The Empress' Demand, formerly Feudalism Simulator 2019: (CANCELLED)

I’ve begun work on my new game The Empress’ Demand. In it, you play an heir to an advancing empire with modern technology and a feudal system.

Edit: The new update is for testing purposes, there will be plenty of other scenes between the start and the current update.

To play the demo, go here: https://dashingdon.com/play/kuriosiasoun/feudalism-simulator-2019/mygame/

Incoming loredump in 3…2…1…

The Caste System

The Goldblood Empire(named after the upper caste) has a rigid and oppressive caste system.
Lowest to Highest:

The Serfs: The lowest and largest caste, 60% of the Goldblood Empire are part of this class.

Q: What are the duties of a serf? A: Almost any form of labour that the other castes don’t want to do, from toiling in the fields, or working in the factories, or fighting in the various warlords’ armies.

Q: What are the rights of a serf? A: Serfs don’t have rights, they are property of whichever lord owns them.

Q: What are the “pressure valves” that stop massed uprising? A: Religious festivals and the chance of advancement to freeman or even freeholder. Also, they spend almost all of their waking hours toiling in their lord’s field(or factory), and then working in a freeholder’s(doesn’t apply for factories) in exchange for extra food, which is most often necessary to survive the winter due to the stingyness of their lords, which leaves them with very little time to revolt.

Q: Can they get a job on the side to make money? A: Absolutely not, even if they could find a job which would be a minor miracle on it’s own, they would be shot(or killed in some other way) for handling money, something which is strictly forbidden to them.

Q: You mentioned serfs fighting in the various warlords’ armies, what form does that take? A: They are used as cannon fodder for the men-at-arms, freeholders, and if the lord is high ranking enough, professional soldiers. If they perform a deed their lord deems worthy, they might be freed or awarded a parcel of land and made into a freeholder vassal.

The Freemen:
Q: What is a Freeman? A: Either a serf freed by their master, or someone who had freeman or freeholder(only applies to children who didn’t inherit the freehold) parents. 30% percent of the Goldblood Empire’s population are members of this caste.

Q: Do freemen have rights? A: No, but some of the laws regarding serfs(Including the ones about money and being slave labour) do not apply to freemen.

Q: With serfs filling up the menial labour industries, what jobs can the freemen get? A: The men can join the expanding Imperial Army(a dedicated state military that’s currently rapidly expanding), or if they have a trade(engineer, technician, woodcrafter, etc) they can always find well-paid work in the cities. The women can get jobs as servants to Goldbloods that are too highborn(or rich) to have serf servants, and too lowborn to have other Goldbloods as servants.

The Freeholders: Around 7% of the Goldblood Empire’s population are part of this caste.

Q: What’s the difference between them, and a Freeman? A: They own a parcel of land and are obligated to serve as an at need military force for the lord who they are a vassal of.

Q: Do some freeholders own more land than others? A: There are freeholders who own more land than some landed Goldbloods do. In other words, yes.

Q: How large on average is the parcel of land which they own? A: Two acres.

The Goldbloods: The upper classes of the Goldblood Empire and the second-least populous caste, only 0.25% of the Goldblood Empire is a part of this caste. In numbers, there’s 120000+, but only 20k are landed or the heir to a landed title.

Q: Are the Goldbloods actually genetically superior, like the banebloods of the Dragoon Saga? A: Absolutely not, they claim to be, but that claim is pure BS.

Q: Do they have any rights? A: Yes, they have many rights, the most noteworthy being: "The right to freedom from arbitrary execution or judicial punishment, the right to freedom from conscription or forced labour, the right to a trial(The local nobility decide the fate of commoners accused with crimes).

Q: What power over the state do they have? A: Apart from the fact that they de facto control a lot of it, not much. There is no equivalent to the House of Lords, or for a COG example, the Cortés. They do have control over most of the state military however(after an absolutely devastating civil war ten years ago, the Empress and her Privy Council are trying to create a powerful state military under the direct control of the Empire, so they don’t have to rely on the ad hoc levies of vassals for major wars.)

