The code has been there since the beginning. If a bigger threat shows up, we band together. We don’t distract each other with attacks or murder attempts, we don’t take advantage of the situation to fuck with civilians. The truce is there for a reason, and it has weight because everyone knows that they can’t handle the trouble that gets express-delivered to their doorsteps when they’ve defied it.
The Unwritten Rules, also known as the code, the truce or the game, were a semi-unofficial code of honor adopted by capes. It existed in multiple countries, including much of North America and Australia, but not Russia, which had it own code, or the CUI.
Skitter was accused of breaking the unwritten rules by allegedly taking advantage of the Battle against Leviathan to learn Shadow Stalker's secret identity. As a compromise, it was suggested that she could reveal her identity to Shadow Stalker, for which there was precedent.
Armsmaster was considered to have broken the unwritten rules by steering villains into the path of Leviathan without telling them.
Two years after the event a general amnesty for all capes, a "second chance" of sorts, became a part of the unwritten rules. It's implementation has had inconsistent success, With some people and groups becoming heroic and welcomed with varying levels of acceptance. While others were shunned and doubled down on their villainy.
↑ 1.01.11.21.3The rules of ‘the game’ were that guns were verboten. ‘The game’. Gangs liked the terminology, and I was pretty sure it had stemmed from that culture. It was the nature of social groups to self-moderate. Things that were selfish and advantageous but that went against the group’s greater interests were acted on. Capes leaned pretty heavily on that abstract moderating force, because the laws had never kept up with us and we’d had to moderate ourselves.
That was the game. It was the walking of the line between the selfish things we did for ourselves and our teams and what served the greater good. Secret identities were to be left alone. Families weren’t to be touched. The day to day of the city and civilian lives weren’t allowed to be disrupted. No killing; no guns. - Excerpt from Shadow 5.8
↑ 2.02.12.22.184.108.40.206To be clear, the self-reproducing creations thing is what gets you labeled as a Class-S threat. That's basically a kill order, but more in the line of "We're going to call in everyone we can to put you down."
Unwritten (well, some are written) rules in the cape community extend to: no murder, no rape, no going after families, you maintain the overall peace (generally meaning keeping the truce and not being such a monster/threat that people can't sleep in their beds at night - Bakuda broke this one). You don't **** with people's secret identities or private lives (ie. their families), etc, etc. Different areas maintain different variations on these rules. Breaking these rules may get you sent to the Birdcage. Consistently breaking them may get a kill order placed on your head. - Wildbow on MythWeavers
↑ 3.03.1The unwritten rules in Russia's underworld are different - parahumans don't fight parahumans. Only the Elitnaya and foreign powers are fair game (and are the ultimate reason for the rule - if you fight amongst yourselves, you're too weak to stop the Elitnaya). This makes for strangely honorable scenarios where two parahumans might come across one another in a firefight and call a temporary ceasefire, or completely ignore one another. Those who've survived within the Dno are generally smart, merciless, and scary. When new parahumans show up, they're brought before a group, tested, and if they prove worthy, are freed to join whomever. Those that fail, refuse to join a group or who are deemed too damaged are liable to be executed. - Private message by Wildbow, archived on Spacebattles
↑ 5.05.15.25.3"You violated the code by association when you took someone, took control of someone. The same someone who you saw unmasked. You violated the code again when you attacked Triumph's family. So what's stopping us from tearing off your mask right now? The same code you've disrespected and broken?". - Excerpt from Queen 18.3
↑ 6.06.1"Taylor," Charlotte whispered. "If they know who you are, they know. They could find you again, or put your face on the news." "If they did, it would be breaking a good few unwritten rules. Especially if they only knew who I was because I helped with the Echidna situation. They can't afford to punish villains for helping against the big threats. It would mean fewer people showed, and they need all the help they can get. Here, at least, they could say I was intruding on neutral ground." - Excerpt from Chrysalis 20.4
↑ 8.08.18.2You've heard about it happening. Someone finds out another cape's secret identity, goes after the cape's family. Or a cape wins a fight and decides his downed opponent isn't in a state to say no if he's feeling lusty? Word gets around, and the cape community goes after the fucker. Protecting the status quo, keeping the game afloat. Bitter enemies call a truce, everyone bands together, favors get called in and everyone does their damndest to put the asshole down. - Excerpt from Agitation 3.6
↑ 9.09.19.2"You know the rules, here?" Grue asked Trickster.
