case of Boris, prevent Kay from activating an anti-Boglodite defense network by killing him, and paving the way for an invasion of Earth.
- 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 wantonly endangers his men, that officer could be court martialed and executed.
- 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. Its 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.
- The Great Houses in Dune have several, such as:
- The Great Convention, a set of laws enforced by the emperor's Sardaukar. Its main law is banning the use of atomics on humans on pain of planetary annihilation.
- In the first novel, Paul Atreides uses one against the Shield Wall, a terrain feature, that just happens to have humans present. He argues that since he's not targeting humans specifically, the Guild ships watching the battle will take any excuse they can get to not destroy the valuable planet of Arrakis.
- Traditions such as Kanly, which deal with legitimate grievances against the opposing house, and the War Of Assassins, a form of limited combat conducted to avoid harming bystanders.
- The Great Convention, a set of laws enforced by the emperor's Sardaukar. Its main law is banning the use of atomics on humans on pain of planetary annihilation.
- Terran Bonding Authority in Hammer's Slammers exists to enforce contracts between Mercenary companies and governments, as well as to prevent atrocities. The backstory mentions that the Authority was formed when a planetary government massacred a mercenary unit. Seeing a major opportunity, the escrow firm that handled the unit's contract began working with the major banks. Using the Laws of War as a justification, the new cartel blockaded the planet into "stone age savagery" for their violations. With their new power, the cartel grew in wealth and influence, and founded the Authority to deal with the paperwork and oversight.
- The Dresden Files:
- The Unseelie Accords regulate the relations between various magical factions of the world, including duels and armed conflicts. Many of the rules are different than many of those above; for example, faeries Cannot Tell a Lie (although they can bend the truth by allowing you to come to your own conclusions), the threshold and the laws of Sacred Hospitality are very sacred, and especially, no fighting may be done on neutral territory.
- The series also has the Seven Laws of Magic which forbid things like killing, necromancy, mind-control, time-travel, transformation of others, etc. These seem to both bind solely human magic-users (a supernatural entity turning a human into a dog would not count as a violation as such, for example — neither would the White Council immediately send its Wardens after that being the way they would try to punish a human perpetrator nor would the entity likely suffer noticeable corruption in the way that humans using "black magic" are prone to) and protect mainly human targets; a human wizard who'd get into trouble over killing another human being with magic awfully fast can still blast nonhuman "monsters" to ashes to their heart's content, for example. They're also open to occasional more subtle forms of Loophole Abuse.
- In His Dark Materials it's mentioned that even in battle, fighters do not attack or touch each others' daemons. Which makes it all the more shocking (and physically disgusting for her) when the scientists manhandle Lyra's.
- 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.
- Honor Harrington:
- The organized governments of The 'Verse 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 (even then, they are restricted to military targets, a definition that includes the politicians in charge of the military). 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 Space Geneva Conventions.
- There are also a host of lesser treaties and accords, such as the Beowulf Treaty which says that you can't enforce a quarantine on somebody without allowing doctors to come over and check your story.
- 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 unraveling 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 by using the Little Doctor device to destroy the planet (and kill all of the Bugger Queens), thus ending the war.
- This is only in the first novel. In other novels, this is retconned into China getting hit by the Buggers hard during the First Invasion. Originally, it was claimed that nukes were used. However, in the prequel novels, it's established that they were using poison gas to attempt to terraform large parts of China, treating humans as nothing more than dangerous animals.
- The Harry Potter universe has the three Unforgivable Curses (a mind-control spell, a spell that does nothing but inflict excruciating pain of the target, and a spell that instantly kills the target without leaving any scars). Using any one of these spells against a human being, even once, merits a life sentence in Azkaban. Once the Ministry of Magic that normally enforces these laws is taken over by the series villains, all three curses enter mainstream use for hero and villain alike.
