5 World Building Tips (Vol 2, #13): Government Types
Here are today’s world building tips! The theme is sovereign powers. You can read more in Chapter 5, “Creating Sovereign Powers”, from Creating Places, (The Art of World Building, #2).
Tip #1: “Authoritative States”
Whether an autocracy, totalitarian, dictatorship, or authoritarian government, authoritative states are not the most pleasant ones to live in unless you’re the ones in power. With severe restrictions on freedoms, our hero can find himself/herself under duress to accomplish what they desire. They make great places for your hero to destroy or at least kill the leader of. The differences are discussed in Creating Places and help make our sovereign powers stand out from each other.
Tip #2: “Democracies”
A democracy allows people to participate in government by having influence over what policies are made into laws. This means far more freedom for the population and our heroes, who might originate from such a place and be philosophically opposed to more oppressive regimes. Wanting to free someone they love or respect from such a place is the sort of thing that makes them heroic.
Tip #3: “Federations”
Whether an empire, federation, confederation, or unitary state, federations have states that have some sovereignty over their own affairs while still following the laws of the federation. Some are members voluntarily while others are not, and some can leave when they want but others cannot. Their point of origin is also different.
Tip #4: “Monarchies”
Kingdoms are common in fantasy but less so in science fiction, but either way, they’re not all the same. The two main types are absolute vs. constitutional. The former has a ruler who has no limits on his power, a scenario ripe for abuse, especially with the “divine right of kings” being employed. A constitutional monarchy gives more power to the people via parliament and results in a ruler with often severe restrictions on their powers.
Tip #5: “Oligarchies and More”
An oligarchy is any form of government where power is controlled by a small group of people. This could be those in the military, those with magic power, the wealthy, merchants, or other groups we invent. Some of these variations have names like theocracy, aristocracy, or military junta, and each may have stark differences that lets us create more variation on our world.
Summary of Chapter 5—Creating a Sovereign Power
Kingdoms, empires, dictatorships and more are types of sovereign powers that world builders can create. Before we do, a high-level understanding of the differences between them is crucial. Many variations to government types exist, which gives us freedom to tweak details for our needs, but we should know the rules before we break them. The role of sovereignty, including how it is gained and lost, is examined in this chapter along with the “divine right of kings.” We also look at the head of state and head of government roles, the differences between them, and the conflicts that can arise. The nature of each branch of government is examined along with parliamentary systems. Democracies, federations, theocracies, monarchies, autocracies and more are examined for their key differences.
Inventing a sovereign power should include friends and enemies who shape policy, lifestyle, and culture. The form of government has significant impact on inhabitants and results from world view. History affects this as well, and while creating a history is optional, it enriches the dynamics of relationships and can create heroes, villains, and attitudes in the population. We should consider which species are present and in how great a percentage, and what languages are spoken or forbidden. Our power’s location and climate will impact lifestyles and vegetation, which also influences what natural resources it has or lacks, and what the power does as a result. These can all lead to tensions both with other powers or the residents. Symbols, colors, flags, and slogans will be a source of pride and even fear for both foreigners and the population.