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Basic Information

Ethnocracy is a form of government where members of one particular ethnic group hold disproportionate power in the government itself and use that power to benefit that group to the detriment of others.

The apparently related term ethnarch however, applies to the ruler of a vassal group of different culture to their overlords - for example the leaders of the various Greek colonies in southern Italy vassalized by the Romans.

See Also



Game and Story Use

  • As an Ethnocracy is clearly unjust, an ethnocratic government provides a clear enemy for the PCs to fight against. Both attempting to reform and attempting to violently overthrow it are viable goals for long-running campaigns.
    • This assumes that equality between the races is the preferred state - in a fantasy or sci-fi campaign this man not be the case and for large chunks of human history a belief in racial equality will be enormously morally dissonant - although what constitutes a race may vary.
    • Consider, for example, a standard fantasy setting where you have a nation with a high percentage of orcs living within it, that for some reason have not been subject to the customary genocide. In point of fact, you actually have a large number of "half orcs" … with a gradation in society between the pure blooded humans at the top and the pure-blooded orcs at the bottom (for added fun, place pure blooded elves … potentially only a few dozen of them … as the top layer, then human-elf hybrids, then humans etc.). Note that this stratification is entirely justified in most systems by "racial" stat adjustments that give orcs bonuses to endurance and brute strength against penalties to the sort of thinking skills that would fit them for higher office (mirrored, possibly, by the elves whose physical penalties and mental bonuses suit them for the other end of the spectrum). That society should pass for the "good guy kingdom" in a lot of campaigns without anyone batting an eyelid.
    • Also, consider a traditional "degeneration" motif (very popular with pulp age sword-and-sorcery such as the Conan cycle) where pure strain humans (or whatever) rule over their "de-evolved" cousins (who may be "reverting to apes" or slowly turning into snakes due to some kind of corruption).
  • Such a society can add spice to party dynamics if some PCs are members of the ethnic ruling elite while others aren't. This gives the party a wider range of possible contacts both within the halls of power and the oppressed rest of the population. On the other hand, other members of the various ethnic groups (including their families might frown upon their association.
  • If the PCs are not from the ethnocratic society, making it hard for them to tell one group from the other may lead to all sorts of hilarity: by way of real life example many Caribbean communities in the early C20 had deep and intricate racial hierarchies based on very fine distinctions … on emigrating to the UK in the 1960s many Caribbeans were horrified to find that their new neighbours neither cared about nor saw these distinctions and regarded them all as "black" … which back home had been one of the lowest status castes.
  • A vassal state may be a good example of a ethnocracy, where a layer of the conqueror nation live as a governing class, possibly with a mixed race or other race class below them, followed by the indigenous people - this was the sad reality of many historical empires (although often blurred by the existence of native aristocrats who were left in place as varying degrees of puppet ruler).
  • The collapse of an ethnocracy is often accompanied by genocide, at least on a local level.
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