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In my world there are 4 races. I want 2 of them to be at war with each other but only their armies (if possible I want no civilian casualties, this does not count nobles and people in a position of power).

This means :

  • There would still be trade between the 2 kingdoms.

  • Unrestricted travel of civilians and businesses (unless there is a reason for the kingdom to ban their entry, think why people get banned for travel in the real world and apply same here).

  • If any civilian is caught up in a fight on either side, secure them first before anything.

  • If a soldier does cause the death/injury of a civilian then normal murder/assault charges are applied and they are jailed in the opposing kingdom (A lesser sentence can be applied if it is believed to be accidental).

I have likely missed some points but what could keep 2 kingdoms civil with each other and at the same time at war with each other?

FYI - Both sides' tech levels are about the same, compared to ours they have yet to invent gunpowder. If a civilian engages in combat they are no longer considered a civilian but someone who is part of the army.

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    $\begingroup$ You could look at some of the Earth's recent conflicts where certain levels of trade have continued despite the two countries being at war. $\endgroup$ – Rory Alsop Jun 15 '16 at 16:31
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    $\begingroup$ This sounds a little like some kind of Champion warfare. If both sides know that they'll be destroyed by outside threats if they engage in fullscale war then they might heavily restrict warfare to an extreme degree. $\endgroup$ – Murphy Jun 15 '16 at 16:45
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    $\begingroup$ What purpose do the armies have when they throw soldiers lives at the other? What objectives are they trying to capture. If you can't hurt a civilian, you're going to have a hard time capturing cities, and there's little point in holding ground if you can't restrict travel. It sounds less like war to me, and more like war games. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon - Reinstate Monica Jun 15 '16 at 18:13
  • $\begingroup$ Raiding occurred even in "chivalrous" times, look at the concept of chevauchée. Medieval leaders were often chivalrous up until it became inconvenient. $\endgroup$ – Kys Jun 15 '16 at 20:09
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I'm not a expert but I was immediately reminded of the history of Japan. Google provided me with the Sengoku period in particular.

Nominally Japan was one country under one Emperor. But in reality at that time he was largely powerless. The country was ruled by warlords who fought continuously for ascendancy. What distinguished Japan from most other countries in such a state was the unique moral code of the Samurai. This decoupled warfare from the peasantry and from the (despised but necessary) merchant classes. It was unthinkable ( and cause for summary execution) for a commoner to oppose a samurai, but deeply dishonorable for a samurai to concern himself with the everyday life of commoners. So society did not merely survive but advanced even during centuries of civil war.

So it can happen. It requires an extraordinarily strong common moral code observed by all warriors to fight only each other, and to refrain from attacking and destroying the strata of society under their opponents' rule.

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  • $\begingroup$ It does seem the only way this would be possible is through strick morals/beliefs, since my main character would send this into disarray I cannot do it but still yours and Cyrus answer were great. Thanks $\endgroup$ – Mr.Burns Jun 20 '16 at 10:04
  • $\begingroup$ This is the same Japan where it was not unusual for Ronin to test the power of their katana by cutting down peasants. $\endgroup$ – Marshall Tigerus Jun 23 '16 at 16:58
  • $\begingroup$ A few peasants weren't missed (horrible but true). Contrast Europe in the 30 years' war, or the Paraguayan war of the triple alliance. $\endgroup$ – nigel222 Jun 23 '16 at 18:03
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Ritualized Warfare

The situation you're describing could only endure if warfare is highly ritualized in your world, so that its culturally unacceptable to destroy an enemy by destroying their resources/ability to fight.

If a victorious army could not claim anything from the losing side, it would amount to a very bloody sporting match, and probably turn into a less serious form before soon. (Football, maybe?) For warfare to continue, the stakes need to be high, most likely in the form of territory and subjects who will willingly obey whoever holds the title to the land/city at that moment.

The stakes could be determined in many ways:

  • Armies approach enemy territory and issue a challenge. This needs to be answered or the territory is forfeit. This option keeps armies somewhat bound to their territory.
  • Generals carry physical symbols of ownership and surrender one or more after being defeated, in trade for their army's safe retreat. This way, armies would only care about finding and battling each other and roam around the countries freely. Symbols of Ownership entitle the bearer to collect taxes, draft soldiers, etc.
  • Nobles from both sides get together at "War Parties" where they wager their claims against the other side, looking for power and glory. The battles will then be fought at prearranged times and the territories ceded afterwards.
  • Battles are the Highest Glory before God! The dominant (shared) religion is the arbiter in this war and only by following their rules can God or the Gods be pleased. A general who violates the rules of engagement calls down plague and doom upon the world and is hunted down and sacrificed to please (the) God(s).
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  • $\begingroup$ These all sound awesome and I want to use them all $\endgroup$ – Marshall Tigerus Jun 23 '16 at 16:59
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What you are describing sounds more like territorial clashes/border raiding than war.

