Worldbuilding pt. 08: politics
After seven blog posts (and about six months of real time), we can finally get into some grounded worldbuilding. I wrote about magic, biology, and gods already, but what really moves the plot forward is politics.
The great game
Most things you worldbuild will become the backdrop of your player’s adventures unless you make it a point to bring something to the forefront. Gods will only be relevant if a PC is particularly religious or if there is a cult the party needs to fight; the outer planes will only matter if you’re GMing a planar campaign; so on and so forth.
Politics is the exception. In my opinion, politics is the most important component of worldbuilding because your players will probably interact with it no matter what. If you’re playing D&D, it is assumed in the title: you can’t have dungeons without a society to build them in the first place.
For this reason, I want Unaria’s politics to be complex and interesting. There won’t be a whole country full of evil people, much less a whole species1. Taking a page from Colville’s excellent politics series, all factions should have reasonable and convincing beliefs which might persuade the players to be on their side.
Making it mine
As with most Human kingdoms in the Age of Blood, Ebora used to be an administrative region of the Undying Empire that splintered off in the early years after the Branching.
The Empire depended on powerful magic to maintain their tight grip on the whole territory and, without it, everything was up for grabs. Once magic weakened, for instance, the Emperor couldn’t teleport whole armies to zones of conflict as he once did. In fact, the very spell that granted him his exceptionally long life2 deteriorated so much that the poor fool began aging quite rapidly.
Naturally, the first one to claim and retain the title of monarch was Lord Vedres, Ebora’s former imperial administrator. Many local leaders also tried to create their own smaller governments, but these attempts were quickly squandered; the only contender who actually had some success in their bid to become Ebora’s ruler was that era’s Living Saint, the term for the head of the Church of the Pure. Centuries later, Ebora still lives under the coexisting rulerships of the Monarch and of the Living Saint3.
The first one hundred years of independence weren’t easy for Ebora. Violent neighboring states, border disputes, pillaging bandits, internal conflicts, succession crises, all plagued the nascent kingdom. It wasn’t until 189 A.B. that Arthur the Wise was able to, through a complex network of alliances and favors, consolidate the whole territory under his rule.
More than 200 years later, Charles II now rules Ebora during a new period of uncertainty. The last remains of imperial infrastructure are crumbling, monster raids are getting more frequent, and strange cults seem to be growing in popularity. Instability got to such a degree that he began hiring groups of mercenary adventurers to go to the most remote edges of the empire and help his subjects.
In these troubled times, four factions formed among the landed nobility, each seeking to expand their influence while the king struggles with his problems.
Countess of Corgas, to the east, commands a group of aristocrats who want greater control over maritime trade and the taxation of imports.
Count of Soldos and his allies in the west, starved of resources, want to enact a system of prince-electors who have a say in the next succession.
Marquess of Courela’s southern coalition seeks a stronger army capable of annexing more lands for them to farm.
The Living Saint leads the most powerful faction in the northwest, plotting to increase the power of the Church of the Pure through a series of laws that take power away from the king.
Every single source of instability, including these factions, are a possible hook for players and their characters. Are they going to get involved? Are they going to pick sides? If you run them up a tree, they will have to.
I got your back, orcs. ↩︎
In the Age of Magic, leaders used to live so much that many generations ended up being governed by the same person. Nowadays, monarchs a named after their predecessors to give the same impression of continuity. ↩︎
In fact, most kingdoms of today have some sort of symbiotic relationship with their local churches. Some are even governed by clergymen. ↩︎