Q: Is there a peerage? A: Yes, and I will loredump about that tomorrow.

Q: What is the majority succession law? A: Agnatic-Cognatic Primogeniture. For those who don’t play CKII that basically means that the oldest male (legitimate) son of the reigning holder of the title inherits, and males take precedence over females regardless of age but females can inherit if they are the only candidates for succession. The succession law of the Imperial Throne, however, is different and I shall be talking about that with the next caste.

The Trueborn: The ruling class of the Goldblood Empire, and the least populous caste. There are only two members currently, and two members is the maximum.

Q: What makes a Trueborn a Trueborn? A: A Trueborn is the eldest child of the reigning Emperor(or Empress)(Even if they aren’t Trueborn themselves), and the designated heir.

Q: What happens if the Trueborn heir dies? A: A Great Council of all the high ranking nobles and members of House Sol(The ruling house, and the one your MC is in) is called to determine who should be heir(Only members of House Sol can be nominated). The results often end in a succession war.

Q: Is the MC a Trueborn? A: Yes.

Q:But I thought you said that only the oldest child of the Emperor(or Empress) can be a Trueborn? A:His parents, in tandem with the Privy Council and Empress, managed to figure a loophole in the rules. I’ll leave you to speculate on what that might be :smirk:.

Q: Hang on, if women can be Trueborn then why the hell are you genderlocking the game? A: Because although women can be Trueborn, they still can’t lead their armies into battle due to societal expectations, and any reform would be a great deal harder to do.

Any feedback, including questions about the lore is of course welcome. And I know that the WiP is painfully short, but I wanted to get a thread up and running quickly.

Update 10th of March: Here’s a preview of the planned ROs, and the age you’ll meet them at, the list can and will change:

Love Interests

(You’ll meet her at sixteen) Duchess Catherine of Redmarch(named for the infamous slaughter of almost every serf in the Duchy during the Second Pacification fifty years ago(she was not the Duchess then)) Perhaps the richest noblewoman (who is not the Empress) alive. Famed for paying the entire budget of the Empire for a year. Exceedingly intelligent and skilled at intrigue. Middle-aged. Marriageable.
(Sixteen also) Grand Prince(heir to a High Kingdom) Andrew of Chelmark. An enthusiast of the military sciences. General of the Tenth Brigade of the Expeditionary Force. Two years older than you. Marriageable (if gay marriage is legalized).
(Twenty) High Queen Maria of Third Aldlight. Her land is noteworthy for being militarily powerful and a hotbed of anti-Imperial sentiments. (I haven’t decided what her hobbies and skills are yet). Sixty-five. Overweight. Marriageable.
(Thirty) Lord Major ${firstname} (he’s named after you) of the Imperial Guard. Ten years younger than you. Not marriageable.

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I think it’s too short at the moment to give any concrete feedback!

Right now trying to open the stats screen causes the game to freeze.

I’m also not sure what Barrell means by talking to the captain to better prepare your ragtag group of soldiers for the battle. It feels like he means the enemy captain? Is the enemy captain going to throw the battle against himself? I’ve spoilered that because … the first sentence is the entire game so far!

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Damn, I need to fix that.

I warned you that it was painfully short. Keep in mind that I started working on it last night and this is my first time ever using ChoiceScript.

Did you choose Freeholders or Men-at-arms? If it’s the freeholders, he means that an unofficial freeholder leader will propose you use a “traditional” freeholder weapon on the enemy force. Molotov Cocktails But the freeholders don’t call it that, obviously. If it’s the men-at-arms, Barrell is advising you to talk to the Captain of the men-at-arms to aid you in planning out your attack.

This is the MC’s first battle, so he is very inexperienced. And right now, what I’d really want is feedback on the lore.

