This is some correspondence between party members about an event in the Campaign.

Eric's character was not fond of halflings, and this character, King Phineas, received
a magical artifact capable of controlling the population growth for a given race through
certain arcane rituals.  King Phineas used the device to slowly attrite the halfling population.

Phillip played two characters in the Campaign, Branham and Huvis.  Huvis ``lived'' in the
Campaign 500 years after the end of Phineas' reign, but Huvis' family still remembers as Phineas'
actions caused a migration of halflings from Nerria, King Phineas' demense.


        This generated quite a bit of commentary.
        Phillip, your points are well stated and logically flow from your 
     observations and assumptions.  I would like to respond to your thought 
     provoking comments.
        For the record, I don't think Phineas can be painted in either 
     black, white or even assorted shades of gray.  Phineas must be 
     examined in the context in which he found himself.  Times were grim, 
     and ultimately Nerria was a more prosperous and peaceful place at the 
     conclusion of his reign than it was immediately upon his arrival to 
     the throne. 
        Here are some key points:
        (0)  This response is not a flame either.  I am completely neutral 
     on the subject of halflings.  We had two highly successful halflings 
     in the second party at MIT both of whom Phillip saw in action, and 
     halflings played prominent roles in earlier campaign segments I ran in 
     Stuttgart, Zweibruecken and Fort Riley.  I *do* admit that the 
     halflings the party ran across in the first campaign segment at MIT 
     were less survivable than the remainder of the party.  (Then again, I 
     always thought that JRRT's descriptions of hobbits and their actions 
     seemed quite incongruous.)
        (1)  Tremir always told Phineas not to use the artifact from the 
     day Phineas received it.  I doubt Tremir would ever have tried to 
     discover the means of how the artifact worked.  Why bother?  As Tewks 
     pointed out to me, Tremir told Phineas he was opposed to its use.  
     Phineas politely told Tremir that he understood Tremir's position.
        (2)  Having seen Rose in two separate campaigns, Fort Riley and 
     MIT, I feel pretty comfortable saying that Rose did not generally pry 
     into anything that she did not have her nose rubbed in.  (No comment 
     on La Mica --- it is just how she played Rose, and the strategy 
     prevented her from ever having Rose killed.)  Rose would probably 
     never said anything to Phineas besides ``yes your majesty.'' 
        (3)  As a Chalana Arroy, Anna was opposed to armed conflict, but 
     Nerria had wars against various of the other Kingdoms bordering it 
     with the exception of Hamarsin.  There are some things that spouses 
     will not advise their mates on.  Additionally, Anna had her hands full 
     all the time trying to run a household, take care of the many Phineas 
     minions and keeping active in the healing circles.  *Unless* the 
     artifact did something directly that would come to the notice of the 
     healers, the situation would never have *required* Anna to take 
     notice.  (This implies the artifact worked in a subtle way as the 
     healers would surely be aware of some direct effect.)  As in Tremir's 
     case, it would seem likely that Anna voiced some initial displeasure 
     and then did what should could to make Nerria a better place.
        (4)  It is not clear how the artifact worked.  The results of and 
     the methods employed by the artifact are quite inseparable in 
     determining the morality of its use in this case.  
        It is not clear that taking an action without the explicit consent 
     of the populace is vile and evil.  It could be argued that living 
     within the confines of a region ruled by a legitimate government is to 
     implicitly and tacitly agree to its governance.  Since Nerria had open 
     borders, this is especially true.  If Phineas used the ``18 Charisma 
     stone'' to increase his popularity, this could not be viewed directly 
     as being a great evil even though the population is having its will 
     affected without its knowledge.  (by the by, I make a habit of 
     influencing people's wills as part of my job everyday.)  Most 
     criminals do not like having their freedom taken away when they are 
     put in prison.  Certainly the government is taking an action without 
     the criminals' explicit consent. 
        On the other hand, just because the end appears good, that does not 
     necessitate that any means is justified in its accomplishment.  For 
     example, if the artifact increased the halfling population by 
     preventing the old, diseased halflings from dying and instead kept 
     them alive in some hideously painful limbo between life and death then 
     that would be quite horrible.  If the artifact increased population by 
     massively increasing the halfling sex drive that could be viewed as 
     not so nice as well.
        Likewise, if the net effect is to decrease the halfling population 
     *in Nerria* then we might be more likely to say that the outcome is 
     bad, but it still is not 100% clear.  The artifact could have worked 
     through modifying the immigration and emigration rates for halflings. 
     What if the effect of the artifact was to cause the halflings in 
     Nerria to feel uneasy and have the desire to leave the country?  Is 
     that vile?  Not clearly. 
        Here are some methods for decreasing the population in Nerria along 
     a spectrum from vile to OK:
     More VILE ----------------------------------------------------More OK
     Blinding       Immediate Death     Infertility     Apathy    Desire
     halflings      to some fraction    of halflings    by        to leave
     so they        of the hobbit                       halfling  Nerria
     starve to      population                          race      
     death, slowly
        (5)  Zhalindor is not Earth.  Right minded folks in Zhalindor think 
     nothing of killing Broo who are intelligent creatures.  The Ring of 
     Good would judge Phineas by the standards of his own world.  In the 
     same way it is a little stilted when groups berate Shakespeare for not 
     being politically correct.  The elder races in Zhalindor, elves, 
     dwarves and trolls, hated each other and considered the other races to 
     be scrumptious delicacies.  Phineas appears to be quite urbane when 
     considered with this as a backdrop.
        I would like to address several statements directly.
     >It is not the device that must be questioned as good or evil in this 
     >instance; it is the policy that was put into effect using the device.
