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Basic Information

A form of government where one individual has effectively unlimited power. This would include dictatorships, absolute monarchies, despotisms with a single leader and similar things.

Strictly the term does not imply anything about the character of the ruler, although there is a strong negative connotation in general use.

Very much not to be confused with autarchy.


Game and Story Use

  • Benevolent autocracies (generally in the form of "the good king") are popular in myth, legend and RPG settings. They are also ripe for subversion.
  • Likewise an apparently oppressive autocracy may turn out to be a surprisingly sane place (For example Terry Pratchett's Havelock Vetinari has the appearance of a tyrant1, but is actually a reasonable authority figure … especially in comparison to some of his predecessors).
  • The definition given above has one person holding all power, but a literal l'etat, c'est moi situation would involve a truly unreasonable amount of micromanagement on any scale above a small village. An autocrat must balance the need for bureaucracy against the risks involved in delegating authority.
  • Autocratic governments are perhaps the easiest to model mechanically: the ruler is one NPC, and whatever he says goes. How informed and skilled he is, how secure he is against coups both soft and hard, and how popular he is with his people are entirely different matters.
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