Lore

I actually have a policy of not looking up lore outside of the content presented within the game!

I’m more interested in how the lore is conveyed naturally through the world. There are tens of millions of unique original worlds that people have made up, but there certainly aren’t tens of millions of finished pieces of media that incorporate all that time spent worldbuilding!

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I have two name ideas

  1. The Golden Throne
  2. The Golden Empire

Are you going for a primarily constructed world, with constructed social structures, or are you using historical feudalism in a constructed setting?

Constructed social structures, and the setting will take heavy inspiration from past and present societies, but will not be set in our world. What did you think of the caste system, do you think there is anything I should add?

Not much. I was going to say that serfdom here sounds a lot harsher than it was historically, but if it’s not meant as an exact mirror that doesn’t matter.

I would add that if religion plays a part in the society, the clergy would likely be a separate caste entirely. But then I don’t know how you intend to handle religion here.

Serfs are essentially slaves, with a bit more independence, up to and including “can be killed at any time for any reason, including none.”

The high-ranking clergy are drawn from the Goldbloods, and the low-ranking clergy from the freemen, so they don’t merit a separate caste.

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Personally, reading the loredump kind of made me not want to play the game because of how ridiculously unfair the caste system is and how much I wouldn’t want to be a part of that world. :disappointed_relieved: I get that that’s probably intentional but because there isn’t really any other information, all I can base my interest on is a bleak and depressing world.

So here are some questions, both for my sake and to help you flesh this world out more:

Summary
  1. What is the actual story? I know it involves being a 14 year old army leader who is on top of the food chain in a ridiculously oppressive society but not much else. Who is he fighting? Why is there a war? Why would he be motivated to reform society when he isn’t affected by its oppression? Is he just a nice guy?
  2. Why would they have a 14 year old child in charge of an army as opposed to an older, more experienced guy?
  3. You say this society is highly technologically advanced, so why do they have serfs work in factories and on fields when they could have machines doing the work much faster and more efficiently? Also, why have foot soldiers and canon fodder at all? Wouldn’t the army have tanks, drones, what have you?
  4. Why would you be stingy with food when your slaves cannot perform hard physical labor for you if their bodies are weak from malnutrition and it’s in your own best interest to keep them strong enough to work effectively?
  5. If serfs are working alongside other serfs in factories and fields all day every day, wouldn’t that actually give them plenty of time to plan a revolt? It’s not like their owners can watch 60% of the population all the time.
  6. What happens when serfs can’t work anymore? I’m assuming they’re put to work from an early age onwards, and that they don’t have access to proper healthcare. Pair that with lack of nutrition and excessive physical labor and I’d say it’s impressive if they make it to age 40 without their bodies breaking down. Do they get put down because they outlived their usefulness? Do their families have to take care of them? Do these families get extra food to feed their disabled relatives or their infants who can’t work yet?
  7. Do pregnant women get maternity leave before or after delivery? If no, how do infants survive? If yes, wouldn’t these mothers then have time (and motivation) to plot an uprising for the sake of their children’s future?
  8. How does an elevation in rank work? Does just that one serf become a freeman? Or do they get to bring their families? If so, who is considered to be family?
  9. Isn’t it a super bad idea to violently oppress and abuse people and their loved ones from the day they were born and then give them weapons and money once they become freemen? These people won’t have any love or loyalty towards you, especially not if their loved ones who are still serfs still serve as cannon fodder and get shot to pieces right in front of them because a serf wouldn’t have the education required to get a well paid job so they’d still be in the army, right?
  10. Likewise, once a serf becomes a freeman, wouldn’t he then have the time to plot an uprising?
  11. Do freemen have serfs working for them as well? If so, that also seems like a bad idea if said freeman is a former serf with serf loyalties still firmly in place.
  12. Finally, why isn’t the enemy taking full on advantage of at least 60% of the population hating the people in charge and having absolutely nothing to lose? Personally, I’d have my people infiltrate the serfs and coax them into joining my side. “Instead of dying as a meat shield for sure, you can fight alongside us and at least have a chance of survival and a brighter future,” how many serfs would really have to think about it? And I’m by no means a strategical genius so I imagine the enemy could come to that conclusion too. :laughing:

That’s just off the top of my head, I hope answering these will help you figure things out for yourself. Good luck!