"We've been to similar places. I can guess. No fighting, no powers, no trying to bait others into causing trouble, or everyone else in the room puts aside all other grievances to put you down."
"Close enough. It's important to have neutral ground to meet, have civilized discussion." - Excerpt from Hive 5.1
↑I'd like to keep to the unwritten rules, as abused as they have been, lately. Killing should be a last resort. - Excerpt from Interlude 20.y
↑To the PRT, on the surface, they've got a villain that's getting too big for their boots, who're eliminating competition, breaking the rules, and who could very easily be willing to escalate to start targeting heroes. A murder out in public is very visible and newsworthy, and people in the public get scared. It's controversial. They don't want things to escalate. To the PRT, more behind the scenes, they have a vested interest in the balance and the unwritten rules. They want to keep parahuman numbers up. So they have task forces who are exclusively trained to keep stuff like this from coming about. - Wildbow on Reddit
↑ 12.012.112.2"They've broken other unspoken rules," Assault said, looking at Triumph and Miss Militia rather than the junior members. "Shatterbird? Are we really going to let that one slide?" "Anything goes when fighting the Nine," Miss Militia said. "The Nine are gone. He's still breaking the rules. He kidnapped and took control of Shadow Stalker. He's affected civilians. Criminals, admittedly, but still civilians." - Excerpt from Interlude 15
↑As stated by others, it depends on what you do, not what you have. A lot of people (especially backseat critics who like to go on at length about what in-story characters are doing wrong) tend to say 'Gawd! just bring a gun, shoot them!', but in reality carrying a gun tends to say a lot, changing all interactions surrounding a cape. Knives and other weapons do to, but carrying something like that can often be considered almost an extension of the costume/image. Guns fit into that less. Carrying a gun adjusts all interactions. You're saying 'I'm not in this to play' or 'I'm expecting to hurt seriously and risk being hurt, and I'm prepared to defend myself'. It escalates the game and makes everyone a little more tense. A gang of thugs that all carry guns are going to come across as much more serious and will be treated as such. Getting arrested while having a gun, even if you don't use it, the group is going to get hit that much harder. Less so for a single individual carrying a gun in a larger group. In short, it's discouraged. Keep in mind that I'm talking about handguns here. Rifles, SMGs, shotguns, the context is much different. You don't bring a SMG to perform more effective warning shots. Using a gun, though, that changes things. The moment someone gets shot, it stops being theatrics and posturing and becomes an omnipresent danger. The game is no longer being entertained. In large part, context aside, the shooter is giving up the unwritten rules that would benefit them. Tattletale played by the rules. She shot Glory Girl to disable the forcefield. Still softballing it. Skitter shot Coil, but there was a longstanding relationship (and it was fairly discreet). Still sketchy, still a problem. Doing it with no warning, shooting a civilian, doing it recklessly enough civilians get caught in the crossfire, doing it against someone weaker, all will be perceived as dangerous and reckless. Maybe the entire city's cape population doesn't band together to go after you like the ABB did, but others may start playing it like the referee isn't watching anymore. You're the guy who shot Smokey Bandit, I don't know the whole story, and I'm not going to give you the benefit of a doubt and fight you one on one. I'm going to blindside you with two of my buddies at my back. Oh, you want to join Dark Lord Prowess' team? Well he doesn't want a jackoff who shoots B-listers working for him. Hm, you want to deal with me? Work together? Fuck you, it's your recklessness that's scaring civilians and making it harder for me to keep stuff running smoothly. The way the rules work, people know what's up and generally things work against those who pack heat and those who use it recklessly. They end up alone, they end up with more enemies rallied against them, hitting harder, and generally they get enough warnings that they should cut it out that they'll quit it or commit. Typically the approach of the opposition will be 'we know he uses guns, so let's not make this a thing that keeps escalating'. In different areas, though, the situation may well be different. I can picture Texas having more gun-wielding capes in general. - Wildbow on Reddit
↑ 15.015.1I couldn't really believe they were going to arrest me. Like Tattletale had said, there were rules. Largely unspoken rules, but still more important than anything else in the cape community. You didn't profit from an Endbringer attack, you didn't attack your nemeses or take advantage of undefended areas to steal. You didn't arrest a villain that came to help.
