Political Systems in Dark Horizon

Hello everyone. You may have wondered what became of my Dark Horizon project that I started a while back. The last post I made on it was last summer which was just before I started writing for Continuing Mission. Contributing that blog and a grueling work schedule this spring has meant a gap in putting material out but I’ve still been quietly working at it on the side. Today I’m back with a look at part of the section on making stellar systems for your player characters to visit.

The political system of a star system can be an immediate and omnipresent factor when visiting. Because of the system of contractual sovereignty the political structure can vary wildly between systems even within a given regional power. It’s important to know what sort of system awaits you on the other side of a Singularity Gate and sometimes the political system is so different that it seeps into all aspects of society.

Editorial Note: This is covered at the beginning of the Stellar Systems chapter but these tables are really just there to help you generate things on the fly or to help with feeling stuck. The table below isn’t set in stone and you can make your own decisions, although I used anydice.com to help put the easiest options on the most likely results. This should stop you from getting six ergatocracies in a row…

4d6 Political System 4d6 Political System
4 Anocracy 15-16 Oligarchy
5 Cybersynacy 17 Monarchy
6 Kritarchy 18 Plutocracy
7 Kraterocracy 19 Theocracy
8 Anarchism 20 Aristocracy
9 Militocracy 21 Geniocracy
10 Technocracy 22 Ergatocracy
11-12 Confederacy 23 Timocracy
13-14 Democracy 24 Demarchy
  • Anarchism: Very different from anarchy, where there is no system of order in place, anarchism is a free society where citizens are only subject to laws and groupings that they voluntarily agree to. Most systems that follow this political philosophy are collectivist, individuals banding together for the common good without a hierarchy forcing any laws or agendas on them. This was a much more common before the Network Collapse and only a few survived through the tumultuous years before being reconnected.
  • Anocracy: The easiest way to describe an anocratic government is “part democracy and part dictatorship.” This is not a term that governments use to label themselves as it has a definitely negative quality to it and often indicates a failure by the government to properly set up systems of participation by the populace. Leaders are nominally elected but, through corruption or legal failures, positions remain within the same political party with no real chance of new leadership. Many stellar systems which were more democratic in the past became anocracies during the long centuries of disconnection following the Network Collapse. States of emergency which were put in place following the disaster remain as a matter of course now even though there are new Gates in place. However, anocracies are inherently unstable and the vast majority broke one way or another during disconnection or fail soon after they are connected to other systems as power dynamics shift and snap.
  • Aristocracy: Governments dominated by an elite ruling class have other mechanisms to hold power but are not truly representative in any way. They might be monarchies (with a central, hereditary seat giving power to the elite class to rule locally) or democracies (with voting rights limited to the privileged, in their wisdom) or almost any other system in this list. The important aspect of an aristocracy is the powerful class that holds sway and the means by which they claim power: family, religion, money, species, oaths of loyalty, etc. These aren’t necessarily oppressive governments and in fact the sharing of power can make them much more fair than dictatorships, but they are inherently unequal.
  • Confederacy: This government is a joining of smaller powers into a league that deals with critical joint issues such as defense, foreign relations, and internal trade. It is usually contrasted with a federation in the limited scope of its defining treaty as the constituent states retain a lot of autonomy. This is similar to the contractual sovereignty practiced in most regional powers, though there are differences, making it something of a microcosm of the larger scale. Interstellar travelers are encouraged to get local contacts to guide them through the differences between individual states in the stellar system since the law can be complicated.
  • Cybersynacy: A fairly unique system, cybersynatic systems are ruled by a small group of cyborgs who have sacrificed their minds to a gestalt computer system that makes decisions for the whole stellar system. This was an uncommon but widely-seen tradition among some corporate entities in the days of the Vincularium and some stellar systems adopted it as their government to increase their chances of surviving the fallout of the Wormhole Collapse. This requires extreme faith on the part of the population, as the ruling synacs are characteristically unfeeling and sometimes make decisions that are difficult to accept. Only knowing that they are striving to statistically improve the survival of the system will keep populations from rebelling.
  • Demarchy: Also known as “sortition,” demarchy is the practice of creating a representative, democratic government through random selection rather than voting. Similar to the way juries were selected in many Earth governments, a demarchy keeps a pool of all eligible political officials (usual any citizens who have reached the age of maturity) and a legislature is determined through random selection for a given term. When the next term comes, the previous legislators are excused for a set amount of time and the process repeats. This system almost always achieves its goal of removing political corruption but the lack of career politicians usually leads to chaos and inefficiency in exchange.
  • Ergatocracy: In this government, the state is run by the workers and the labor force. Like a government dominated by corporations, an ergatocratic state tends to be focused on the economy but it is focused in the opposite direction. A representative body or small group focuses on workers’ rights and fairness, often through collectivist or socialist means. Following the Network Collapse, a lot of systems saw popular uprisings against the ruling class that couldn’t protect them though centuries later the anger that fueled the revolutions has probably faded.
