Generic: Government Types

Traveller has random government types for star systems.

0 none
1 company corporation
2 particpating democracy
3 self-perpetuating oligarchy
4 representative democracy
5 feudal technocracy
6 captive government
7 balkanization
8 civil service bureaucracy
9 impersonal bureaucracy
A charismatic dictator
B non-charismatic dictator
C charismatic oligarchy
D religious dictatorship

and they are specified by rolling 2D6-7 and adding population which is given by a number averaging around 7. Does it make sense and could it be better?


Thinking About Government

What factors are important?

  1. Interests
  2. Scale
  3. War


The baseline is

  • everyone in a society has interests which gives them a reason to want a say in how the society is run
  • if a minority can place themselves in a position of authority they can put their interests first
  • if such a minority doesn’t treat the interests of the majority equally there is potential for conflict

This seems to me to create the potential for a perpetual engine of conflict and this engine could drive government forms in a cycle.

For example a cycle like (where the non “corrupted” version is assumed to be a state where the rulers look after everyone’s interests and not just their own and the “corrupted” version is the opposite:

  • hereditary monarchy
  • corrupted monarchy
  • oligarchy/aristocracy
  • corrupted oligarchy/aristocracy
  • democracy
  • corrupted democracy
  • dictator (non hereditary monarchy)

and then back to hereditary monarchy again.

(Aristocracy / Oligarchy is an arbitrary distinction I’m making based on level of external conflict – more war = tendency to military aristocracy, more peace = tendency to some kind of oligarchy – religious or mercantile.)

Effectively it’s saying that human nature is in a perpetual battle against political entropy (aka corruption) hence the cycle.


Making decisions with larger numbers of people is harder.

Making decisions over larger distances is harder.

Technology may reverse this over time.


Government tends to be divided into

  • executive
  • arbitrators/judiciary
  • legislature/mass

and a lot of societies contain elements of monarchy, oligarchy and democracy at the same time with the executive tending to monarchical, the arbitrators/judges tending to oligarchy and the legislature/mass tending to democracy

Warfare requires a chain of command so a society permanently at war will tend more towards the monarchical/aristocratic and a peaceful society more towards oligarchy/democracy.

So how do these three factors play out historically?


Historical Sequence

Small Tribal Society

These often follow a similar basic pattern

  • executive monarch
  • oligarchic judiciary (often a priesthood) and/or warrior aristocracy usually based on wealth/equipment
  • democratic assembly of tribal warriors

Those in a permanent state of raid-war will tend more to the monarchy/aristocracy side because defense will be a bigger part of their collective interests. Those more at peace can drift more to the priest/assembly side but small tribes are unlikely to be at peace much unless isolated.

Large Tribal Society

(defined as where a general assembly of all the warriors would be physically too big)

created by a tribe expanding and/or absorbing related small tribes

  • similar to the small version except scale forces government to be divided into sub-regions for practical reasons-
  • each sub-region mirrors the original model except the executive is an earl or count not a monarch
  • the earls collectively make up the warrior assembly of the upper level of government

this is a kind of consensual bottom up feudalism which still retains democratic elements e.g. the pre-Norman Anglo-Saxons.

If a large geographical tribe remains unconquered then the next step is nation state. If it gets conquered then the next step is feudalism.


A lot of people would say this comes second however I would say the feudalism most people think of – because it is the most common – always comes about as a result of conquest.

In this version the conquering group becomes the ruling class and the conquered become serfs. However the ruling elite maintain the tribal pattern within the ruling layer. The warrior assembly becomes the assembly of barons, the judges/arbitrators will be as before and the monarch as before.

If the conquerors eventually merge with the conquered population then this stage was just a detour on the way to nation state.

If the conquerors don’t merge with the conquered then you’d get a caste nation state.

Nation State

With more scale – people and land- you get to the nation state version of the same thing. I’d say the big difference here is as tribes expand and absorb other tribes eventually they start hitting solid geographical barriers like the sea or mountains and these barriers reduce conflict and as conflict reduces the pendulum swings from warlike monarchy/aristocracy to more peaceful oligarchy/democracy. This takes time though and as not all groups reach this state at the same time this will also be the age of large empires. Scale leads to bureaucracy.

Caste Nation State

Long term feudalism where the conquerors never fully merge with the conquered but manage to maintain long-term stability.

Tech Divergence

Before nukes the transnational options that might occur after this are maybe impersonal bureaucracy for huge nations (like China) or empires.

After nukes…

Nuclear Nation States

Eventually war becomes too dangerous and the nations settle down into civil service bureaucracy.

Transnational Options?

Transnational impersonal bureaucracy – tending to 1984 (probably masked by ideology)

Transnational corporate oligarchy – tending to Blade Runner (probably masked by fake democracy)

Magic Hitech Planetary Democracy (genuine)


so in terms of increasing societal scale and both frequency and potential devastation of war the sequence might go like this

wandering bands


small tribes

large tribes

feudal states

nation states (or caste nation states)

if no nukes then

national civil service bureaucracy or empires


chance of devastation


(enforced peace followed by)

national civil service bureaucracies

transnational options

  • transnational impersonal bureaucracy (tending to 1984)
  • transnational corporate oligarchy (tending to Blade Runner)
  • magic hitech planetary democracy (genuine)

where all the pre-transnational options would likely cycle or oscillate between monarchy – oligarchy – democracy as they became corrupted with a skew toward the monarchy/aristocracy side if constantly at war and a skew to oligarchy/democracy if mostly at peace

religious dictatorships might be most likely to occur in relatively protected large tribes and nation states (like Ancient Egypt)

military dictatorships more likely in relatively wartorn large tribes and nation states (like Rome)


Whatever is rolled can contain anything lower down the list e.g. a genuine hitech planetary democracy might have some regions which still contained small tribes.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: