It is, sorry. I’ll be able to give a few insights into a handful of possible epilogues (e.g. see below) but no broad scope previews for a long time yet.
Local leaders appointing delegates to go to the capital and take part in a council where grievances are raised, requests made, perhaps laws passed (depending on whether you’re trying to found a legislative assembly). If your territory is big enough to have districts or regions, you might have councils at each level, and each level would appoint its own representatives to the next level up. I’m suggesting that while you could choose your local level leaders by popular vote, we’re still a ways out from any post-Hegemonic state having the capacity to select district or higher level assemblies that way.
Nepal’s panchayat system from the 60s-80s worked something like this, with elected village assemblies who then appointeed delegates to a district assembly, whose members sent delegates to a zonal assembly, whose members sent delegates to a national one. The overall system was authoritarian, subject to overt monarchical intervention at the higher power levels; but as a first democratic experiment, rather than an intentional regression from a more polyarchic system, I think it could play out differently.
I don’t think I can give you the kind of precise answer you seem to be looking for on this one – just to say again that in an imperial collapse, it will be hard to make huge advances in this area, and you should expect that much of the economy and population will remain opaque to even a low-anarchy MC.
It will I think look very different depending on the scale at which you try to establish your domination, the social base you try to keep on side as your primary allies, and the extent to which you appeal to nation and/or religion with their associated symbols to boost your legitimacy. Tyranny won’t have any inherent advantages when it comes to problems like fiscal capacity, and (even if you’re sincerely trying to rule as an enlightened, benevolent despot rather than a purely selfish one) you’ll end the game with acute questions around succession and what’s to keep the next Benevolent Thaumatarch from taking things straight back to the bad old days.
To give a more accurate sense of what that would entail, I’ll really need to produce an updated world map with the names of all the important urban and semi-urban areas, to fill in some areas that are just misleadingly green empty spaces in the current version. The upper Eddern River watershed, north of Veldrin, is emphatically not empty farm country, as the current map would lead you to believe.
It includes two big cleruchy cities on the Wiendish side (Vrashtev and Kiectos, in the side valleys running toward and north of Jacyn) and three densely populated districts in lower Karagon – not just the big cities of Eskydra and Mandras on the watershed’s fringes, shown in the current map, but the lowland districts of Lephros, Lachedon, and Nochoris along the great river itself.
If your conquering monarch headed north from Veldrin and incorporated the districts of Vrashtev, Kiectos, Lephros, Lachedon, Nochoris, Eskydra, Mandras, and Stegnos on the way to Nyryal, you’d have added 24m people to your empire – very nearly as many as the total population of Nyryal (25m). And you’d have swallowed 45% of Karagon, population-wise, though only around 18% of its land area. That’s a pretty hefty “bridge.”
The Westriding has been Karagon’s primary granary for well over a century, with supplies shipped up the Eddern and its tributaries/canals, long before the canal systems in eastern Karagon (drawing from the Shayard Coast up the River Fyrne) were as developed as they are today. All the Karagond cities and districts directly upstream from the Westriding were thus the first to balloon and reach a new, higher equilibrium population, well beyond what their own farmland could ever sustain. (This is also true of lowland Wiendrj, especially the Stezyc/Alsztyn area, where the iron/grain trade with Shayard has massively boosted the population.)
This high-population equilibrium depends entirely on those Theurgy-powered grain barges moving upriver. The nightmare scenario for the Hegemony is some combination of trouble in the east (making it hard to supply Aekos up the Fyrne canal system) plus a major, sustained disruption to navigation on the Eddern. (Like the one that Cabel’s Westriding rebels are itching to deliver, and would be able to in e.g. a scenario where self-sacrifice Theurgy became widely known.) In that kind of crisis, the top-heavy population of western Karagon and eastern Wiendrj will be like a tower with its foundation pillars knocked out.