Because when people started doing that, the truce broke and things became ten times easier for the Endbringer. - Excerpt from Extermination 8.6
↑ 16.016.116.2The code has been there since the beginning. If a bigger threat shows up, we band together. We don’t distract each other with attacks or murder attempts, we don’t take advantage of the situation to fuck with civilians. - Excerpt from Cockroaches 28.5
↑"Tattletale," Miss Militia said, "I'm going to remove the gun. Think very carefully about what you say. Deliberately attempting to divide our ranks could be seen as a violation of the truce, and I will push for the kill order if it goes that far." - Excerpt from Scourge 19.4
↑"You broke the truce when you said what you did about her. You risked breaking the ceasefire between heroes and villains that stands whenever the Endbringers attack."
↑ 19.019.119.2"But we have a store of equipment we confiscated from Bakuda when we raided her laboratory. Miss Militia deployed a number against Leviathan, but we have more. Once the other factions have engaged, we bombard the area with the remainder in a second strike. Our research suggests that several of these explosives can bypass the Manton effect."
"This breaks the unspoken rules between capes. And the truce against the Nine. I don't like this." - Excerpt from Interlude 13
↑ 20.020.1"It's like I was telling you, Taylor, someone breaks those unspoken rules, the community protects the status quo. Us villains make truce with the local authorities, we actually work together, in a way, with the cops, capes and military holding the line during the day, and taking down any ABB members who stick their heads up, while us villains do the nitty gritty stuff… In this case, it's probably more blatant an invoking of that than any example I can think of. Guess we can thank Coil for that." - Excerpt from Tangle 6.1
↑"It's customary for there to be violent retaliation if someone causes trouble at a meeting like this," Skitter said. "Usually involving every other party that's present." - Excerpt from Interlude 20.y
↑I could go on a whole spiel about the unwritten rules. But that's not important. For people like Tagg and Piggot, it's cape business, and they're not quite part of that. - Imago 21.2
↑You broke the unwritten rules, because you think that you don't have to obey them, since you aren't a cape. Except you're forgetting why they exist in the first place. The rules keep the game afloat. - Excerpt from Cell 22.3
↑Gavel. Cell block leader. A vigilante who had gone after families, particularly spouses and children, all so he could break his enemies before his namesake weapon could. He'd been notorious in the days before the three strike rule or even the code. - Excerpt from Extinction 27.3
↑Brockton Bay, in large part, was sitting this one out. Hannah wasn’t a true asset against Behemoth. Besides, the truce was in worse shape than it had been even in the beginning, and the portal too important. - Excerpt from Interlude 24.x
↑“My concern…” a woman said, drawing out the thought, “Is that her actions go against the spirit of the PRT and the groups under the PRT’s umbrella. Conspiring with a known terrorist, betraying the truce, even, for a subtle advantage in dealing with that terrorist, returning to her old team against all terms of her probation, rejecting orders, and taking reckless risks with PRT personnel, getting two injured. A longstanding goal of the PRT has been to reassure the public, and this only paints heroes as something dangerous.” - Excerpt from Scarab 25.1
↑The unwritten rules that govern the fights and outright wars between ‘capes’ have been amended: everyone gets their second chance. It’s an uneasy thing to come to terms with when notorious supervillains and even monsters are playing at being hero. - Ward synopsis
↑When people hadn’t been able to go after the Fallen, the pressures and responses for the Fallen’s actions had come to rest on the heads of the bikers and other allies. People had been less willing to deal with them, more force had been used against them, and the message had been driven home.
The problem with the cycle was that being on the outs made them more likely to bend or break the rules. The wedge between them and everyone else had also made them more inclined to simply fold into the Fallen, especially after Gold Morning.
The amnesty was a thing, crimes had been pardoned, but feelings were still feelings. The bikers had backed up some of the shittiest people around, and that was hard to let go of. - Excerpt from Shadow 5.8