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Why are they called gold bloods? Are they like bane bloods?

Probably named after their wealth?
Also;

You haven’t been put in charge of an army, you’ve been put in charge of a small force. An army would have tens of thousands of serfs, freeholders, men-at-arms and professional soldiers. And I’m not sure if I made this clear, but you are the heir to the entire Goldblood Empire, and the land under your personal control has hundreds of thousands of serfs on it’s own. As for why they would have you in charge of an attack force, they want you to acquire seasoning for when you lead large armies into battle.

I’ll start off by saying that by no means does the player have to reform society. He is currently fighting a rival state who has managed to break through Goldblood battle lines with a force of two hundred, not enough to cause serious damage, but certainly enough to wreak havoc in the area they are currently in, the County of Redford. It’s important to note that the war is very small scale compared to some of the wars that have been fought in the Goldblood Empire, and it is isolated to the Disputed Lands, a borderland, and the enemy sometimes break into a surrounding County, but that is the only area which the war is fought in. The reason there is a war is because the Goldblood Empire is trying to expand into their land.

By stingy with food, I mean just enough to perform hard physical labor. The extra food is for the winter, when they receive subsistence rations, due to the fact that there is no farm labour for them to do.

Depends what their master is like. They are perfectly within their rights to execute them, but they are always within their rights to execute them. Most of them allow them to live as long as their families take care of them (another reason to do extra work for the freeholders in exchange for food) but some particularly generous lords supply rations for them as a form of “pension”(This is very rare but not unheard of).

It’s important to note that infant mortality for serfs is at medieval levels. Most lords allow them two or three days to give birth and then it’s back on the fields(Factory serfs are all male) for them. And they’d take the child with them to the fields most of the time.

Again, that is completely up to their master, but they are almost always allowed to bring their wife(or if the serf is a woman, husband) and kids, and sometimes their parents.

Only freeholders get given weapons, and none of them are given money, they are just allowed to have money.

They will have loyalty to their former masters because they freed them from servitude.

I think you are overestimating the amount of serfs freed as well. Less than 1% of the freeholders and freemen are first-generation freed serfs, the rest were born into freedom.

As well as that, most freed serfs are made into freemen, not freeholders. It’s true that most first-gen freemen join the Imperial Army, but the odds that they’d see any serf cannon fodder from their hometown is astronomically low.

If he(or she) and their immediate family are free, what reason would they have to do that? Most are just content with the freedom they get.

With the exception of the “food for work” that most freeholders operate under, no. One of the main hobbling blocks for freemen who own businesses is that they are required to employ and pay other freemen, when their Goldblood business rivals can just use serfs.

No, but Freeman and freeholder overseers can. And they do get some time to sleep. And they could plan a revolt in the factories or farms, but making weapons and doing the other assorted tasks which are necessary to revolt against heavily armed men, are very difficult. And this is assuming one of their fellow serfs doesn’t rat them out, in exchange for freedom. The punishment for planning a revolt is public crucifixion in the nearest town, btw, which also serves to discourage them.

Drones have not been invented, they have tanks, but they are a rare sight in any army which isn’t massive. And I said highly technologically advanced in some ways, mostly pertaining to high-quality weapons for the highborn and their elite retinues. The reason they have serfs working in factories and on fields is very simple, they can’t bother with an expensive machine when they can just get the serfs which they inherited to labour in the factories in exchange for food.