Preventing the ensuing implosion is the dilemma that will most preoccupy Phaedra…and would lead her to solutions that are a poor fit with Shayardene nationalism. You’re free to talk about “extorting grain from Shayard,” but an independent Shayard in its current borders would have unparalleled power of extortion over Karagon and lowland Wiendrj. It would be a generational project, and one with a high chance of failure, for the upper Eddern watershed to try to reduce its total dependency on Westriding grain.
No responsible state would readily accept that kind of dependency relationship with another fully independent one, knowing that if your neighbor didn’t like any of your policies, it could simply direct its grain trade elsewhere and cause your regime and population to collapse. Not even if the neighbor was headed by a self-proclaimed Eclect, or by your husband.
It sounds like you’d be unhappy with some kind of political union that compromises Shayard’s sovereignty by e.g. giving Karagon the right to direct the overall Shayardene grain trade and make sure it gets fed first. But without something like that – something much more robust than a loose federation under two married heads of state – the only way you’ll be able to assert a sovereign border at Veldrin is by fending off repeated invasion attempts by the Theurges and armies of your food-insecure neighbors. After prevailing militarily, you could try to nudge your defeated northern neighbors in the right way to hopefully have them coalesce into a dependent Rump that’s accepted its subordinate status… rather than the more likely outcome, a congeries of petty Theurge-warlords continually sending waves of raiders and starving refugees into your territory.
It might bear emphasis that there’s no inherent (positive!) connection between monarchy and state accountability; if you’re aiming for the latter, it would be a very odd strategy that started by strengthening the former. Monarchs were just the local flavor of autocracy in early modern Europe. Early modern military technologies demanded far higher levels of investment in defenses, weaponry, and standing armies, on top of the lavish lifestyle that monarchs maintained (both for their own sake and as part of the mystique of the institution). The increasingly fund-starved kings and queens needed to find new ways to sustain themselves; the old combination of demesne resources/ privileges and feudal levies weren’t enough, fiscally or militarily.
The new “fiscal states” and tax regimes that emerged out of that period often involved deals by which the monarchs agreed to convene or beef up some sort of assembly (parliament, riksdag, estates-general) bringing together representatives of the elites who generated/controlled wealth sources the monarchs wanted to extract. These assemblies tried to build some sort of consensus on what was the maximum acceptable extraction to support the expanding state. They weren’t so much efforts to represent “the people” as efforts to represent the (mostly urban) sources of mercantile wealth and specialist production, alongside the traditional landowning rural elites. The assemblies often tried to restrain kingly military aspirations and lifestyles, bringing them into conflict with the monarchs, sometimes rather intensely.
But the bigger monarchies (even in fragmented Europe, let alone areas like Han China with fewer geographical barriers to control of a large area) could generally get away with fewer concessions and less accountability. They had more resources to draw on, from a wider area, to support costs of standing armies and weaponry that (while also bigger) didn’t scale with their bigger geography. So if you want monarchy to lead to state accountability as one of the pathways to more honest and participatory government… make sure you have lots of small monarchies, competing militarily with each other (i.e. no koinon, or at least nothing more robust than the Holy Roman Empire), and spending beyond their means. That’s what pushes autocrats to grudgingly give more of a governing voice to propertied groups of citizens, holding themselves slightly more accountable to a wider elite circle.
A Leninist/Maoist critic would agree that all of those examples show classes working together. But they would say that all of those cases fall well short anything worth describing as emancipation, and thus ultimately represent a surrender by the weaker class(es) to their ongoing oppression by the stronger. The French Revolution is a classic example: an old feudal order (monarch, aristos, priests) is brought down by a bourgeois-led uprising that draws from many classes, but what emerges from the revolution isn’t liberation for the laboring classes (peasants and urban poor) but a new imperialistic autocracy, followed by a farcical return of monarchy, ultimately enabling the rise of capitalist modes of domination in France.
