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Alphatia - Local Governments

by Rodger Burns

Alphatian attitudes towards law and order are notoriously relaxed. The default attitude taken by the wizard-lords is "things better work out to our liking, or we'll step in and start throwing around battle-magic until things improve" - a position that may serve to concentrate the mind but does little to provide positive direction. Social status is likewise unimpressive, when looked at from the viewpoint of the civil service - the uppermost classes of Alphatian society are basically "wizard, rich wizard, king". The normal titles, honors and perks normally granted to those who assist in the business of ruling a kingdom are simply absent, or at best granted only on a case-by-case basis on a ruler's sufferance.

And yet Alphatia does manage to govern itself, somewhat, and maintain kingdoms that generally aren't wastelands of howling anarchy. Following are a few of the models they've been known to adopt:

Localism - Each town or village governs itself, with the resident spellcasters acting as de-facto agents for the ruler's will. A village that doesn't have any spellcasters in residence may need to have one imported from a more prosperous town or city (at the ruler's expense, a cost often taken back out of the village's coffers through extra taxes or seizure of property) - the danger of having an outsider imposed as the voice of law leads many smaller villages to push magical training on anyone who shows reasonable aptitude so as to have a native-born magistrate and tax-collector. This is also a simple method of governance, low-maintenance except when large-scale crises manifest, so is effectively the 'default' local government structure across Alphatia. The downside lies in the inability to build or maintain most large-scale infrastructure, and in the way that law can be applied unevenly from town to town or abused by petty tyrants. (Not that Alphatians are prone to consider these issues to be irreparable flaws, of course...) Kingdoms that likely currently practice localism include Ambur, Foresthome, Arogansa and Trollhattan.

Satrapies - A common method of governance among the personality-oriented Alphatians - a kingdom's ruler decides that a particular area of government needs special attention, and appoints a capable and motivated individual to serve as 'Satrap' - the ruler's direct representative for dealing with that issue. Some Satrap positions can be ongoing - Satrap of Taxation, Satrap of Magical Education, or Satrap of the Air-Fleet. Others can be temporary, focusing on only a specific immediate problem - Satrap of Recovering the Royal Scepter, for instance. (Satrapies of the latter sort are often granted to visiting adventurers, as a way of emphasizing that an upcoming task is VERY important, and keeping local lordlings from stalling or obfuscating on a matter.) The dangers of Satrapy-oriented government lie in clashes between Satraps over responsibility for a given task, and in corruption or empire-building among Satraps who've held their rank for extended periods and grown used to the power they wield. Government by Satrap can also leave some needed tasks undone, if there's no Satrap position focused on the problem or the Satrap holding the position fails to address it. A fair number of Alphatian kingdoms are likely ruled by Satrapy - most notably Aasla, Stoutfellow, Bettelyn and Floating Ar.

Prefectures - This is simply the Alphatian term for dividing a kingdom into smaller domains and sub-domains, and assigning each to a different lord to rule over directly. The Alphatians learned this method of ruling a kingdom from the Thyatians, and so are less than fond of it; it does guarantee that every bit of a kingdom is under the authority of someone, though, and that there are no gray areas where disagreements over who's in charge can come up. Alphatian kingdoms currently ruled by Prefecture are probably Randel (due to its interest in being able to mobilize, arm and feed large military forces) and Frisland (which needs to protect long stretches of coast and highland wilderness from bandit raids and monster attacks).

Bureaucracy - This is a form of government probably even rarer than Prefectures, and definitely temporary (any given Alphatian kingdom is likely to shift government types once every century or so, just based on the changing whims of its royal family, but Bureaucracies go out of fashion even more quickly than this). A kingdom run by a Bureaucracy can be undeniably efficient, executing laws with great speed and transparency and collecting lots of tax money with very little lost to wastage or accounting error. The downside is that kingdoms basically never assemble governing Bureaucracies from scratch - Alphatian rulers have neither the training nor the patience to do so. Instead, they acquire a governing Bureaucracy by simply borrowing what they need from an existing organization - a merchant's consortium, temple hierarchy, mercenaries guild or similar. As one might guess, this is often a somewhat traumatic and disruptive experience - it doesn't generate much loyalty from the kingdom's new civil service towards their sovereign, except as where enforced by charm, mind-reading magic and informants. This plus the fact that bureaucracies invariably annoy some temperamental archmage and get key people polymorphed into small wriggly things puts a definite limit on their lifespan - but while they're in place they can generate a fair amount of wealth and public works to enhance the kingdom's future prosperity. Kingdoms better suited than most to adopt a Bureaucratic government are Stonewall (drawing from the temple hierarchy) and Greenspur (drawing from the military).