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Another Look at the Royal Equestrian Army

Dio

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[colour=#000000]When I wrote the first draft of the Army document, I didn’t realize it would garner so much attention nor have such far-reaching consequences for the rest of the site. I juggled a lot of ideas for the REA, including Soviet-era orders of battle, Roman legions, and finally the modern United States Army circa 2010. Since the REA was originally built for the Heart of Equestria RP setting, it had a lot more offensive capability and was very capable of handling warfighting. It was the fantasy army that everyone wanted it to be.[/colour]

[colour=#000000]A paradigm shift occurred about a year and a half ago with the acquisition of the site by Manestream and Autumn. The creative vision for the RP was tightened up considerably and directed to the slice of life aspect of FiM. While it limited the use and scope of the REA, I believe it was overall a healthy decision for the board.[/colour]

[colour=#000000]There were still a few issues with the extant REA, however. Despite the fact that it was never formally ratified as board lore, many people used the draft document as the basis for creating their characters. The current draft is slightly bloated and places too much emphasis on the specific military units and their capabilities. Eventually, I want players to be able to create their own units for their guardsponies to be proud of. The design document is meant to be a guide rather than a hard checklist.[/colour]

[colour=#000000]In addition to the less-than-perfect design document, the general attitude of players regarding soldier characters seems to be based on Hollywood action films. The films focus on the violent part of being a soldier, a part which rarely ever comes into play in real life-- even less so in the FiM universe. These applications tend to focus on a soldier’s abilities to harm others and those alone.[/colour]

[colour=#000000]Most of the guardspony characters came out all right, but I noticed several applications that made their REA ponies clearly combat oriented (I myself am guilty of this with my earlier characters). Their backstories often included experience in combat of some sort though there has been no war in over 1000 years in board canon.[/colour]

[colour=#000000]While the ability to cause harm is necessary in the act of making war, it is very different for a Canterlot guard or an REA garrison responding to a petty crime or monster attack. Equestria on the whole is not a violent place. The willingness to protect innocents is laudable, but the willingness to harm others indiscriminately is not a normal attitude to have in either human or pony universes. Ponies as a whole are seen as a peaceful species who would not escalate to violence to solve problems. To have assassin or psychopathic murderer ponies exist in Mane RP is not only excessive but antithetical to what the FiM (and by extension WOE) stands for. Likewise, having armed ponies who brandish their weapon with little or no provocation is against the general Equestrian mindset.[/colour]

[colour=#000000]This is not to say that Equestrian soldiers (or even civilian sheepdogs) should not be trained in the use of their arms and armor. It is the duty of the Royal Equestrian Army to prevent harm from coming to those they are entrusted to protect. It therefore makes perfect sense for them to wield weapons, wear armor, and practice the art of war with their comrades in arms. How then, do we qualify what is okay and what is not okay for a soldier or sheepdog?[/colour]

[colour=#000000]The first qualifier is appropriateness. It must be reiterated that Equestria is not a violent place. While there may be dangerous things in the wild and creatures that could cause grievous harm to those caught unprepared, violent crimes such as assault or homicide (or the threatening thereof) are unheard of and wholly inappropriate for WOE. When creating characters for the Mane RP it is important to consider the universe in which a character is being created for. This is Equestria, land of magical, talking, pastel-coloured ponies, not a blasted post-apocalyptic wasteland or a world engulfed in the flames of war. Ponies simply do not hold murderous attitudes against each other or even other species.[/colour]

[colour=#000000]The second qualifier is character. A character should not be defined by their weapon or the more violent parts of their profession. As consumers of entertainment media, we tend to have a fixation with the arms and armor of those with the soldier profession, so much so, that sometimes we forget that there is a person (or in this case pony) behind the hardware. That pony has friends and family, doubts and fears, hopes and dreams. Those personality traits should be at the forefront of the character, not their skill at arms or their capacity for slaughter.[/colour]

[colour=#000000]The final qualifier is mindset. The mindset of the soldier and the sheepdog is that of readiness; of being ready to put themselves in harm’s way to protect the innocent. Protecting the innocent may be as simple as scaring off a bully or as complex as disrupting a crime in progress. It may be as mundane as giving a smile of confidence to a worried foal or as heart-wrenching as making the ultimate sacrifice so that others may live. In addition, soldiers are not trained in a vacuum. While each individual is responsible for learning their arms and armor, they are trained to take on the enemy as members of a team. There are few things that can forge stronger relationships-- that feeling of espirt de corps-- than the crucible of military training. I would expect nothing less from Equestria’s finest.[/colour]

[colour=#000000]Friendship is inherently sacrificial. You give your time and efforts and open yourself to hurt in order to make your friends happy and in return be made happy by them. The vigilante, assassin, and violent soldier archetypes are selfish by nature; they appoint themselves sole executors of the law and need no one else to fulfill themselves. This goes against the core themes in FiM: the focus on morality, sticking with your friends, giving those who are different a chance, and the emphasis on nonviolent solutions to complex problems.[/colour]

[colour=#000000]A soldier or sheepdog knows his or her tools and respects the great power he or she wields. Weapons are only meant to be used in the most dire of circumstances and to be frank, most WOE scenarios do not mandate their use or even their presence. I think the opening paragraph of the REA’s overview expresses this best: [/colour]

[colour=#000000]

The REA represents the best of Equestria, simultaneously championing Equestrian pride, sovereignty, and magnanimity.
[/colour]

[colour=#000000]The protectors of Equestria are exemplars; they protect Equestria not by slaying her enemies, but by being shining examples of loyalty, honor, teamwork, and the willingness to sacrifice for the well-being of others.[/colour]

[colour=#000000]That is what being in the REA is about.[/colour]



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Those users who app REA ponies with the obvious purpose of having them "see action" don't really grasp what WoE is supposed to be about. If a soldier can't be played well within a slice-of-life setting, they're simply not a fit for a setting attempting to replicate the core mood of FiM. That said, I hope other users take inspiration from this article and go create more members of the REA. :)

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Extremely comprehensive and well written. Excellent job, Dio - I can't see a guard pony in that show without thinking of you and all of your hard work!

As to what Bellybutton said: If that's the case, why let Sugar Star through? She's obviously a hardened and violent soldier with a voice like gravel and a penchant for behaviour that's harmful towards others!

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Wonderfully written, Dio. I hope with the new RP space coming up, it might give you a better platform to jump off of with your original vision.

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