Worldbuilding: Part Five (Military/Government)


Part One (Introduction)

Part Two (Geography & Terrain)

Part Three (Society and Culture)

Part Four (Names)

When building your novel — and again, this is something that can apply to more than one genre — another important thing to consider is a) how your world is ruled, and b) how their military works. This can differentiate from country to country, kingdom to kingdom, ect. Showing a variety of different government types can broaden your world’s building.

To begin with, here are a list of possible government types.

(I know I’m probably missing some; this is just to give you an idea.)

  • Democracy (ruled by the people)
  • Monarchy (ruled by one — eg, a king)
  • Aristocracy (ruled by the wealthy)
  • Anarchy (ruled by no-one; you’ll often hear the term that if there are no rules/laws, anarchy would reign)
  • Oligarchy (ruled by a few)
  • Matriarchy (ruled by women; dude, how awesome would that be to read about?)

Also keep this in mind: Your world/kingdom/culture doesn’t have to be just one of these. In fact, you could choose multiple that work together to form the government.

Take Ancient Sparta for example. (Wow — who ever knew my Ancient History HSC school work would ever come in handy?!) Sparta was governed by two kings (monarchy), democracy (the ecclesia — council of citizens), and a oligarchy (the gerousia — council of elders). See how your world doesn’t have to strictly fit into one of these types of government? Mash them together, play around with the idea of governments, and you might find that you come up with some pretty cool stuff.

Consider how your government was formed — eg, is the king’s line hereditary? Does the first-born son (or daughter) receive the throne? Can they give up their throne to another? Or maybe your government isn’t hereditary. Are candidates elected in and voted on? How long is their reign? How are tyrants/usurpers viewed in your world? (This one is interesting; when we think of the word “tyrant” we often associate with negative thought. But, in fact, tyrants don’t necessarily have to be “evil.”) How to people view their king/ruler? Are they respected? Loved? Hated? Are their any social customs that the people have to adhere by? Eg — taxes (whether that be food or money or treasure) ect.? What happens to criminals? Are they hanged? Beaten? Whipped? Fined? Sold into slavery? Are they able to fight for their freedom? (Think a trial by combat in A Game of Thrones.) How are criminals perceived by the public? Hated? Admired? Does it depend on their crime?

The military of your world is another important aspect to consider, too.

This is especially important if your novel’s story is heading into war, or with a heavy emphasis on fighting. Most countries/worlds/kingdoms will have a trained military on hand to a) keep a certain city in order, b) fight external wars if need be, and c) to protect the city/kingdom/whatever from invasion or attack. For some novels this part might not be as important, but a few lines here or there could clear up any confusion to the reader about the world’s military.

Consider: How is the military formed? Are people forced to join the military? Conscripted (eg, through a lottery)? Do they have to join when they turn a certain age? Or have they joined up voluntarily? What sort of training are these people given? Are women aloud in the military?  If so, can they battle on the frontlines? Are appointed less dangerous duties? Are excluded from war altogether? Where are the military housed? Barracks? Tents outside the city? In their own homes? Who rules the military? The king? Are their separate positions of military advisers? Does the king/ruler have the final say? Who can declare war?

What happens to people who abandon the military because of cowardice? Are they killed? Punished somehow? Looked down upon? Is it ignored completely? How is the military sectioned up? Does the king/ruler have his/her own personal guard? Is the military sectioned into battalions? Regiments? Squadrons? Garrisons? Legions? What is the chain of command in the military? What are the different ranks in the military? How many man in the military made up of? Hundreds? Thousands? Hundreds of thousands?

What resources are available to them? Tin? Copper? Iron? Steel? Consider what your military’s weaponry is made from. Wood? Depending on the economical status of the world/country/kingdom, of what quality are these weapons? How fairly is this weaponry distributed? Think about the natural geography around them, too — eg, if they are surrounded by water then they are going to have to use boats. If they are going to be travelling on foot, then perhaps horses; remember for large battles in particular, more food and water is going to be needed. Can they carry all this? Do they use mules/horses/other animals to carry weaponry/armor/food and water? Do they have to carry this themselves? Are animals even used in the warfare? Are slaves used to fight in battles? Children? Is this legal, illegal?

Also think about formation tactics and strategies and techniques. Eg, do horses with spears come first? Last? Where are the archers positioned? The strongest first? Or last? Where does the commander fight?

When worldbuilding, I don’t believe that every single one of these things are going to apply to your story. And if it does, then it’s also going to be hard to put that all into your novel. Take what you think will build your world accurately, and hopefully, it’ll add further to your worldbuilding.

As you can see, there are heaps of things to think about when it comes to both military and government — but hopefully this has given you a starting place.


7 thoughts on “Worldbuilding: Part Five (Military/Government)

  1. Awesome as always, Kara ;) My NaNo novel is actually matriarchal – very interesting to work with without making it blatantly obvious, but it seems to work well

  2. Oh my gosh this is absolutely FANTASTIC Kara! you really did present the different government types and military and politics, it all comes into play when constructing a world. Now I know why I loved the Legend series, because it answered the questions we needed it to to form a convincing argument on the government and stuff.

  3. Another great post! I am partial to a monarchy – I just love the thoughts of kings and queens, prince and princesses. I think so far I’ve used a monarchy in all my fantasies, like I said, I love royalty! And I’d love to see more matriarchy in books.

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