Because they are not in all out war, and the enemy hate all subjects of the Goldblood Empire. To explain why, I’ll say what they do with captives, civilian or military. They crucify them in the Disputed Lands so the enemy soldiers can see what will happen should they lose.

They would say so, but as I mentioned before, that claim is pure BS.

More for the fact that gold(the colour not the metal) is an important symbol for them, and the fact that they claim to be genetically superior.

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So no magic?

If I can be perfectly honest, I feel like there’s a lot of potential for an interesting world and story that you’re not really tapping into. I won’t force you to change your story, obviously, but you did ask for feedback and this is the biggest piece I can offer to you.

Summary

So does that mean societal structures won’t be that important to the story? If so, that feels kind of like a waste to me considering the level of oppression going on, but I suppose it does make sense considering the MC wouldn’t have to worry about those things in his own life.

And will that be the story for the whole game? The MC gradually building their military prowess and helping their empire expand?

If they’re soldiers, which again, is the only option they’d have since they wouldn’t have the education required to find paid work, don’t they need weapons? And what does a freeman get for his military service then? Just food? If so, freeman life doesn’t sound like that much of an upgrade to me.

So the serfs aren’t revolting because there is a less than 1% chance that their masters will raise them up to freeman status, which still leaves them without money (and weapons? Still not sure how that would work) and they get to bring a small portion of their family while the rest of their loved ones are still living in, basically, hell on earth and could get murdered over nothing with no punishment for the killer?

That doesn’t sound like such a good deal that I would hold off on trying to get an actually good deal by teaming up with my fellow serfs to try and rise up against my master, if I were one.

Isn’t that their only option? What else could they do?

Because their lives are still crap? The family they didn’t get to bring is still violently oppressed? The powers that be could just as easily take the scraps they gave them whenever they wanted to, considering freemen also don’t have rights so what freedom they have is fragile at best? If you could even call it freedom. Because they have a grudge against the people who treated them and their loved ones like slaves? Their babies died due to the terrible living conditions their oppressors enforced on them? Their oppressors using their sick relatives as tools to force them into slaving away even harder in a desperate attempt to not have them starve to death? They still have no choice but to risk their lives for no satisfying reward?

Take your pick. Just because they are now technically part of a different caste doesn’t mean their old selves who suffered like that aren’t in there anymore.

They got scraps after wasting away in fields or factories, had to watch their children die, had to watch relatives get brutally murdered just cause, and were at risk of being put down like dogs whenever someone felt like it. To name a few things.

Honestly, I think you’re painting too simple a picture of the impact these levels of oppression would have on people and I feel like it’s doing the setting a disservice. You could dive really deep into the human psyche and show how oppression ultimately always comes with a price even for the oppressor. Right now, with reform just being an option, all serfs just quietly and simply accepting their fate and seemingly forgetting what horrors they faced in the miniscule case that they become freemen… It kind of feels (to me) like it doesn’t have much of a purpose besides adding flavor, which I think is a shame. It’s your game obviously, so you can do with it whatever you want. I just think there’s a lot of potential you’re sweeping aside. Do with that what you will.

It wouldn’t discourage me in the slightest. Serfs don’t really have lives to speak of. They have nothing to lose and everything to gain. I’m not brave but I wouldn’t be afraid of an execution if my life and the lives of my loved ones were this hopelessly terrible. The only way they can go is up. I mean, yeah, they could die. They could literally die any minute due to…

So yeah, I’d consider that a risk worth taking. Maybe that’s just me though.

This machine would get more work done much faster, it would earn itself back pretty quickly, I imagine. I don’t know, it just doesn’t seem very logical to me to inconvenience yourself by having slaves do work that a machine could do better and faster. But again, maybe that’s just me.

The empire is trying to conquer their land though, and having people sabotage things, even in small ways, from inside seems like a pretty decent idea to me. They could easily lie to the serfs as well, I mean, again, the serfs have such shitty lives that it really can’t get that much worse so even a lie would at least provide them with some hope, which is something they don’t get in their current lives.

