5 World Building Tips (Vol 2, #4): Sovereign Powers
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: “Is the Sovereign Recognized?”
Just because your sovereign power declares itself to be one, that doesn’t mean other countries acknowledge this sovereignty. Even within a power, some might not recognize it. This sort of dispute gives rise to stories like Game of Thrones. When Napoleon dubbed himself emperor of France, the rest of Europe disagreed. We can leverage such scenarios.
Tip #2: “You’re Head of What?”
There’s a difference between the head of state and head of government, though the same person can be in both roles. Certain government types separate them while others don’t. Conflict can be easily achieved by pitting two people against each other, but you’ll need to know when this makes sense.
Tip #3: “Invent for Today”
You should have a present state in mind for your sovereign power because the form of government may have changed repeatedly in the past – and again in the future. This happens for quite a few reasons, including war, a weak ruler, and economics. A past colors the present both in monuments, buildings, and other architectural items, but in population attitude, which is something to add to character backstories.
Tip #4: “Decide Who Lives There”
We should have an idea what percentage of the overall population each of our species/races is. This helps determine how common other languages are and if the culture of other species is an influence or not. A reason for the inclusion or exclusion can add tension, such as racism or one species preferring a landscape feature (like a forest) and being there despite attempts at eradicating them.
Tip #5: “What’s the World View?”
There are many ideas we can give our sovereign power, including the freedom (or lack thereof) to perform magic, own property, use vessels and space craft (or technology), or how welcoming they are of other species and cultures. Creating Places has a list of things to consider.
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.