War has a purpose - annihilation, conquest, resources, whatever it may be, it's a concentrated military endeavour undertaken for a specific purpose. It's an all or nothing thing, and usually a successful war is a short war, with clearly defined objectives, as they are rather taxing on resources (manpower, materiel etc) - and any successful campaign relies on maintain or increasing your resources while denying them to your opponent.

Instead of war between the two nations, have you considered the idea of disputed territories - a kind of borderland area between the two nations. Or perhaps have factions within each nation constantly at war - think medieval England and Scotland - most often the skirmishes would be between clans/houses raiding each other. Trade continues between the two nations themselves, but there's constant fighting between some factions.

Otherwise, your only other realistic course is, as others have mentioned, some kind of black market/smuggling operations. Or, alternatively, an enterprising third nation acts as a middle-man/distribution centre and makes a tidy profit in the meantime.

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  • $\begingroup$ Annihilation is a means to an end, not a purpose of war. Otherwise, +1. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Aug 26 '18 at 22:49
  • $\begingroup$ @RonJohn - depends entirely on the scale, setting and society $\endgroup$ – Thomo Aug 26 '18 at 22:50
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What you need is a strong criminal underclass which provides the citizens with contraband goods smuggled in from their warring neighbor. Officially the countries are at war and nobles and warriors die daily for the honor of their homeland; but under that veneer of antipathy and death, a lucrative economy continues to thrive without concern for the borders.

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  • $\begingroup$ For example, there isn't a city in America where a well connected soul cannot buy a cuban cigar, despite the decades old embargo. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Jun 15 '16 at 20:03
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    $\begingroup$ Well, the growers all left Cuba too, so those are just (fake) tourist items. "Cuban" cigars actually come from other islands now. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Jun 22 '16 at 3:50
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    $\begingroup$ "Upon the expropriation of private property in Cuba, many former Cuban cigar manufacturers moved to other countries (primarily the Dominican Republic) to continue production.... After reallocation, most Cuban manufacturers continued to use their known company name, seed, and harvesting technique ... As a result, cigar name brands like Romeo y Julieta, La Gloria Cubana, Montecristo, and H. Upmann among others, exist in both Cuba and the Dominican Republic.... advertise them as "Cuban" cigars, using the argument that the cigars are made by Cubans.[61]" $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Jun 22 '16 at 3:56
  • $\begingroup$ The same "Cuban" cigar argument is rather popular in Florida, US, as well; at least in Miami and Tampa. $\endgroup$ – BRPocock Jun 22 '16 at 4:44
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Another way this could happen, though quite possibly not what you mean, is for the two nations to have some reason that would make being at war desirable, but fighting another country undesirable. Therefore, they declare war on each other, but don't actually fight each other or act any differently.

For example, nation C is fighting a losing battle against nation D, and tries to get its allies, nations A and B, to help. However, neither A nor B actually want to help (they think that D can beat A, B, and C at the same time, maybe, or the war might just cost them too much and C doesn't help them), but the international community would turn against A and B for not helping to defend its ally, so that would hurt A and B too much, as well. Because of this, A and B declare war on each other so they have a reason to not come to the aid of C as they are busy in their own conflict.

Edit: Also, maybe A and B are allies with both C and D and they both would rather stay out of the war than alienate an ally.

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  • $\begingroup$ I like the thought, but I was going to have just 4 kingdoms and they would all be evenly(ish) powered $\endgroup$ – Mr.Burns Jun 22 '16 at 8:31
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe it would just cost A or B too much to go to war and D is slightly more powerful (or slightly larger, or slightly better battle strategies, etc.) than C. This way, A and B would be able to change the way the war goes, but they would rather not. Or maybe the idea that I added into my post just now. $\endgroup$ – Jarred Allen Jun 23 '16 at 3:08
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you have mentioned the other 2 races, so i guess we can make use of them.

  1. Overlord:
    Your 2 kingdoms are not real kingdom, but rather autonomous regions, or vassals of race C's empire. The emperor is very reluctant to allow this confict, but he don't want the war to disrupt the empire's economy too much. Unfortunately (or not), these regions are very specially producer, so attack the civilian or the population hub is a big no for him, and he will "cut" this war short if any of them dare to break the rule.

tl,dr: because a big guy say no.

  1. Common enemy:
    These 2 kingdom is the weaker one of the 4, or they have a smaller population, which take a long time to refill (the elves for example). A total war will leave both of them in a much weaker state, and become good target for race C invasion. Maybe they think they still need another in near future, so destroy each other will be a bad idea. and thus, the leader from both side agree to tone it down a bit (it could even be a mock war to prepare the troop the the upcoming war with the C).

tl,dr: to avoid mutual destruction.

but still, your condition will be a bit hard to enforced entirelly. For example, they could pick an unpopulated site as battlefield, or warn the civilian about the upcoming battle, and forbid massacre; but i dont think they will go as far as what you ask for. think of it like a tone down iraq war, with more carefull airstrikes.

other than that, it could be a ritual war, or because the art of war is not for these lowly peasant, or because these race have a much better personality than us.

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