Power Structures - The Art of World Building
Jul 302020
 
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Knowing how our invented organization operates has much to do with the power structure. World builders and audiences gain much from having clarity about this. While some groups have a leader, others are run by an inner circle and others might have member votes. Nevertheless, a single leader, even a figurehead, can be useful, speak for the group, and do things like break a tie. Power struggles within an inner circle can be useful for tension; they may arise from the lack of formal structure we’d see in the military.

Power comes in many forms, such as physical or supernatural might. This may be more prized in evil organizations, a leader possibly chosen by killing a previous one. That might cause fear that keeps people in line in an evil group, but likely causing dissention in a good group, where intellect might be more favored.

Wealth can be power when properties are acquired, such as a group’s headquarters. For the rich, this can confer power over the group unless it can choose another HQ. Money can also purchase supplies, whether weapons, armor, transportation, or basic necessities. It can buy spies and corrupt officials. But others might covet it, putting the individual at risk. Some groups won’t respect it. And wealth can be lost.

Connections and influence are impossible to steal and difficult to acquire. Influencing those outside the group, such as political leaders, tends to be for older people, who’ve had time to forge relationships over decades. Within the group, anyone could forge influential connections, making others see them as a leader, despite not being an official one.

Mental acuity can be prized in leaders, especially in good organizations, where leaders rely on input, showing respect for those they disagree with and giving kudos to those whose ideas help, which increases loyalty. They can become the leader even if someone else has more money, connections, or physical strength. This power cannot easily be taken from them. They conceive great plans that further the group’s goals and foresee flaws in others’ plans.

Aside from leadership roles, the rest of the group may have no defined structure beyond an inner circle, who earn that place through the influences just discussed. New recruits may be treated differently, but once accepted beyond a probationary period, the new individuals may be on their own to form allies within the organization. Unless we have a specific reason for being detailed with group structure, such as writing a story about someone’s time joining a group, participating, and eventually departing, a non-structured group is a good choice.

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