  • Geniocracy: The ruling class in this political system is the most intelligent and qualified. Qualifying tests are almost assured to be part of the system, though they might be more creative or intense endeavors than simple written exams, and the structure is likely to be highly bureaucratic and intricate. Research and fine control of the population are likely to be key features of the government’s policies, and many post-Collapse geniocracies were focused on discovering how and why the Gates were destroyed. Following reconnection, geniocracies might find some of their authority slipping.
  • Kraterocracy: This is the eternal adage of “might makes right,” the idea that power should be held by those with the means to keep their grip on it. This might seem like a terrible idea for a government (and it generally is) but there is one compelling reason why people might be willing to live under it: fear. Especially after the Collapse, stellar systems are afraid of invasion, terrorism, crime, and other worries that are assuaged by having a strong force in charge. Things also can slip into a kraterocracy one step at a time, and once a forceful government is in power it can be very difficult to dislodge.
  • Kritarchy: The rule by judges might seem like a bizarre choice of government but there is a lot to recommend it, particularly when laws can be complicated and nuanced. Giving executive power over to the legal system means that any interpretation of the law and any new laws that are passed have a strong legal footing and that their intentions are probably well-documented. For mixed populations trapped together following the Collapse, a complex set of laws is a way to ensure that different cultures and traditions are maintained. Complex legal systems require experienced judges and power might come to rest with them. Of course, the question of how new judges are appointed becomes a pressing one which might drive this type of government in a negative direction.
  • Militocracy: Rule by military is similar to a kraterocracy (“might makes right”) but militaries are run according to regulations and directives. A military force ruling a stellar system might have just as many warships as a kraterocracy but the people at the top earned their place by following the rules and seeking promotions rather than showing how forceful they were willing to be. Militocracies tend to have a complicated number of levels and ranks with detailed codes of conduct. Unsurprisingly, career soldiers make up a large percentage of the population and advancement in the military might be necessary to succeed in even civilian fields.
  • Oligarchy: In this type of government, a group of people share equal rule at the top and only a joint agreement (whether unanimous or as a majority) will pass into law. This might be a small group, such as a council of elders, or a very large one, such as an assembly of local leaders, but they are not appointed by election. Some other criteria determines who sits on the legislature, whether it is the heads of corporations, the leaders of extended families, those with the support of local gang leaders, or some combination. In the social upheavals caused by the Wormhole Collapse and reconnection, oligarchies often form to accommodate different power groups in the system and avoid conflict.
  • Plutocracy: While some systems might see de facto rule by the richest, plutocratic stellar systems make this rule explicit. The legislative body of the system is made up of those who meet a certain wealth threshold and they make laws on the authority that they have the largest stake in the fate of the system. While this isn’t necessarily a corrupt system, the self-interest inherent in maintaining one’s power and the focus on business certainly means that it is not very representative.
  • Technocracy: In a technologically advanced age it might seem that every political system is the rule by technology. A technocracy, however, is a special case where the stellar system is ruled by those who have the most access to technology, the most knowledge about technology, or both. In the chaotic times following the Wormhole Collapse, the Gatekeepers still had a lot of influence in many systems and the hope that they could restore the Singularity Gates led many to trust them with political power. In other systems, this role was explicitly taken away from the Gatekeepers by technologists who have set themselves up as the custodians of everything digital and physical in the system. Still other systems might have seen technological innovations following the Collapse that led to a breakthrough which came with political power. Whatever the circumstances, technocratic stellar systems are almost always very focused on the production, improvement, and expansion of tech systems.
  • Theocracy: It’s a natural consequence of the horrors that stellar systems saw during the Wormhole Collapse that populations would turn in large numbers to religion. In many systems, this led to significant cultural and political power in the hands of priests and temples which was sometimes formalized into a rule by religious leaders. Sometimes theocracies include secular bodies (such as a representative legislature or an assembly of nobles) but these are most often subordinate groups that can be vetoed by the religious council or has only a very narrow focus of responsibility.
  • Timocracy: A timocratic government is one in which political power is determined by property. Most often this is living space (homesteaders, nobles with estates, the owners of space stations) but it can just as easily be ship captains, owners of automatons, or patent-holders of genetic lines. Timocracies share some qualities with plutocracies, kraterocracies, aristocracies, and technocracies but the requirement for rule is very specific. An individual might be fabulously wealthy but own no estate and so have no direct say in the voting body. Similarly, someone else might have an important and ancient noble title but is not a space station proprietor and so must patronize one to gain political sway.
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