…but as I said a few times in there, it’s your story to do with as you please. I’ll end this post on that note.

Or I’ll end it on several edits because my quotes messed up. :laughing:

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They also work in factories, which given the way the caste system has been described they would have awful working conditions. It would be believable that they would not be supervised all day. In fact, an uprising in this situation sounds highly probable with a good chance of success.

They have all the tools to make weapons, the promise of ‘freedom’ is mostly a title change, they could be killed at any time for no reason, they hold the majority of the popultion, and their oppressors have weapons that could be used by the rebels. Furthermore I think that a relatively large number of the freemen and freeholders would take the side of the serfs since they can all trace their lineage back there.

If they revolted they could easily get their hands on weapons by killing the oppressors who fight back (given they outnumber them so heavily) and from there lead a full scale revolution. Most of the military is made up of serfs and freemen so the Goldbloods would lose much of the manpower necessary to stop a revolution of this size. From there they would be able to march into the cities growing their numbers and taking their revenge. The original uprising would inspire chaos in many areas anyway so the entire society would be thrown into chaos.

I feel it would play out similar to the Russian Revolution. Except on a much larger scale.

Edit: Checked the math. All the serfs, descendents of those who were serfs, and people who were once serfs total 97+% of the population. They number over 46560000, this is of course a minimum estimate since not only are the population figures estimates, but the total only adds up to 97.25% of the population leaving 2.75% unaccounted for. As such it could be as high as 99.75% of the population which would be 47880000.

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But they have never heard of anything different. What do people do when horror is normal? They normalise it. To them, having a relative killed out of hand due to their master feeling that “There was imminent threat of servile insurrection” is perfectly normal to them. And it’s important to note that freemen and freeholders don’t have any guaranteed rights either, the difference is that they aren’t bound to be worked to death for no pay. As for the whole “forgetting about past horrors thing” they don’t view them as horrors. To them, that’s life. And not all serfs accept their fate. Some do rebel and they have a terrifying example made of them. In the largest serf rebellion ever, a fifth of the entire Goldblood Empire’s serf population was killed. Most of them weren’t even rebels. That rebellion was fifty years ago, and saying the name of the town it started in is still punishable by death. Also, as bizarre as it sounds, serf life has been getting (relatively) better. They’ve had a very tough fifty years(longer than serf life expectancy) (they actually lost more people then they did in the rising, in a civil war between Goldbloods thirty years ago) and have only just gotten their population back to Age of Prosperity(The age that started seventy years ago, and ended with the beginning of the serf rising, so named due to the fact it was immeasurably better than the Age of Blood(named for the absolutely devastating three civil wars that happened during that time)) levels.

Sorry, I should’ve been more clear. What I meant was, they don’t get weapons or money from their masters once freed, the army gives them a wage and weapons, also, serving in the army is quite a good life in comparison to being a serf, you get a decent wage, proper weapons, actual training on how to fight, a pension(note that this is a pension you can actually retire on) once injured(to a degree which you can never fight again) or ten years service, a good (in comparison to a serf diet) diet(drastically increasing your life expectancy), actual medical care(again, drastically increasing your life expectancy), and because the army invests all this in you, they won’t use you as a meat shield once you go into battle.

To a degree, yes, but it won’t just be the military you are building up. And that nearby state is going to be curb-stomped once the Imperial Army is filled up and trained. In fact, if they focused their forces on conquering it, they could probably win now.

Note that the terrible living conditions aren’t considered forced upon them(they are), and due to how uneducated serfs are, they can’t really tell what’s causing the high infant mortality. And as for the part about the powers that be taking their new-found freedom away from them, that doesn’t happen. Once freedom is given, they don’t take it back off them, that’s part of the “deal”. See what I said about the benefits of being in the Imperial Army for the ‘no satisfying reward for risking their lives’ part. See my point about normalising horrors for the rest.

