Notice - This is not just an anti-government rant, but instead a rather serious approach to placing enemy powers in your game world.
There’s something I’m really bad at - writing and role-playing stupid folks. I just recent mentioned in a blog post that you need to remember that some folks are losers and you can’t have everyone in your game world be both brilliant and successful (that would be the DC universe). But I’m really bad at crafting the stupid folks - specifically, the stupid winners.
In our modern world, I think these “stupid winners” are best seen in crappy governments. Look, I’m not going to wave the flag here and tell you how my guys are the best in the world. My guys suck. I am embarrassed that my fellow citizens continue to vote for people that say one thing and then do another after being elected. I’m embarrassed that my fellow citizens elect people based on such high ideals as political correctness and the “cool factor”. I strongly support either an IQ test or a current events quiz before allowing people into the voting booth, but the politicians in office now will prevent that from ever happening - They wouldn’t be able to get reelected.
But what am I talking about? As bad as my guys are, there are worse out there. There are worse here too - We have a guy who loudly tells people he’s going to raise the tax rate into the 90%+ range and people cheer for him. You can fool some of the people all of the time! But I’m thinking more about things like: financial policy hacks who specifically and purposefully caused the housing bubble but strongly believe that it was not their policies but instead 70 year old regulations that caused it (having never caused it before); politicians who are so heavily invested (and I mean monetarily) in passing laws about climate change that should they ever succeed, they become billionaires - whatever your beliefs about climate change, did we really want it to be about profiting from cap and trade?; or politicians who’s strategy for avoiding public scrutiny is to have so many massive accusations of fraud, greed and incompetence that they all blend together in this Wonderland that no one can quite figure out. OK, I got a little distracted there. What about countries where the government is a minority, whether racially, religiously or something else, and they use the military to control the majority while seemingly well intentioned neighbors sit on their hands. What about countries that have legitimate military power and weapons of mass destruction, but their leaders are noticeably insane, but their people never try to rise up against them?
What does this all matter? In a fantasy world, especially one where military coups and royal lines are likely to be the most common initiation of governments, you would have to have some of these crazy #@%&*#s in charge of armies and regions. I’d like to believe that when a country views their leader and they all look at each other and say, “This guy’s off his freakin’ rocker” that they find a way to get rid of him. But they don’t. At least they don’t in the real world.
So how do we put these crazy, crappy governments into place in our fantasy worlds? Well, it’s not like they have the internet. Most peasants don’t even know what the king looks like, unless his face is on the (copper) coins. The nobles and ministers who profit from the king’s idiocy will make sure that people outside the palace don’t learn what a moron he is for fear of losing their piece of the power. Meanwhile, they keep the king imprisoned in luxury and rape the country. When diplomats and ambassadors grow to understand that this guy is both insane and a danger to them, they still have to contend with a country filled with uneducated semi-patriotic serfs who haven’t learned what they know. You cannot get the citizenry to rise up against the rulers when they think everything is OK and refuse to think far enough out to see that their entire country is headed right towards a cliff. Sounds familiar to me.
So WHY do you want to put these crazies into your world? These are perfect targets for you adventurers, but it is vital to remember that simply sneaking in and assassinating the crazy _____ at the top is not enough. As the modern world has been seeing recently, eliminating one crazy often allows and even crazier into the vacuum. Unlike most movies, the peasants will not come out into the streets and cheer for the “heroes” who have liberated them from oppression. A well placed assassination would likely be the excuse those ministers needed to go to war with whomever they think they can steal land from, whether they are the right culprit or not. A quick war can cull those peasants, especially any that might actually be thinking about how bad their government really is. Don’t worry - the war slaves can do their jobs once the fields have been cleared of bodies.