The fundamental Leninist/Maoist assertion – fuelled by a theory of history that’s much more about where history is going than where it’s been – is that the lowest, laboring classes will only truly be freed when their more-and-more dehumanizing exploitation (culminating in the capitalism that disconnects them entirely from the land and treats them like literal cogs in a machine) drives them to uncompromising revolution. When the Revolution comes, they’ll refuse to accept any half-measures or compromises with the classes that oppress and exploit them; they’ll fight, they’ll win, and they’ll usher in a new world free of class oppression. Anything short of that, in the final perspective, isn’t worth fighting for. Better to die for the chance of perfect justice than to end up one more half-hearted serf willing to “rattle your chains if you love being free.”
Kalt doesn’t have anything like the theoretical jargon of Marx or Mao to shore up his worldview, but his gut instinct is fundamentally similar. His view of history has a similar central teleology to Marx’s, a belief that the oppressor-oppressed relationship has a telos that steers it in one ultimate direction, as inevitably as stones fall or fire rises. There are (way) more of us than there are of Them, and Their power depends on keeping us under Them; one day we’ll fight Them hard enough to actually win; the main thing that keeps today from being that day is our fear and desire to avoid seeing the conflict for what it is. That won’t change easily, and not just by sharing examples of (from K’s perspective) lower classes accommodating themselves to the upper ones.
I think you mean free yeomen, or just free peasants, given what you go on to say about land reform. Serfs can’t be sold like chattel, but they’re still deeply unfree – unable to own land, required to cultivate a specific patch of it on terms set by the landlord, and subject to punishment if they try to leave. K wouldn’t be remotely mollified by anyone rolling out that institution, even if it came with a Harrowing exemption.
There are going to be an awful lot of helpless, starving refugees in the post-Hegemonic world, millions of them Karagond. A regime that treats them as fuel could get a long way without needing to designate a slave caste. (That might indeed be what one of the major factions plans to do.) You’d just have to decide whether it’s a moral or practical gain to swap enslaving one category of people for genocidally slaughtering another.
K and like-minded radicals would argue that any land reforms worth having would require you to thoroughly break the old aristocracy first anyway – not just the Loyalist bits of it. I think you’d be discouraged by just how few Leaguers (let alone nobles of any other faction) are willing to accept the idea of land reform, even for their enemies. They just don’t want to open that door, sensing how many tens of millions of helots and land-starved yeomen are on the other side, with demands that would go beyond what you could possibly satisfy without gutting the nobility as a class. Break up the Loyalist estates (remembering that the overwhelming majority of aristos are at least half-heartedly Loyalist) and how long could the remaining fraction really hope to hold onto their land against sharecroppers ravenous for a better deal?
You’re not going to be able to satisfy both K and any sizeable noble faction with your definition of the “worst bad apple” aristos. Abuses of every kind against the helotry are simply too widespread; any justice campaign that focused just on e.g. rape and beatings that led to maiming would bring down a host of aristos who are widely liked and thought of as good people by most of their peers. (Imagine how the colonial-era Virginia gentry would have felt about you going hard after Thomas Jefferson for raping an underage slave.) Move on from that to punishing nobles for e.g. killing suspected helot poachers, and suddenly even Simon de Firiac is going wobbly.
It would earn the approval of some Seracca; they’re not a monolith, any more than the Hegemony or Halassur. Other Seracca would be delighted to see you starting little pirate kingdoms, but wouldn’t want to see them federating with each other, let alone with the Seracca themselves. More than that I’m not going to share at the present. Happy to revisit it when the full draft of G2 is out.
Look at the southern end of the narrow gulf between Nyryal and the Bloodless Reach. Tsagir is likely to have two advantages in maintaining its independence against the nomads: access to the quicksilver and other minerals traded by Wiends down the river from Siszula, and a unique relationship between its ruling class and the Unquiet Dead. No more spoilers on that one for a while, either.