They can’t really get people who speak the language of the Goldblood Empire across the Disputed Lands as well.

No, they aren’t revolting due to the fact the last revolt they would’ve heard of, the one where a fifth of their population died was disastrous, they didn’t gain anything and their masters started appointing overseers to keep an eye on them.

Your math is correct, and the unaccounted for percentage are people who can trace their lineage back to a Goldblood, but are not considered Goldbloods themselves. But in the case of revolution a large majority of the freemen and freeholders aid in the oppression and would actually not want a revolution, and they would aid the Goldbloods against the rebels, being given access to the Goldbloods’ substantial armories.

I doubt every(or even most) serfs, let alone Freemen would side with the rebels. See what I said about the fate of the last serf rebellion for why. And note that the serf portions of the military belong almost exclusively to vassals of the House of Sol with their military being made
almost exclusively out of freemen.

See what I said about the benefits of being free other than a title change. And maybe the freemen and freeholders who are recently descended from serfs would but most are distantly descended from serfs. And this is assuming that there is a major serf rebellion.

Thanks for the feedback, both of you, I’ll consider the changes you have suggested.

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Well the benefits given by freedom would not make up for the injustice they had suffered, and they are still awarded no rights. The military might be entirely freemen but they still have zero rights.

Furthermore I do think that the majoroty of serfs would rebel along with most freemen or holders. Unless of course most freemen or holders have zero empathy in which case that means that the serfs are just as bad as their oppressors in which case I have no reason to feel sorry for a group that not only does not care about their own suffering or the sugfering of others like them, but will take the first opportunity to engage in the very oppression they have experienced in their own lives. The world sounds interesting, but so far I do not really find any reason why I should root for the Goldblood Empire over the opposing empire. They can’t be any worse.

As for the gender-lock, is there a reason why women can’t lead other than that they don’t?

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Hmm…this seems like an interesting premise and I like how well though out the caste and political system is. I will look forward to seeing this game develop.

Quick question: Will there be political intrigue, marriages, affairs, etc?

This is essentially the motivation for my XoR helot, once given the opportunity. As he was fated to die by Harrowing as blood cattle in any instance, even if the rebellion ultimately isn’t victorious, literally any other death than Harrowing already represents a small victory and blood, magic and labour denied to the Hegemony. And in the case of the Hegemony, much like in India, the caste system is both divinely ordained by a religion a significant portion of population buys into, in spite of its lies and that religion also serves to put a human face, as well as the promise of a “reward” in the afterlife on the whole horrid system.

Now, my mc in that game does not buy into that system but see my many back and forth with @P_Tigras for how it affects those who do, and some of the risks and benefits my mc’s rebellion gains from going against it, or at least its dominant variant and organized church and attendant caste system,

It did work for the ancient Greeks, who could potentially have been more technologically advanced (some say this is true for ancient Egypt as well) but slavery and tradition held (labour-saving) tech back a lot. This empire seems similar, but ironically long-term such a position is only tenable if you’re the undisputedly most technologically advanced civilisation. Otherwise the others won’t hesitate to turn their professional soldier armies with mass produced weapons and possibly weapons of mass destruction too onto you.

Well the North Koreans aren’t revolting (yet) in part because of the extreme brutality and ruthlessness as well as the pervasive atmosphere of fear created by the ruling Kim regime. Of course, the other reason a state like North Korea survives is that their big neighbour, the PRC deems the survival of North Korea and the Kim regime to be in its strategic interests. But as @Cataphrak has said that is probably not a state of affairs that will continue indefinitely or no matter what boundaries the Norks cross.
Given your fantasy state’s imperial pretensions you probably won’t want to have it effectively propped up by its bigger and meaner neighbour.

Also while most of population don’t revolt or escape there is a steady trickle who do chance if and take the risks, despite concentration camps and punishments sometimes easily on par with crucifixion.

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