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One King To Rule Them All

Founding Fathers Or Mothers

Hope you have been practicing your John Hancocks, because you are about to become a founding father or mother. I am certain that most of you have a good semblance of what you want the countries of your world to be like. Who will be ruling what and where and who. But how deep have you taken those governments? And if you don’t have any idea of what to do about creating a government, keep reading, something will trigger.

Iron ThroneTraditionally, you tend to see a kingdom ruled by a king or queen in fantasy stories. Or the occasional half-baked government formed with a ruling tyrant, and they tend to be a minion or antagonist and it doesn’t feel real besides the fact that he is terrorizing. On the flip side many are created just to fulfill the obligatory fact that, yes, these people do in fact have some form of government. Then the ruler goes off and dies, or whatever else, and the country somehow stays intact; the king’s son takes his place and the dilemma of an empty throne lasts no more than a paragraph.

Where is the life in that? What about a struggle for the throne by rivaling siblings? In history, the eldest didn’t always take the throne, siblings often killed on another for the throne. Sisters would plot and marry the right man so they could be beside him when he took the throne; sometimes she even forced her husband to take the throne so that he could be her puppet!

How about adding some real life? What if a council of lords seizes the palace and the prince must now challenge them? Maybe marshal law is called and the general becomes the warlord then declares war on a neighboring rival country? Now no one can say anything or die by the swords of his newly obtained army. A plethora of events can chain into each other, and none of it has to be a part of plot if you don’t want it to be. Of course, it will affect plot, but this is static plot, background noise almost.

Here are a few examples of government to think about and use in your writing:

Aristocracy: Form of government in which a few elite citizens rule.

Meritocracy: Rule by a group selected on the basis of their ability.

Monarchy: Rule by an individual who has inherited the role and expects to bequeath it to their heir.

Stratocracy: Form of military government in which the state and the military are traditionally the same thing.

There many others I cannot list, but you can find more in this Wikipedia article on government.

By Royal Decree

What elements of those governments are you going to use? Below I have listed some ideas that we will pretend you “thought”. I will then give you questions to think about and direction you could have take these thoughts in.

Coersolan is ruled by a queen. Nobles of the court can only rise to royalty from the High Court.

How do you get into this High Court?

How do they rise from this court of high lords and ladies?

When does one have the chance to rise?

Are they only a figure head?

Is being a Royal actually an undesired position?

Your idea can change and take new form and maybe it now looks like this:

The queen is elected from the High Court by the lesser nobles of the Lower Court to rule in the nation’s absolute-elective monarchy.

This sets the lesser nobles in a place of power. Do the lesser nobles set demands the high nobles need to meet in order to earn their support and loyalty? Or are the lesser nobles bullied and threatened into support?

What about the other members of the royal family? Would they too fight for support from the lesser nobles?

Must the heads of lower noble houses keep an eye out for assailants if not all of the members of their family support them?

Would some try to marry into a potential royal family?

Or would a neighboring court put their claim on the throne? And what happens then?

“Ver Na’slin City is ruled by the Archmage, who is placed in charge after passing an exam determined by the Vast, the all seeing crystal of the city.”

An idea almost unlimited in of itself. What type of exams are we talking? Something written, with a great knowledge and wisdom? Or maybe power?

Is the position for life?

Is the exam a formal way of choosing, but the actual exam is informal? For example, by accident?

Is there also a council mages to rule alongside the Archmage or are they just advisers?

Are any other magical persons ruling with the Archmage?

During a natural disaster, a sorcerer saves the city and is named Archmage by the Vast.

Or by design?

The Vast conjures a natural disaster to destroy Ver Na’slin. A traveling sorcerer steps in and stops the disaster and is named the new Archmage.

But what if the sorcerer failed?

What if there is already an Archmage in power?

Has the Vast become corrupted?

What type of rule does the Archmage implement, remember, this is by examination, it doesn’t say how they are to rule: Dictatorship, communism, republic. What does your Archmage rule in?

Ul’lourin is ruled by the Council of Warlords.

How organized is the military?

Do certain military positions have equivalent ranks of Lords and Ladies?

Are these positions tied to the responsibilities of lords and ladies?

Are these Warlords akin to kings and queens or lords and ladies?

Or do they denounce politics and Ul’lourin is ruled in a strict honor bound style of the military?