- Sergey Lukyanenko's Night Watch books have the Grand Treaty, which is meant to enforce the balance between Light and Dark, as the last time Great Light and Dark Others went at each other they nearly destroyed the world. Only the most basic spells are allowed to be used on a daily basis. Attempts to use higher-order spells, such as healing a human with cancer would result in the other side receiving permission for an equivalent spell (e.g. cursing someone with cancer) to keep the balance. Many young Light Others are disillusioned with this neutrality. The Light Others have organizations in major cities around the world called Night Watches (i.e. they watch those who mainly act at night), while the Dark Others have created the Day Watches (to keep an eye on the Light Others). There is also a third power called the Inquisition, usually involved in only the biggest issues involving the violation of the Treaty. The Inquisition is composed of Light and Dark Others who get sick of the constant Xanatos Gambits done by both sides and say Screw This, I'm Outta Here!. Maintaining the balance is even more important in modern times, as this also keeps up The Masquerade. Not even the Others can survive if the Muggles find out the truth and decide to destroy them.
- Star Carrier: Terran Confederation law bans the use of both antimatter and nanotechnology as weapons. Confederate forces violate both bans in Deep Space when attacking the United States of North America at the start of World War VI.
- Hell's Gate: The Union of Arcana has the Kerrelian Accords, which much like the Geneva convention has rules for the treatment of prisoners of war. The commander of the Arcanan forces has reason to order his forces to disregard them. The Sharonans come to think this is standard policy. Especially troubling is the tactical necessity for Arcanans to execute all telepathic 'Voices' they can find, even civilians.
- The "rules of war" in the Alexis Carew series are laid down by the Abbentheren Accords and observed to the letter, lest the other guy not do so next time the tables are reversed. If you strike your colors, you are considered to have surrendered and may not resume combat (nor can you resume combat or resist capture if you explicitly communicate your surrender), and if you give your parole to a captor you may not take part in any escape attempts (but you can be rescued). Orbital Bombardment is banned outright (the Accords having been adopted in the wake of the Republic of Hanover achieving its independence by indiscriminately bombarding several planets with asteroids), and a capital offense for all involved. Alexis achieves some of her more improbable victories by skirting the letter of the Accords but not actually directly violating them.note
- In the EarthCent Ambassador novels, the mercantilist and technologically superior Stryx outright ban interstellar warfare entirely, which leads to rival alien races within their borders treating the MMORPG Trader/Raider as an International Showdown by Proxy (which surprises the hell out of the human players, for who it really is just a video game).
- The Four Horsemen Universe: Downplayed. There are rules of war in the setting which Private Military Contractors usually observe, but the Union that is supposed to enforce them is pretty weak. Some rules that have been established:
- Canavars, genetically engineered monsters that caused the collapse of The Federation centuries ago, are banned. The Conspiracy sics them on a rival alliance in Cartwright's Cavaliers; the Cavaliers kill them and their creators but can't prove a connection between the two to get the Mercenary Guild's enforcement arm involved.
- Air-to-ground attacks are not allowed above an arbitrary ten miles above a planet surface. Orbital Bombardment is banned outright and is one of the few things that will guarantee Union retaliation if proven. The Besquith are known to have used Neutron Bomb airbursts to leave no witnesses, and are resistant to the fallout. Nigel finds some of their bombs aboard a ship stolen from Besquith mercs but there's no ironclad connection he can take to the Mercenary Guild.
- It's also mentioned that Artificial Intelligence is illegal due to a law against wholly computer-controlled weapons. The Winged Hussars' flagship Pegasus has a shipboard AI that predates their ownership.
- The Doctor Who novel The Empire of Glass features the establishment of the Armageddon Convention, mentioned below. The Doctor was supposed to chair it, but due to the hoopla of the day, a 15th century Venetian Cardinal entered in his stead - and, thinking he had been summoned to mediate in a war in Heaven between different angelic factions, he arguably did as good a job as the Doctor himself.
- In The Lost Fleet, both sides of the war have pretty much forgotten such rules existed. The protagonist, having been frozen in stasis since the opening battle, remembers them very well and insists on those under his command following them. The full rules are never given, but they apparently include not murdering prisoners or indiscriminately bombarding civilians on planets. Soldiers disguising themselves as civilians are explicitly stated to be fair game, although the protagonist is of course far too noble to do anything other than let them go.
- In Worm, superpowered people ("capes", in the series jargon) all abide by what are often referred to as the "unwritten rules". These rules include no targetting the unpowered family members of enemy capes, no exposing a cape's Secret Identity (if they have one), and above all else, the Endbringer Truce: if an Endbringer shows up, everyone will band together to fight it, hero and villain alike, and under no circumstances are they to take advantage of the situation to deal with an enemy. Naturally, characters on both sides ignore these rules when it suits them, and both the villains and heroes will cover up such events and sometimes even work together to make anyone who violates them "disappear".
