Hello all you Digidicers. I actually have an article that addresses some of the minutia of mageocracies on my personal blog, so I thought i'd talk on something somewhat related. Let's address theocratic governments in fantasy settings, where gods are known to be real.
First off, theocracies are going to be much more common. If gods can verifiably be proven to exist, people are more willing to believe in them and follow them. So a state ran by religious officials would probably be common. The rulers of this state might be the physical avatar of a deity, or they might be the favored chosen of a god.
This does presuppose an active deity though. If the deity is less active, but still present in the form of providing magical powers to followers, theocratic governments might resemble other forms of government. There might be political parties based on different doctrinal interpretations or prominent families who might consolidate power. A deity might still intervene and steer things through indirect influences such as divine visions, or presenting omens.
Assuming we have a theocracy, let's look at some of the policies they might enact that could influence people in your adventuring world. First off, a theocratic government actually backed by a deity might reasonably enforce practice of their faith. They might require citizens to subscribe to the faith. This could present a problem for adventurers and anyone wishing to practice a different faith, or no faith at all. There might be government prescribed tithing (oh wait, that's just taxes.) And religious doctrine might be paraded as law, so sinning would actually be illegal. So have fun adventuring when morals you may not agree with are imposed on you by force of law.
Of course, many religions also have charitable aspects, and moral imperatives to do good (assuming a good-aligned religion.) These might benefit the general populace, and make the quality of life better for the people. It also means your PCs will have access to thing like free healthcare in the form of temple healing required by the state and the faith. So there might be some benefit to the player too.
As a GM, there are of course many plot hooks you can put in here. Direct intervention of gods can make for epic events, and even mundane happenings like corrupt officials masquerade behind false virtue of their faith can make for interesting adventures. There are also crusades that might happen, quests for holy relics, dealing with heresies, and so on. So there's plenty to do with this, especially if you're looking for high fantasy elements.
I hope you enjoyed this and the rest of the content by Digital & Dice. For more from me, feel free to check out my personal blog. Until next time…Game on Internets!
- Draconick, Digital and Dice Contributor
I, Nick “Draconick” Johnson, am a writer and roleplaying enthusiast with over ten years of experience in various tabletop roleplaying games both as a player and as a GM. I am also somewhat involved in other forms of tabletop gaming such as wargaming, board games, and card games. It is my hope that by creating and maintaining this website that I can share my unique take on all things within our hobby and to foster a community of like-minded individuals.