Ul’lourin was once ruled by High Lords, but they had worked with the enemy and betrayed the people. Upon discovery, their generals deposed them and since then Ul’lourin has avoided thick politics.

But wait, what is happening now to the country? Without politics for so long, is the nation starting to come undone? Or is it better off?

Are some positions duty bound with certain tasks of maintaining the city, but without the same perks as a lord and lady?

Are the dirty tasks not only given to lower ranked officers but to the punished officers of higher ranks, for acting like politicians?

In war for so long, is their government finally out of breath from the constant fight? What is your strategy to run this government?

The Loyal Subjects

A Diamond Sword, A Wooden Sword (cover)How will the people of these lands be shaped by their rulers? In the old days, royalty and nobility were unreachable statuses for the commoner. Even the rich class of the early Americas was unreachable. Few strived to be them, commoners didn’t even hate them. Well that is debatable, but the point is, back then commoners “knew their place” and didn’t do much about it (unless the royals pissed them off).

It’s like the upper class was another species, and this still exists today. Think about it, how many of you have ever looked at a big name in Hollywood with awe? Or an author? And think that you could never be like them? Take that and multiply it by ten and there you go: The mentality of a common everyday person less than 200 years ago. There is also the lack of individualism in these divided classes, which created great patriotism.

Why does this information matter? It doesn’t. No one said that your people have to be like ours, with a past like ours, but it is something that can be used. Think about your world and the countries within it. What kind of impact are you looking to have on your people with the ruling body? How will your characters respond or intermingle with these people? What do your characters experience? Are the people very loyal, but would rebel if the queen or king married someone from a foreign court, an ancient enemy? Going back to our earlier examples:

Coersolan

Is the attention of the commoners so caught up in the High Court that they do not notice the corrupt policies and robbery of the Lower Court on them?

Ver Na’slin

Are the people of Ver Na’slin City aware of the Vast? And if so, are they afraid of it?

Is it difficult to earn any kind of work in Ver Na’slin, due to difficult examinations? But since it’s so hard Ver Na’slin has a reputation that they only provides the best?

Or is it a city filled with tricky mages?

Would the citizens of Ver Na’slin be distrusted for their prestige?

Ul’lourin

Do the people of Ul’lourin disrespect officials, nobles and royals, because title means nothing in their nation?

Is trade becoming harder in Ul’lourin, because people are intimidated to enter such an aggressive nation?

Are the people demanding peace and freedom from the hardship of war?

Is it hard to find a wife in Ul’lourin if you are not a decorated veteran?

Army by nebezialThese are the questions you must ask about the people who populate your world. Who are they? And what do your characters think of them, or are they one of them? Governments can create great conflict for the plot, but try to let it be in the background. Let the atmosphere of a deposed Archmage bring uncertainty to the people and distrust of strangers. Why not allow a queen from a foreign power take the throne and with her prosperity to the land and welcome strangers from far off places? Allow the warlords to promote a soldier to the council and with his promotion a new campaign to begin; and the people to become worrisome and seclude themselves, as they spend their last meals away from strangers and with loved ones they may never see again. Breathe life into your world, not just conflict for the sake of plot.

The Multifaceted Diamond

Ecosystem II by relonOne more side to consider: How many types of governments are you going to employ? Too often are worlds written with the same type of government beaten across its face. Many times, it is only the opposing villain who is from, or rules, another nation with a completely different government, just to dehumanize the citizens of that land.

Think about it. I gave three examples. Imagine if all three were on the same world? Their interaction with each other would be pure conflict gold. Take that concept and give your world deeper life and a multifaceted diversity that your characters will be culturally shocked by every step through the plot, and a delight to your readers.

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5 Comments

  1. A good article. There are more mundane and familiar types of government available, though, as well. Countries in the “old days” of this world (and therefore possible models for epic fantasy) have included plutocracies (government by the merchant class – trade is always going to be important) and even an arcane concept called “democracy”. And you can always invent your own methods of government – the only limit is your imagination.

  2. Avatar wolfking says:

    Well done.

  3. Avatar Jenny says:

    Thank you for such an interesting article! I’ve justed started editing the first draft of my next novel involving a monarchy and this will be really helpful in giving the plot a bit of extra body!

  4. […] other? There are a variety of political systems to choose from, and you can find another FF article here that goes into detail on […]

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