Thursday, 1st March, 2012, 03:36 PM #1
Why is killing all the elves a bad idea?
It's time for another TV dilemma again.
Disclaimer: this topic needs to stick to talking about Elves and the King's Guard.
I've been watching that show with that guy who has a really busy day every 6 to 18 months.
This time, he's just gotten out of Dwarven prison and Elven Terrorists are blowing up parts of the kingdom. The guy in charge of the King's Guard wants to round up all the elves and put them under guard as a precaution.
We all know it's not Good to round up people based on Race or Class and put them in a camp.
And we all know the King's Guard gets the jerkiest guys to do it, which only incites the other Elves to become rebels as they hear about incidents.
I tend to approach morality and ethics and something that can be tactically justified, not just acting a certain way because the Clerics said so or they wouldn't Heal you. I am not actually advocating rounding up all the elves, I'd like to see a tactical explanation on why it's not a good idea.
Aside from moral ground, however, what is tactically wrong with rounding up or killing all the elves in the kingdom?
Here's what I see as the logic behind taking out the elves:
if you had a plague rat infestation, is it easier to detect and capture JUST the infected rats, or kill every rat you can? You might get a few other non-rat animals killed as well if your rat killing system doesn't differentiate too well, but it will probably be effective at solving the problem.
Racial profiling in combat makes things easier. Don't fire until you see the points of their ears. Makes it pretty easy to avoid hitting friends. Sure, the enemy will try to change things up by surgically altering a spy's ears, but that's the exception rather than the rule.
Back in our kingdom, apparently elves have been living or relocating to our lands for some time. Now some of them have gotten violent over issues in OTHER kingdoms. It's really hard getting good intel on who the bad elves are. It's really easy just to round them all up. Even if you miss a few, once the rest are gone, they will stand out and not be able to move freely, which will limit their remaining ability to do harm.
Now there's a difference between roundiing up and exterminating. I think the latter is simply the next logical conclusion one would make. It's cheaper and safer to execute than to imprison. Things could escalate where all the Elves are in active hostility within our kingdom's borders and that's where nearly every citizen considers killing an elf or two themselves, just to protect their family.
So, what's the tactical counter-argument?
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A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)
Tactically speaking, rooting out individuals in an urban environment, without hurting the non-combatants, is a nightmare of door-to-door searches and street fighting. This takes more manpower that focused, pitched battle in the field, and requires your forces to treat with non-combatants every day. Your soldiers are soldiers, not diplomats or policemen, and will generally be bad at it.
Strategically speaking - as soon as you start, you probably get the rest of the elves actively fighting against you. You also get all the people in the kingdom who are friendly with non-terrorist elves, to fight against you. You are now fighting your own population, physically, morally, and in terms of morale.
Non-elves will see you are willing to take extreme measures when you wish - you may think you are willing to kill elves, but the real point is that you're willing to kill innocents, and not just a couple accidentally, but wholesale. The non-elves can make the logical jump that they may be next. Your own forces are not mindless automatons, and will realize that their family and friends may also be next.
Basically, in this program, you risk losing the loyalty of your troops and the non-elf populace, and put your current government regime at risk. Not a good move.
It can be done, but it takes a rather particular set of conditions, and years to set up before you can begin. And the process tends to destroy your society, so that even in death, the enemy wins.
Enchanter (Lvl 12)
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ř Ignore Thunderfoot
From a military standpoint, genocide is bad for business. When you start the whole sale slaughter of innocents, you get rebellious subjects, citizens or allies depending upon their moral stance.
From a tactical (short-term) standpoint, yes it may be the most expedient way to remove a target, but from a political/strategic (long-term) standpoint the immediate success outweighs the repercussions. And the tactical must ALWAYS answer to the strategic. Success on the battlefield does not always mean success with the local/national or international media (the Neo Yew Journal, the Longbow Archer Times, the Nature Broadcasting Channel or the Centaur News Network.) Unless there is a large trade off that can be bargained or balanced against (like the surprise attack against the human kingdom's naval yards or the humans flying giant eagles into the elves trees), you run into a vocal group of nay-sayers.
The problem I have with TV is they tend to paint things as black and white. There is an enemy, go kill them. You know who the "good guy" is and you know who the "bad guy" is. Wars may be fought on battlegrounds, but they are won in boardrooms. Political, religious and social organizations are the ultimate winners of a war, they write the treaties, laws, reparation agreements and such after the last round has been fired.
In this scenario, when the King's guard have eradicated the single elven village, (men, women and children) and have salted the earth, the halflings, fairies, centaurs and gnomes form an alliance to smite the axis of evil that is the human kingdom. The dwarves, who just released said war criminal from prison may side with the fey, though this may not be a good political move considering they just had said scum in their possession and let him walk. More likely they will remain neutral and sell arms to the fey in order to rid the realms from this oppressive human government sll the while keeping their hands "clean"
Your opening argument, that the elves are terrorists is one of pre-determined species "rightness". Black and white; from the elves POV, are they not right?, the dwarves, the fey. The elves in this case are protesting violently the wholesale encroachment of the human kingdom on their ancestral territory, maybe? Every tyrant begins doing something good for the people they serve, and then drag them into their personal vendetta against faction X, Y or Z.
And how on earth is 24 related to elves????
Last edited by Thunderfoot; Thursday, 1st March, 2012 at 05:06 PM.
