Totally Not Allegorical: Example of A Corrupted System as a Fantasy Plotpoint

The Kingdom of Aurinfeld is the envy of the known lands. The common people enjoy great freedom and a chance at achieving great wealth if they are brilliant, hard working, or lucky. The King, the Aristocracy, and the Popular Assembly work together to ensure that the affairs of the Kingdom run smoothly and that a careful balance is maintained between the interests of the common people, the aristocratic and other elite, public, and private interests. The College of Mages uses its powers to ensure bountiful harvests and provide a magical edge to all of the Kingdom’s endeavors. The merchants take advantage of a strong infrastructure and plenty of freedom to gain great wealth. The Kingdom is governed on the principles of freedom, equality, and enterprise and is protected by a superb army and watched over by the Homeland Watch.

Revolution Pic from Fable III

Kingdom of Aurenfeld: Balanced

  • The King: The King is theoretically the most powerful figure in Aurinfeld. He can take command of the Army. He cares about the Kingdom as an idea, but does not really believe in equality. The King does not pay taxes and wants to gain as much control as possible over the Kingdom.
  • The Aristocracy: The Aristocracy are waning in power. The King has taken much of their ancestral strength and the popular assembly has taken the rest. They still have tremendous wealth in land and some servants, but are not flush with cash. They resent the King and consider themselves above the common people. The love the army but dislike the Watch. They feel they pay too much taxes.
  • The Popular Assembly: The popular assembly is an elected body that overseas legislation in the Kingdom. It is divided into factions, and everybody with a serious interest tries to control it. It is the tool of the Common People, at least in theory.
  • The College of Mages: The College of Mages are interested in arcane research. The byproducts of this research have made Aurinfeld strong and powerful. The mages would prefer to be left alone to their arcane study.
  • The Army: The army is proud and strong. No power can stand against it. It is expensive to maintain. The army tries to stay out of politics.
  • The Homeland Watch: The Homeland Watch enforce the rules.
  • The Merchants: The Merchants are interested in making money. Its not their only goal, but it is the only goal that they agree upon. They hate the King and the Popular Assembly, because they feel that too many limitations are put on them. They feel they pay too much taxes and also look down on the common people. They love the Watch.
  • The Common People: The Common People are content to go about their daily lives. Social mobility means a lot to them. Some aspire to join the army, the Homeland Watch, or the College of Mage. Others aspire to be elected to the popular assembly or to marry into the aristocracy. Most will not reach their full aspirations, but they will live relatively good lives. They admire and resent the other groups and tend to squabble among themselves to the point where the others just ignore them as much as possible.

The Aristocracy and the Merchant class both really hate taxation. Funny how so many conflicts begin with such a simple thing. Taxes have been used to improve the Kingdom’s roads and sewers, help the poor,  pay for the immense army and watch, and fund the College of Mages.  While the merchants and the aristocracy want to lower taxes they cannot do so without the assistance of the Popular Assembly, which is elected by the common people. So they begin a campaign to educate the Common People about how lowering taxes is good for everyone. It is an easy sell: the common people would love to pay less taxes. This idea seems to work well. The Aristocracy regains a bit of their dignity and power, the merchants gets richer, and the common people enjoy a little more money. So everybody is eager to keep lowering taxes. The problem is at this point there isn’t enough revenue to pay for everything they used to pay for. The first target to get cut is help for the poor. This upsets some of the common people, namely the poor and those who sympathize with the downtrodden. The parties involved blame everything and anything they can, except the tax cuts. The situation progresses. The next funding cuts are to the College of Mages. This forces the Mages to look elsewhere for money for their research. The situation progresses. By now the merchants and the aristocracy realize that they have a pretty good thing going, so they start spending some of the money they save on taxes to support their own candidates for the popular assembly and to create whole schools of thought to support their point of view and present it to the common people. They succeed, but it is getting hard to pay for roads and sewers.

Kingdom of Aurenfeld: Unbalanced

  • The King: The King fears a resurgent aristocracy. Using some of his personal wealth he hires some former members of the Colleges of Mages and gets them to create an artifact, the Palantir  that will let them spy on his enemies.
  • The Aristocracy: The Aristocracy are mighty. They are secure in the their lands. Some of them begin to to use their land to influence poor commoners who need work and food. Feeding these people creates a sense of obligation. The King does not like this.
  • The Popular Assembly: The popular assembly is now rife with factionalism. The Merchants and the Aristocracy control what they can, but corruption starts to make even this difficult.
  • The College of Mages: The College of Mages are still interested in arcane research. Sadly they must now work for individuals instead of the Kingdom as a whole.
  • The Army: The soldiers begin to wonder what they are fighting for, after all things seem to be getting worse back home.
  • The Homeland Watch: The Homeland Watch is given more and more power.
  • The Merchants: The Merchants have tremendous wealth. They begin to act extravagantly.
  • The Common People: The common people start to notice that they are losing the dream of prosperity and social mobility. They get upset and cast around. At first they elect reformers to the popular assembly, but these are just bought off by the aristocracy or the merchants. They become increasingly frustrated.

Things come to a head when a noble raises a private army from the people he feeds on his land and tries to kill the King over some ancient grievance that everybody knows about but thought was long buried. After a bloody battle in which the King is nearly killed  and a small town is destroyed martial law is declared. Many of the common people, desperate for reform and afraid of war, support this step. The aristocracy is forced to submit. The king, now paranoid, directs the Homeland Watch to use the Palantir to spy on everyone, after all many of the fighters in the rebellion were commoners as well. Objections to this are over-ridden in the name of security. The Watch gets more and more powerful. The Aristocracy turn to the army, fearing the power of the King. Civil war looms as a figure emerges among the common people, promising freedom and equality if the government is overthrown. The Watch uses the Palantir to find anyone connected with this figure, leading to mass arrests, which finally antagonizes everyone and all hell breaks loose…

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