- Warrior Cats: It's considered very wrong to attack medicine cats or kits. These are effectively mortal sins, for which the offender is likely to end up in the Clans' version of Hell (and will probably not even get a funeral). Killing in battle is also (usually) frowned upon.note Attacking elders is also usually verboten, but as they are retired warriors, they may be combatants, especially during camp raids.
- Schooled in Magic: The laws of war on the Nameless World are mentioned, in the context that most sides in the Zangarian civil war have abandoned them. King Randor is constantly murdering surrendered armies to the last, and even Alassa's forces refuse the parole of noble prisoners, because Randor won't honor the parole and will force them to fight or die.
- Babylon 5:
- 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. That said, it is seen as enough of an atrocity that the (ancient and powerful) Vorlon Empire, who typically take no interest whatsoever in the concerns of the younger races, files an official protest against the act, possibly their first participation in interstellar politics in the entire show. This also acts as minor foreshadowing of their much more active foreign policy in the fourth season.
- When the nascent Interstellar Alliance begins its offensive against President Morgan Clark's forces to restore democracy to Earth in season four, Captain Sheridan calls on the Earthforce occupation fleet at Proxima III to surrender, on account of their prior firing on civilian targets violating Earth's internal laws on warfare, the Rules of Engagement and the Articles of War.
- Doctor Who
- In "Revenge of the Cybermen", the Doctor mentions that the planetbuster bombs the Cybermen are using are prohibited by the Armageddon Convention.
- Several episodes of the revived series mention the Shadow Proclamation, which 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.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus: The "World's Funniest Joke" sketch (also known as the "Killer Joke" sketch) makes a mention as it closes that, after the titular joke proved to be a very effective "wonder weapon" during World War II, weaponized jokes were banned by an amendment of the Geneva Convention after the war, and thus the Joke was sealed away from human eyes forever.
- Star Trek:
- Deconstructed and played for horror in the Star Trek: The Original Series, episode "A Taste Of Armageddon"; On Eminiar VII, all weapons and tactics have been banned to preserve valuable infrastructure - everything is calculated via computers, and "fatalities" march voluntarily into disintegration chambers like mindless conscripts to be killed painlessly as an alternative to real war - meaning the war has lasted five hundred years. Faced with the prospect of having his entire crew killed (because the Enterprise has unwittingly (and quite unwillingly) become a "casualty" of this "conflict", same as another Federation ship before it) Kirk blows up the computers to force them to actually face the consequences of war, telling them it's up to them to make peace or suffer the brutality for real.
- The Treaty of Algeron in Star Trek: The Next Generation, which 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 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the Romulans made an exception to the treaty, and loaned a cloaking device for Starfleet use, in exchange for intel on the Dominion.
- The Federation-Cardassian Treaty 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 to 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. The result is the zone becoming the site of constant fighting between the two groups of colonists, with a number of Starfleet defectors forming the heart of the new Maquis rebellion. The Maquis have the Cardassians on the ropes (largely thanks to a popular uprising overthrowing the Cardassian military dictatorship, and a concurrent Klingon invasion distracting the Cardassian Space Navy) until the Dominion, who don't care about PR, come in and wipe them out.
- The Seldonis IV Convention, which is deals with the treatment of prisoners of war. Because Starfleet disavows any knowledge of Picard's actions in one episode, the Cardassians decide that the Captain is not protected under this Convention. The resulting experience is a less than pleasant.
- Another treaty bans the use of metagenic weapons. Starfleet gets very concerned when it looks like the Cardassians are developing such weapons.
- The Star Trek: Voyager episode "Time and Again" mentions the Polaric Test Ban Treaty, which prohibits research into polaric ion energy by the Alpha and Beta Quadrant powers due to its destructive potential.