        I agree with you 90%, but there are some cases where *any* policy 
     using the device would be vile, depending on how the device operated.
     >The relevant real-world analogy would 
     >be either forced sterilization of welfare mothers or China's one 
     >child per couple family planning policy; both policies represent 
     >attempts by the government to reduce populations of groups deemed 
        It is not obvious to me that the two cases cited are equivalent.  
     Forced sterilization of welfare mothers seems a bit different than 
     China's policy.  The Chinese policy appears to apply to the entire 
     population.  China is no leader in Western style human rights; this is 
     clear.  After living for an extended period in the Far East and 
     observing a culture where: women are sold into slavery, a squad of 
     firemen was willing to let a village full of old people and children 
     burn to the ground rather than walk up the side of a mountain, and 
     *observing* a father kill his daughter, I conclude that their concepts 
     of the value of human life and liberty are quite different than our 
     shared Judeo-Christian culture.  
        None the less, I could not state with certainty the policy as I 
     understand it is vile.  (I would state that the killings at Tinament 
     Square were vile.)  So, in the case of China, my first question is 
     what is the alternative?  The officials in China believe the 
     alternative is wide spread disease, starvation, unemployment, reduced 
     standard of living and ultimately revolution.  That could be worse 
     than asking the parents to settle for one child each.  Not clear.  
     China does not kill unwanted infants though that I am aware of.  (They 
     might; I've seen worse in that part of the world.)
     >But Fineous explicitly would
     >not have used the artifact in these circumstances; his stated policy 
     >was that the artifact was to be used when the halfling population was 
     >predicted to increase, and not used when it was scheduled to 
        There is an implicit assumption in this statement that the halfling 
     population rate of increase is correlated fairly tightly with the 
     other races.  To the extent that the races share the same environment, 
     then favorable environments tend to favor all the races and hostile 
     environments tend to affect all the races negatively.  However, 
     halflings are like small herbivores.  They make up for their 
     disadvantages by breeding extremely rapidly.  Halflings have multiple 
     births, almost always 6+, and the gestation period on halflings is 
     only four months.  While the human population might still be 
     decreasing, the halfling population might well be on the increase 
     already.  A typical halfling couple is ready to reproduce by age 9 
     while a corresponding human couple would be ready about age 16 or so.  
        Remember the tribbles from Star Trek?  The tribbles kept 
     reproducing the more you fed them.  The Enterprise crew finally agreed 
     to stop feeding the critters so they would stop reproducing.  Hobbits 
     are less cute and more intelligent than tribbles, but Phineas might 
     well have viewed these only as matters of degree.
     >This would inevitably lead to a situation where halfling prosperity 
     >bounced between stability and starvation.
        This is not clear.  If anything, whether we agree with Phineas use 
     of the artifact or not, it led to less starvation for those remaining.
     >Whether this set of circumstances would have had the effect of 
     >generating an "an overall improvement in the survivability of the 
     >race" is irrelevant; that was not the end to which Fineous was 
     >working.  He was working on reducing the halfling population
     >of Nerria essentially because he personally didn't like them, and all 
     >of us know it; and the ring should have too. 
        Hmmmm... it is not clear that the improvement of the halfling stock 
     was irrelevant, but I grudgingly admit this did not appear to be 
     Phineas' goal.  If Phineas had turned his genetic research attentions 
     to developing viruses with RDNA that would affix themselves to 
     halfling genomes, producing massive increases in birth defects then 
     this would have been more evil than the use of the artifact.  There 
     was more than a personal bit of dislike involved it would seem.
        The real moral issue rests on several questions.
        First, was Phineas' overall goal in using the artifact in the best 
     interests of Nerria as far as Phineas could tell? 
        Second, were the methods used by the artifact to accomplish the 
     ends to which it was tasked inherently evil?
        Third, what were the alternatives to the use of the artifact?
        I maintain that Phineas believed the halfling population to be 
     inferior in intelligence and overall capability to any of the other 
     sentient races native to Nerria.  I further maintain this was an 
     accurate belief *from Phineas' experience*.  Additionally, when 
     Phineas ascended to the throne, Nerria faced severe infrastructure 
     problems.  Disease and starvation were rampant, and Nerria was 
     involved almost immediately in a war with Hemen, bastion of hobbits.  
     In a general sense, it is *possible* to accept Phineas as acting in 
     the best perceived interest of Nerria.  
        The most accurate analogy would be to substitute Drow for Halfling. 
      If Phineas had set out to decrease the number of some evil race in 
     his domain, the cry and hue would be lessened if not eliminated.
        It is not clear the methods employed by the artifact were 
     inherently evil.  We are not sure what those methods were.  The key 
     point is that the population was only stabilized within the confines 
     of Nerria.  Also, it is not clear how powerful the artifact was.  For 
     example, if there remained only one halfling in all of Nerria, and the 
     borders were sealed then if the one halfling were killed, would he be 
     resurrected by the artifact in order to maintain the population?
        I'm not sure what the alternatives to the use of the artifact were. 
      Probably the hobbits would have been far more populous when Istalome 
     was in power.  He may have been able to gain a better foothold in 
     Nerria and eventually carried out the work that Nigilranthrib started. 
      Then again, there might have been no ill effects what so ever.
        Got to fly and pick up Kathy!
     PS Please let me know what you think!  RCS
     PPS  This might be a good topic to write up for IR.  This would be an 
     interesting area of discussion.  We should see what Pete thinks.  RCS