Headmaster of Metal School
"I may be unconscious, but at least I still look good!" - - Me (at the Halfling Musketeers game GenCon '06)
On one hand, taking away their weapons is a dead giveaway that they will need them. On the other hand, by the time conflict starts the players will already have opened the rulebooks and found the parts that deal with bare-handed combat, performing disarm moves, and using improvised weapons. Players may blunder through dialog with shocking ineptitude, forget the name of the country they are in, or get confused about which side they are on, but once it comes time to roll for initiative they all turn into Sun Tzu. - Shamus Young DM of the Rings
Spellbinder (Lvl 16)
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ř Ignore Whizbang Dustyboots
He was presumably using elves as a stand-in for the groups on 24, which could have veered this thread into political territory in a hurry.
In any case, what the commenters said is what I came here to say: Yes, you can "kill 'em all," but you will have much, much worse problems on your hands for generations afterward as a result. It's a pretty stupid idea, which is why the top brass in real life discourages that sort of behavior from the lower-ranking sorts who might only be concerned with the immediate, local situation.
Enchanter (Lvl 12)
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ř Ignore GSHamster
To a certain extent, it does depend on how much races intermingle in your campaign. @Umbran and @Thunderfoot are right that it really is a lot of trouble in a setting where the races mingle.
But there are settings where the Races don't intermingle as much, where each race keeps to its own community. In those types of settings, it would be a lot easier to target one specific group. For example, if the Elves in the kingdom lived in elf-only settlements, it is a lot easier for the other races to see the Elves as "other" and not raise a fuss when the Elves are rounded up.
I do have a couple counter-points based on history, but I'm a bit wary as they become more obvious stand-ins rather than a fantasy example of a common problem. If you're all game, we can keep playing, else go no further.
On containment = stirring up more trouble within our population (@Morrus;'s point
Many kings ago, during a previous war, the human kingdom had adopted a containment policy and rounded up all the Gnomish citizens. Most everybody today acknowledges that it was not a Good act, and that many of those people were loyal subjects. The Gnomes suffered, but did not seem to mount any acts of rebellion. Those that survived the harsh conditions did re-integrate into society and resume their lives after the war.
It's not clear from this earlier example that the Kingdom suffered any ill effects of this policy. Though its also not clear that implementing the policy actually helped (as in the Gnomes did not appear pre-disposed to rebellion in the first place).
On @GSHamster 's point about social intermingling, it is my unscientific observation that the Races (elven, human, gnome, dwarven, etc) tend to have 2 stages. The first stage where the newly immigrated family moves into a village or district heavily populated by their own race and the area tends to be named after their country of origin as in Little Dwarfheim. The other stage where families have more assimulated into human culture, adopted their language, names and live within the same communities as humans. These people tend to only differ from humans by the biological differences, rather than cultural.
It would stand to reason, that targetting the Little Elftopia's are where the radical Elfists are concentrating, as these people are less integrated into human society would be possible. Remember, if the King sanctions this, he's not an idiot, he's going to have the King's Guard in position and do the round-up all at the same time so the Elves will have less time to prepare.
I think @Thunderfoot brings up a good point about the news media (love the names, btw). In the past, there were fewer organizations AND they seemed to politically ally with the government during times of war. Thus, while not being a mouthpiece of the government, they also weren't in vocal opposition to wartime decisions. In modern times, one might wonder if each media outlet has its own political agenda.
That's all I got. I think the reasons against are sound. I also see the makings of a "ripped from the headlines" D&D campaign that folks are welcome to...
The Grand Druid (Lvl 20)
The whole concept of race is a social construct. Sure, elves and dwarves and thri-kreen might not be able to interbreed, but they're still all intelligent beings, capable of altering their behavior based on culture and education. That means that, while not always feasible, it is theoretically possible for problems to be solved through cultural transformation rather than necessitating violence.
So it's foolish from the beginning to think that only elves can blow things up for political reasons. Sure, elves might be doing it most often now, but occasionally they're aided by dwarves, and halflings, and other races that the people of Greyhawk probably couldn't even name: sahuagin, wolfweres, tasloi. And the more you demonstrate a willingness to harm members of one race who happens to be visually distinguishable from you, the more nervous other races get.
Once upon a time elves had a more advanced society than humans. They still are on par with humans in many places. It's foolish to assume that destruction is the best way to solve your problems.
Here's my made up reasoning to counter ypur points. It does not have an intended real-world analog. It's just an example of how it could play out:
For some reason, the Elves in this Kingdom have started going bad. Maybe they're turning Dark and worshipping Lolth. It might be hard for outsiders to distinguish Lolth worship from Corellon Larethian. Maybe it's politics back in their homeland that's causing them to act out. Maybe it's unfair representation in the human government.
I would surmise, that the folks in the "round them up" camp would start a PR campaign with all the nations and races that the Elves are getting uppity and are looking to oppress everybody. If it works, the humans' justified actions would be acceptable to the other nations (because the elves have gone bad and are starting to stink).
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
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ř Ignore hopeless
A problem about elves
Firstly your problem aren't elves, if elves seem to be behind this then the first thing you should remember is that they will be expecting something like this so you should instead look for people who can be detected as elves but don't look like elves...
Half elves would make a good start since they're already outcasts but the point here is that if they're inherently evil then they should show up accordingly, don't bother with pointless acts of hostility when you can drum up the fact if they're in disguise then they're either in trouble or are trouble either way for their own good the guard has to take them into custody and of course have a few priests and mages handy to detect lie and magic in case they're actually polymorphed drow or other evil creatures.
And if you're looking to be decidely evil note that it doesn't take much to get a target radiating evil before having a person capable of detecting such come into the area, you really shouldn't bother invading a village when you should have them want to come to you...
I'm probably taking this far off the course this thread was started upon but i figured this should be mentioned.
A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)
Which is to say, killing the elves is attacking a symptom, not the disease.
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