Jev would be on the urban side of the G4/G5 nomad-urban divide, actually. O is proud of the Nyr’s nomadic heritage, but also of their sophisticated urbanism, and wouldn’t want to see the latter sacrificed to support the life of the plains.
As you’ve guessed, they’d be much less bothered by the mere fact of your relationship with Phaedra…though the non-Loyalists (i.e. the ones who actually supported your rebellion) would still be nervous about you selling out Shayard’s interests and ending up back under the Thaumatarchy’s thumb. If you tried to make Phaedra the nominal head of your federation, their anxiety levels would go through the roof. Unless it came after you’d already thoroughly crushed the Rump Thaumatarchy on the battlefield… which would be a very odd scenario, less like Sun Yat-sen/Yuan Shikai and more like if Mao had offered Chiang Kai-shek the presidency of a joint federation in 1951.
“Jail time” would be impossible and satisfy no one. Harza wants his tormentor dead, not locked away, and wouldn’t believe in your ability to keep an Ennearch in prison. Phaedra wants to make incremental reforms to the system, changing it over time into something more just and sustainable, not cause it to collapse by threatening its top power holders with retribution. And as for rule of law – there’s no law in the Thaumatarchy that restrains Ennearchs from punishing people for insolence and disrespect. Nor are there legal provisions for lengthy prison sentences, in a world where any excuse for a Harrowing is a good one.
But on a more consoling note, Harza isn’t so well connected in Nyryal that you’d be sacrificing your hopes of a triumvirate by refusing to act as his assassin.
I’m not planning to extend the G5 epilogues by centuries for Theurge MCs who try to prolong their lifespans. While there may be some exceptions, we’ll probably see about a generation go by, and the epilogues will reflect the gameworld status then; a slow-aging MC will just finish the game hoping for much more ahead.
So let’s posit an epilogue for an MC who has launched a Halassur crusade, seen it grind to a halt when it’s occupied as much new hostile territory as the MC’s military capacity can handle, and ends the game coping with an escalating insurgency, along with various changes in the Empire itself to respond to their threat (including a greater rate of child sacrifice). A life-extending Theurge MC will absolutely be able to end that epilogue echoing @comradelenin’s promise to fight on for a thousand years – still able to convince themselves that the centuries to come will see more people in the western continent rallying to their cause, or some military breakthrough, or a revolt in Halassur (overlooking how much the existential threat of their invasion has reduced that prospect), or something. I won’t force @comradelenin to watch his state go the way of the Principality of Antioch.
Some post-Thaumatarchic leaders would even be open to abolishing the chattel aspects to bring disorder down, though the best status helots would be offered in exchange would be as free landless laborers sharecropping the great aristo estates – and you’re well aware from exposure to north Indian cases of how easily that can become de facto serfdom. Land reform isn’t something any Rump Thaumatarchy is going to offer.
That combination will get you a good ways, state-capacity-wise. You’ll feel the lack of priestly and noble administrative capacity, but also the greater freedom their absence gives you for social reengineering.
So a ruthless MC who preserves the Harrowers as she expands, betrays her original helot followers to the harvest at an opportune moment, and then tries to rebuild the whole Hegemony by conquest (and/or marrying into the biggest successor faction)? A strong player should I think be able to end the game with a pretty close geographical facsimile of the Thaumatarchy you started with – your skills put you on track to be a world-class empire-builder, one way or another – but with significantly fewer Theurges at your command, a completely gutted Kryptast corps, a lot more emboldened rebels, and harder-to-manage threats on all your borders. That is, it’ll be tottering a lot more visibly than the Hegemony is in Game One. If a “crusader state” epilogue leaves the reader uneasily wondering “how many centuries before this is all completely undone?” a restored Thaumatarchy ending will probably be “how many years?” Echoes of Alexander the Great.
PS: I don’t think Rump Thaumatarchy is a term that will be used in the actual game, since the jokes about the Rimmer gang taking over the biggest Rump faction would write themselves.