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Article - 'Governmental Systems for RPGs' by Faust

An item about Plots/Characters posted on Aug 8, 2003

Blurb

A list of ruling bodies you can use in your games to make them more original, with examples, descriptions and reasons for war

Body


The typical RPG (Save the princess from the DRAGON!!!) has a fairly basic feudal/monarchy as a form of government. The king is at the top, then the nobles. Everyone else is far beneath this. With modern resources at our fingertips, research is carried out on a more efficient basis. So why is it that most RPG’s use the monarchy system? How about Theocracy, Communism, Fascism, Democracy and the like? I have listed and described as many popular forms of government as I can. Hopefully you may draw inspiration from this list, as I’m sick of replaying the exact same scene inside a castle every damn game.


Monarchy

Ok, let’s start with the basics. In most fantasy settings, the typical monarchy symbolizes a class based elitist system in which history’s darkest hours have occurred; excellent for an RPG. Kings stay on the throne due to feats of arms, the nobles eat well and the peasants catch embarrassing diseases that usually kill them. Inequality is rife and wealth is shared unproportionately.

Reasons for War: Insults against the monarch, Land and wealth, Peasant revolt.
Examples of countries: Medieval England, Medieval France



Patriarchy

A Patriarchy is much like a monarchy in that it has a ruler. Where it differs, however, is in the idea of a “City State”. A City state, much like Jowston in Suikoden 2, is a collection of large cities who have banded together to form a nation for trade, diplomacy and protection. Each City-State has a government and Ruler but, unlike a Monarchy, one single ruler is not required. The state takes action based on a vote, but is still elitist as it is only the ruling families or powerful businessmen who ever become regent/patrician.

Reasons for War: Defence, Land, Embargoes (Patriarchy’s tend to avoid war if possible).

Examples of countries: Pre-Second Reich Germany, the eastern block, Imperial China under the Great houses.


Despotism

Whereas a Patriarchy is a more lenient form of feudalism, Despotism goes entirely the other way. The King or Emperor (or despot) is the ruler. Any arguments; feel his wrath! Mostly used in nations we consider “barbaric”, despotism is a classic example of an evil tyrant. Tyranny = despotism. The people are oppressed and only the strong survive. Modern nations can have despots too; for example, Stalin was considered a Despot as is Sadaam Hussein. An ultimate ruler with no boundaries can get away with what he or she likes, and many often do.

Reasons for War: Defence, Land, Embargoes (Patriarchy’s tend to avoid war if possible).

Examples of countries: Celtic Britain, Gaul, Latin Germany, Few modern African nations


Theocracy

A theocracy can sometimes be the most dangerous form of government as its disciples are willing to fight to the last. A theocratic government is governed in the name of God by his elect (Priests). Any county which is strongly influenced by the church can be considered a Theocracy, but a true example of this government type would be a region totally governed by religious officials. People are brainwashed into making decisions, no one has much freedom but all are promised rewards upon death. Theocracies, therefore, make excellent “evil empires” as its inhabitants are totally committed to following out any order or doing any deed in the name of God. Obviously some go against this, leading to the typical “Hero angst” phase. Sometimes the ruler is referred to as being God, or at least the right hand of God. People think they really want to see a heretic being persecuted for adultery, but often a good stoning can turn anyone’s stomach. The church may also oppose technological advances and free thinking, leading to more persecution. Good examples of using Theocracy are Xenogears and Final Fantasy Tactics.

Reasons for War: Arguments over texts/theories, “Heresy cleansing”, Dangerous technology, conversion.

Examples of countries: The Holy Roman Empire, The Vatican, Ancient Egypt


Communism

Communism is the exact opposite of Monarchy; in it there are no elite. Everyone is equal and the state owns and distributes all assets between its inhabitants. People are all equal, in theory, and earn the same amount. Therefore there are obviously two types of communism: Marxism and Pseudo-communism. Marxism (bluntly) fits in to the description of communism above. Pseudo-communism is a much darker version, concerned with political bloodbaths and self-promotion (much like Stalinist Russia).. The Communism constantly seeks expansion and doesn’t care too much for national pride or country’s individuality; its concern is making those countries communist. Forcing a belief on someone else is the hallmark of villainy, and communism oppresses free-thinking much like a Theocracy. Where it differs, however, is that Communism doesn’t approve of the idea of an unequal godlike figure of worship, thereby oppressing religion and waging war on Theocracies.

Reasons for War: To spread Communism (Constant war), Religion

Examples of countries: Communist Russia, Cuba and Chine for Pseudo-communism, Utopia for Marxism.


Fascism

Whereas Communism is extreme left wing, Fascism is as far right wing as you can get. When people think of Fascism then they think of Nazism, which really isn’t the case. Hitler’s government were both right and left wing but focused on the right and a distorted view of Fascism. Fascism is to fight; Fascism is national pride. You are your country, your country is the greatest! Fight and die for your country, there is no greater honour. Do not question your rulers; they know what they are doing (and convince you of this by means of many fine speeches). Fascism is basically a form of jingoistic elitism that places all non-[your-kin] in an inferior category. If they’re that inferior then why not take things off them? Demand tribute or you’ll invade. Fascism fills people with a sense of belonging, a sense of pride about their roots and identity. This form of government plays on human emotion, convincing them to take courses of action in the form of a brainwashed free will.

Reasons for War: Always war! You are your country and you must prove you are great!

Examples of countries: Mussolini’s Italy


Democracy/Republic

The “acceptable” way to live; liberal, free and without persecution. The self proclaimed greatest nations in the world fit into this category. You know all about this one so I wont bore you with the details but basically: One man, one vote, free right to speech (except in England), Free Press (Except in England). The US, as many often mistake, isn’t a democracy, but a Republic. A democracy requires proportional representation and sub-governments in each province; representatives of the people.

A further subtype of republic is a “Corporate Republic”, a feudal type system in which the rich stay rich and the rich have the power.

Reasons for War: Arrogance, fear of other government types, Resources (important).

Examples of countries: England (Democracy), United States (Corporate Republic), Ireland (Republic)



Hopefully I have illustrated a number of the avenues available for you to take other than monarchy in your game, but don’t be afraid to use said King and Dragon system should you so wish too. Just remember; originality counts. And please don’t make the king fat and old; in a fantasy style setting he wouldn’t last ten minutes unless he was fit, active and able to wield a sword better than his second in command.