- In Stargate SG-1 there is a treaty between the Goa'uld and Asgard protecting many planets from interference and invasion. However it turns out that the Protected Planets Treaty is a giant bluff by the Asgard and still quite one-sided in favor of the Goa'uld. By their own admission the Asgard would rather be rid of the Goa'uld entirely, but they're stretched so thin fighting the Replicators in their home galaxy that all they can afford to do is designate a few planets as off-limits while limiting the inhabitants' technological development to preindustrial levels. The Asgard do enforce the treaty if the Goa'uld attack a protected planet and the Asgard tech advantage is enough that most Goa'uld won't try their luck, but Anubis isn't most Goa'uld.
- The Outer Limits (1995): In "Nightmare", the Alpha Aquarii Convention governs warfare between different civilizations. It prohibits the torture of prisoners of war.
- 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 too much of a mess because The Emperor has means to punish you." "Too much of a mess" means no Weapons Of Mass Destruction on the ground, war crimes, or excessive death and destruction.
- In BattleTech the backstory has one of these called the Ares Conventions, created by the Great Houses prior to the formation of the Star League. Said conventions were rescinded just before the the Star League's ruler declared the Reunification War. After the Star League collapsed and the tremendously destructive First and Second Succession Wars caused several planets to be literally bombed back to the stone age, parts of the Conventions were resurrected as the "honours of war" system. The honours are an informal set of rules created in a cynical version of My God, What Have I Done?, involving more the loss of technology than any guilt over the warfare, and their rules include things like no nukes in atmosphere, no orbital bombardments, no chemical or biological weapons, as well as respecting salvage rights for victors and ransoms for captive 'mechs and (noble) pilots.
- The Clans follow a more restrictive code of conduct, involving both the ritual ways to have a battle (either through direct Combat by Champion, or by a batchallnote for larger battles) as well as a duelling code called zellbrigen during battles. During a batchall, the attacker will issue a formal challenge for their target and reveal their total number of forces available, and the challenged will reveal their total forces, offer a place of battle and what they want from the attacker should they win. Then, each side and their respective subcommanders will 'bid' down the forces available to them (placing the surpluses in reserve) to make the battle more honourable and to obtain rights during the battle such as a position in the order of battle. Finally, the battle is fought according to zellbrigen as the forces of each side seek out and fight a series of ritualistic duels or skirmishes in a so-called "Circle of Equals" (banning outside interference in the duels) until one side has lost enough skirmishes and withdraws. Needless to say, neither using the batchall nor the Clans' attempt at following zellbrigen during battle worked particularly well when invading the Inner Sphere, as the Inner Sphere's rules were far more permissive.
- The Word of Blake faction that appears following the dissolution of the Second Star League is notable for breaking the Honours of War left and right, committing any war crimes they please in the name of winning their "Jihad". Eventually the Successor States decide that if the Blakeists aren't going to respect the Conventions, then they aren't either, which leads to the Word of Blake (and a bunch of planets as collateral damage) being annihilated in nuclear fire by their numerologically superior foes. The devastation from this conflict was a major factor in the establishment of the Republic of the Sphere (which, incidentally, makes Geneva its capitol city) and one of the longest periods of peace in the Battletech universe.
- In the backstory of the Epic Card Game, the gods made a truce after tearing the old universe apart with their wars. After reconstructing reality the deities agreed to fight their wars through mortal proxies. But other than that everything (including time manipulation, zombie apocalypses, necromancy, and so forth) is fair game.
- 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 Meiers Alpha Centauri uses this not just as a plot element, but as an important game mechanic: The UN colonial charter prohibits the use of WMDs, though it is possible for factions in game to use chemical and biological 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.
- Note that the Charter can be repealed, but the bit about everyone declaring war on you if you nuke someone doesn't change.
- The Charter also forbids nerve stapling as a means of controlling civil disturbances; the punishment is 10 years of (enforced!) trade sanctions and possibly suspension from the Planetary Council, which can be devastating if you're running a wealth- or diplomacy-based strategy. Strangely, the Charter says nothing about Punishment Spheres, which are a more intensive application of the same technology.
- By the time Mortal Kombat X takes place something called the "Reiko Accords" have been signed. Based on the context they were mentioned it sounds like they were the equivalent of non-aggression pacts between EarthRealm and other Realms, thus any Realm that signed the Accords agree not to invade EarthRealm.
- In Sunset Over Imdahl, Altering is forbidden. It later turns out Altering is Reality Warper magic, specifically causing a Stable Time Loop.
