Uriah Gambit
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In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. In it he wrote, “Put Uriah out in front where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.”
So while Joab had the city under siege, he put Uriah at a place where he knew the strongest defenders were. When the men of the city came out and fought against Joab, some of the men in David’s army fell; moreover, Uriah the Hittite died.

2SAM11:14-17 NIV

Basic Information

The Uriah Gambit is what happens when, for one reason or another, a character's superiors want them dead and accordingly assign them duties that make their death almost inevitable (civillian employers may be obliged to settle for imprisonment instead).

The trope namer comes, as per the flavour text, from The Bible, where David, King of Israel had impregnated the wife of one of his officers. Having tried - and failed - to get the officer to accept home leave so that he would assume he had fathered the child himself, David then arranged for the unfortunate man to be killed in action. The officer in question was Uriah the Hittite.

Motives for a Uriah gambit can vary immensely, from adultery to simple dislike of the target - and something similar might apply to a pirate captain, sailing on account, who leads his crew into a bloody battle to increase the size of the shares paid to the survivors. Witnesses to a superior's corruption or cowardice are also likely victims - as may be those who are only imagined to know too much. Equally, incompetent, stupid or disruptive men may be abandoned to enemy action, as may unwanted members of various conspiracies.

Sources

Bibliography
1. 2 Samuel chapter 11 (King James Version) — the source of the story of Uriah
2. 2 Samuel chapter 12 — End of the story in which David's crime is brought to light
3. 1 Samuel Chapter 18 — Earlier, David was the victim of an attempted Uriah gambit: King Saul demanded that David bring him the foreskins of 100 Philistines as a bride-price for his daughter, hoping that David would get killed in trying. It didn't work.
4. fiction: "The Crooked Man" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle — Sherlock Holmes story referencing the Uriah story.
5. fiction: "The Sign of the Sword" by C.K. Chesterton — not exactly a Uriah gambit in that the perpetrator does not actually send his enemy to his death, but he does use his command in battle as part of a crime.

Game and Story Use

  • PCs could find themselves in this sort of position for a variety of reasons - an employer might even do it just to avoid paying them, but whistleblowers, the nosey, the excessively ethical and those suspected of disloyalty might find themselves sent on a one-way mission as well.
    • One of the missions in the "Advanced" supplement for Palladium's Recon RPG involved PCs who showed too much interest in the traffic of illegal drugs through Vietnam being sent on a "routine mission" to search for a downed helicopter crew who didn't exist in an area about to play host to a huge movement of NVA troops.
    • Recalling that Uriah was, after all, an officer, the PCs might find themselves on this sort of job by accident as their patron or employer is targetted.
  • Of course, these things can backfire - if the potential Uriah and his men survive, the conspirator(s) may end up going to greater and greater lengths to try and cover up their failure.
    • Then either the Uriah catches them or their own superiors notice (in the original version, Uriah died and the King was only called to account by his superior at a later date).
    • A possible attempt to do this to a young G. Julius Caesar during the siege of Mytilene backfired so badly that he and the men with him were highly decorated - Caesar winning one of Rome's highest honours in the process.
  • PCs may find the remains of (or a dying) a Uriah and inherit evidence of the original offence and a knowledge of the attempted coverup.
  • PCs may find that their enemy is a Uriah, and, if allowed to live, will attack the BBEG under his own steam.
  • Less scrupulous PCs may be tempted to dispose of annoying underlings or other NPCs in this manner…
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