Background: my character concept is that of a combat medic. He accepts the use of war as an instrument of public policy, but he retains compassion for his opponents. I want it to be the case that he is recognizable as being distinctively good by his behavior (from a modern viewpoint), not just that he's fighting on the side of the Good-aligned gods of the campaign.
This is the situation:
We are currently agents of an elven nation, the Qualinesti. The Qualinesti are seeking a new place to live, because they are fleeing their former land in advance of an evil army.
We've asked the Silvanesti if they have any land to spare, and they've said "we're too crowded, but you could have this area that we've evacuated. You just need to do something about the marauding ogres."
So we found a group of ogres squatting in a former elven village.
We shouted, "Go away!" at them, and instead of leaving peacefully, they attacked. (I can't feign surprise at this.)
After a bit of combat, we now have five defeated ogres. Defeated, but not dead--and due to quick medical intervention, not likely to die unless we deliberately kill them.
The big question: now what to we do with them?
Putting them to the sword now seems hard to reconcile with my goals of being recognizably good.
Taking them captive does not seem logistically feasible for our small adventuring party--and even if we could keep these five ogres prisoner, we couldn't suppress many more ogres.
My party members have claimed that if we let any ogres get away, they will regroup and attack in force. I'm not sure I believe this, but I don't have a solid counterargument.
(This question may be further complicated by a language barrier between us and the ogres, but I'd like to figure out what I want to do if there's no language barrier.)
This ties in to the broader question of "what do we want to do with the ogres in general?"
The most bloodthirsty member of our party has claimed that we have to kill them all, or they will eventually repopulate enough to assault the elves again. I have weak counterarguments against that with the case of the American Indians, but my major response is an emotional "Eww!"
I've found myself uncertain about this question enough that I've been reading Wikipedia articles on military law and ethics. I don't feel I have answers yet, though.
I do have half a loophole here--the Hague Conventions say "The provisions ... are only binding on the Contracting Powers, in case of war between two or more of them."
The Geneva Conventions have a similar clause, but they say that in "the relationship between the "High Contracting Parties" and a non-signatory, the party will remain bound until the non-signatory no longer acts under the strictures of the convention." (I'm quoting http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geneva_Conventions .)
That, I think, closes the loophole and requires me to treat these ogres decently.
I feel that there ought to be some solution that doesn't involve either being cruel or being a sucker, but I don't know what it is. I'd like help finding it.