- In Freespace 2 there is the Beta-Aquilae Convention, a general treaty that both establishes the Galactic Terran-Vasudan Alliance, as well as establishing rules of warfare, including specific clauses that protect civilians during times of war. Because the provisions of the Convention form the alliance between the humans and the Vasudans, the anti-Vasudan Neo-Terran Front rejects the whole thing, including the provisions to protect civilians. Several missions in the game involve you protecting civilian ships from attack by the NTF, and midway through the game, while flying undercover as a member of the NTF, suspicious NTF pilots will demand you shoot down a transport carrying civilians to prove your cover story. In another mission, one of your fellow pilots wonders why he should play by the rules when the enemy won't.
Alpha 2: I thought the NTF didn't acknowledge BETAC!
Command: They don't, but we do.
- There are a number of treaties in the Mass Effect series, but the two biggest ones are the Treaty of Farixen and the Citadel Conventions.
- The Treaty of Farixen is the law that prevents races from constantly making dreadnoughts (ships with kilometer-length railguns) in order to prevent undue damage to the galaxy as a whole in times of war, but also the ratio of ships permitted by each military. The ratio that for every five ships build by the turians for their Peacekeeper forces, the other Council races the asari and salarians (plus humanity as of the end of the first game) are permitted three, while protectorate races such as hanar and volus are only allowed one. However, it says nothing about non-dreadnought ships with equivalent firepower to dreadnoughts. Humanity exploits this building carrier ships whose fighters add up to equivalent firepower to dreadnoughts (which apparently nobody had ever thought of); in the third game it's mentioned that the quarians were able to similarly get around the Treaty by equipping their civilian-use Liveships with dreadnought-scale weaponry (and their signatures were effectively removed from it when they were stripped of the embassy).
- The Citadel Conventions were laws written in the wake of the Krogan rebellions and were written to distance the council races from the violent krogan warfare, primarily by implementing the laws outlawing the most severe forms of WMDs including nukes on civilians, but the biggest part of the treaty are the laws against dropping asteroids on planets after the Krogan rebellions left 3 garden worldsnote uninhabitable. The plot of the Bring Down The Sky DLC is a group of batarian terrorists crashing an asteroid onto a human territory in revenge for a war between the Alliance and the Hegemony while, if the Arrival DLC for 2 was completed, Shepard him/herself is arrested for crashing an asteroid into a mass relay, destroying a solar system in the process.
- Valkyria Chronicles 4 mentions offhand that all the major powers in the Second Europan War have signed and abide by some form of treaty. The only explicitly shown clause is medics being noncombatants, explaining their bright pink uniform and how they can safely medevac an injured solider isolated behind enemy lines. She has to get there first, though; injured and incapacitated soldiers are still valid targets. This is broken in one mission where your medic gets shot at if she's called upon, to the horror of your squad, requiring you to take out the offending sniper before she'll make another run for the wounded.
- The rules and customs of war in Ace Combat, like most things in Strangereal, are Like Reality Unless Noted. Consequently, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown goes in-depth on how modern technology like UCAVs and information control allow severe Loophole Abuse. Erusea's initial offensive involves launching combat drones from shipping containers on merchant vessels - blatantly in violation of misuse of civilian disguises, but drones aren't people and can't be prosecuted. The boundaries of what's an acceptable False Flag Operation are being constantly pushed. At first good PR makes people ignore the implications of this, but as the war goes on and things start going pear-shaped some serious questions are asked over what should and shouldn't be acceptable even in war.
- Stellaris allows the players to form the Galactic Community which are essentially this game's Fictional United Nations. The Galactic Community can pass resolutions, laws that apply advantages to the member nations, but at a cost. One set of Resolutions are the Rules of War. Rules of War tend to increase the morale of armies defending their worlds and reduce collateral damage to civilian populations from fighting, and allows wars to go on for longer, at the costy of banning Purges, Weapons of mass destruction, and increasing the upkeep cost of armies.
- In Drowtales, there used to be several unwritten rules of warfare, the "Queen's Law," designed to limit collateral damage in fights between clans. 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, and any slaves or supplies procured during the fighting would simply be absorbed into the winning clan. 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.