Novel polities for my own solo setting

I am slowly writing my own little Cepheus/Traveller quadrant of four subsectors in Docs.

Just for solo adventures. But all original, no carry overs from other settings.

Anyone have suggestions for novel political structures I might deploy?

@Agemegos is your man here. :slight_smile:

“Things that will get PCs into trouble” is my usual basis. Odd legal systems: oh you want to contest that speeding ticket, OK, here’s your morning star.

Senior government and civil service positions are decided by lottery every three years. Entry is voluntary, tickets have a set (and quite low) cost, but there’s a small chance that you win a public execution instead. Intended to ensure that people who want to run the country are serious about it.

Anyone who is in the country at the time and buys a ticket is eligible, which should open up a plot idea or two.

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I’m thinking of Robert Heinlein’s comment that the vote should be restricted to people who have a proven stake in the future, which in his interpretation was “women who have borne children.” Not men, because fatherhood is a theory, but motherhood is a fact (an assertion Heinlein was not the first to make).

“The Imperium says we have to have a planetary government, so we do” – but it’s actually a performance art project by the young and unruly, while the real government is…

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Fatherhood is a fact, now. DNA testing. Though I recently read about a case in which a court ruled that both of a pair of identical twins had to pay support for a certain child. (

Well, that’s true, I have to grant.

Well, you’ve got the usual monarchy, dictatorship, aristocracy, oligarchy, isocratic republic, plutocratic republic, democracy, ochlocracy, chaos, and civil war.

Then you can ring the changes on rules of succession: immortality, inheritance, co-optation, designation, sortition, competitive examination, election, and main force.

Recognising that there is practically always an administrative hierarchy, you can consider the cases where it is all subject to the central authority (“unitary state”), those which go by promotion up the hierarchy (“bureaucracy”), and those in which different places in the hierarchy are separate lines of succession (“feudalism” if hereditary, “federalism” if elected or assorted). And then you can consider the constrast between a territorial hierarchy (in which regional sub-governments have their own departments of health, education etc.) and a functional hierarchy (in which the departments of health, education, police etc. are central and may have regional branches).

Then give some thought to restrictions on the franchise (if any) and eligibility for office. Sex, property, social class of birth, age, education or training (perhaps even relevant training, in freak examples), performance in competitive written examinations, qualifying prior experience in government or the military, qualifying prior experience in civil life, religious observation, religious ordination, literacy, bond, and cash payment have all been required in examples I can think of. Umm. Office or the franchise might be restricted to married people, or to celibate people (monasteries and convents ruling lay tenants, prince-bishoprics), or to people with children.

A while ago @whswhs mentioned a Kipling story (The Miracle of Purun Bhagat) in which political office was qualifying service for something even more prestigious.

I sometimes turn for inspiration to anthropological examples of the different systems of inheritance and authority in a household, such as when men rule matrilineal families, so that a king is succeeded by his son-in-law or his sister’s son, his own son either marrying some other king’s daughter or being not certainly identified.

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And then you have term in office. For life.
For a fixed term.
Until a specified age.
During the confidence of a supervising body (e.g. parliament).
During the confidence of the electorate (limited terms, but with re-election allowed.
Until failing a test of fitness (e.g. foot-race vs. potential heirs).
Until defeat in a challenge.
Until the Midsummer dice roll doubles.

There’s also the GURPS range of control ratings, or how much power the state has, from complete anarchy to complete totalitarianism, with constitutional government somewhere in the midrange.

Yes, and GURPS’ position on that brings us to the question of mode of production. GURPS’ “society types” conflate form of government, mode of production, and social structure together, so that, for example “theocracy” is an alternative to both “communism” and “caste system”.

I have to say I find that list a bit problematic. For one thing it’s incomplete; there is no listing of any society type for which CR1 is even an option. And it’s often tricky to figure out where a society fits on it.

In a fantasy campaign, “Death will not release you” may be an option. And perhaps in a transhumanist campaign, your term of office is carried on by your upload if you aren’t alive to complete it. I remember Glory Road, where the Empress of Twenty Universes has uploads of thousands of years of previous emperors and empresses to guide her.

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And there’s been a recent thread on the SJGames forums (which has wandered comprehensively, as they do):

Sorry, I seem to be unreasonably crabby at the moment.

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Not your list at all. I was having problems with the Steve Jackson Games list of “society types.”

Burning Empires had a nice list of “regulated goods and services” as part of their planetary government creation. You pick some things which are unavailable or banned, and some which are government controlled (and taxed). They also encouraged players to add things to the list.

The basic list was:

  • Psychic powers
  • Slavery
  • Manufacture of military weapons and vehicles
  • Immigrant labour
  • Power infrastructure
  • Medical practice and hospitals
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Weaponry
  • Livestock
  • Sex trade
  • Recreational drugs incl alcohol & tobacco
  • Food preparation
  • Waste disposal
  • Marriage
  • Music

And Summerland has a table for “this community has an odd attitude to” this:

  • men or boys
  • women or girls
  • the dead
  • animals
  • criminals
  • outsiders

Do some random rolls and see if it inspires you to create a quirky government???

Meanwhile… if you want a system where the dead have more rights than the living, Frances Hardinge’s Gullstruck Island has a culture which makes tombs on the best land as a sign of respect for the dead. People get crowded out of the centre of towns and off the best farmland as the graveyards grow and grow. Eventually they emigrated to another country in search of land which wasn’t filled with their ancestors’ tombs.

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To reduce nepotism and corruption, provide the rulers with palaces, rations, and servants but don’t allow them personal property. And require that they be sterilised or (much less effective) celibate, perhaps both. In short, institute rule by nuns and monks.

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Thanks folks.
That will help get my juices flowing .