For my world building I added Elves and dwarves (and possible some darker, more evil races). I am now wondering what sort of nobility systems are in place for these races.

1) Are they generally the same like with humans? (e.g. barons, counts, kings,..) Or do they work differently?

2) Assume that elves and dwarves DO live longer then humans (say 4 times longer lifespan), how would the use of Noble houses and serfs/ peasants work, as the peasants would have only 400 years of semi-slave labour to look at.

3) What kind of nobility system would fit a very intelligent race, focussing on advances in science. Would they still be using a nobility system focussed on blood lines to rule?


closed as too broad by ArtOfCode, Ghanima, bowlturner, Dan Smolinske, James Mar 20 '15 at 13:39

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site Robin. In a fantasy setting you can dictate these sort of specifics. There are however "traditional" ways that the different races work and framing your question in that manner may get this question opened back up. I would suggest taking this to chat or meta to ask how it can be improved. $\endgroup$ – James Mar 20 '15 at 13:39
  • $\begingroup$ Link to chat: chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/17213/worldbuilders-general-chat $\endgroup$ – James Mar 20 '15 at 13:39
  • $\begingroup$ Ah sorry for the bad Question :) $\endgroup$ – Robin Mar 20 '15 at 13:48
  • $\begingroup$ Not a problem. The lines between good and bad can be pretty thin around here at times, we are all still figuring out what fits and doesn't. $\endgroup$ – James Mar 20 '15 at 14:00
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    $\begingroup$ Even within one race (human) there are large differences in the choice of government. $\endgroup$ – Vincent Mar 20 '15 at 15:18

I believe that the type of caste system used by each race depends largely on what kind of creature they are. Presumably for races much like us, self-centered, selfish, and empathetic for other members of the same race, you would have governments much like ours:

  • Depotism
  • Monarchy
  • Republic
  • Democracy

Each system of government implies a little bit about its people:


Leader of this race rules with an iron fist. He likely only obtained that position because he was the strongest or because his father was strongest. Leaders in this type of system, at least with large groups of individuals, don't tend to last long so you wouldn't see long lines of leaders stemming from the same bloodline, because someone somewhere down the line would have contested the current rule.

People under this rule are simply told what to do, and they are expected to carry it out. There is no sense of nobility or purpose to what they do, though some may still blindingly defend their way of life because they see it as characteristic of their species and to change this would mean changing who they are as a species (take note, good plot points in this). The modern-day equivalent of depotism is a dictator. Dictator gets all the spoils, and his people none. The people exist only to uplift the dictator in his glory.

Referring to lord of the rings, I would expect to see races like the Uruk-hai or Orcs to follow a depotism type system.


Monarchy, like depotism, has a single ruler that has absolute control over his people. However, unlike depotism, the people follow him because he is the chosen leader, likely even religiously. He may not necessarily be the strongest, but he is the one most people rally behind. Not everyone will support him, but with a carefully balanced caste system, everyone knows his/her place and doesn't rebel. Too much imbalance in the system will lead to open revolt, though a revolution under a monarchy tends to lead to another king, not a new form of government. However, most people only wish to serve their lord well, and take pride in their banner.

The king does not make all decisions. He has large tracts of land that he gives to lords, who in turn replenish the treasury. Those lords are like kings of their own land, who in turn delegate their tasks to lesser lords until you arrive at the lowly serf, who doesn't own the land he works on, but is able to provide for his family and live off the land in exchange for paying a tax.

Contrarily, you'd have nobility, and courts, where the king would host extravagant parties. Relationship with foreign entities is very important to a monarchy because image is very important to a monarchy.

What this says about its people is that almost in contrast, people do not care about what happens to the other guy, and yet, they have no problems rallying for a cause or an idea. It is enough to have hope and stability.

Again using lord of the rings as a reference, a race that would use a monarchy would be the dwarves. Perhaps they would not farm land, but they would mine coal, however, the system would be very much the same.


Those under a republic would be slightly enlightened with respect to a monarchy or depotism in that a single ruler cannot be trusted. A republic embraces this idea and decides that an idea is worthwhile only if it is an idea shared among several leaders, not just the one.

The people under this type of government would be free to pursue any type of living they want, however, one cannot survive in cities unless he or she has something to offer, so you would likely see a strong tendency towards trade. Unlike under a monarchy system where your role was determined before you were born, under a republic, you can make vases if you are talented at making vases. As such, the arts would flourish and items of true value would be available, made by those who have perfected the art over many generations. Alternatively, you can even pursue a life in law and study and become a well-respected member of society, of which select few even become senators or council members. While there would almost surely be an elitist mentality, nobody is purposefully kept down in this society.

Races under monarchies would have open trade with races under a republic, however they might secretly fear how people might be pulled towards this type of government, and therefore despite the outwards appearance, there might be much resentment underneath.

The race that I would expect to see under a republic would be the elves.


You may not think that Democracy would be possible, but then, mankind has democracy so it must be possible. This is probably on the higher-end scale of the nobility of systems of government, and something that not even we were able to accomplish without lots of trial and error in history. Keep in mind that this isn't to say that everyone cares for their fellow man in a democracy. You still see politics, corruption, and illusion of choice in modern-day democracies, and I would expect nothing different in other races.

However just the same, it takes an enlightened people to see the need to adopt democracy. You don't often see this in fantasy books, because democracy is a relatively modern form of government, and most fantasy books tend to take the 13th century as a frame of reference for technology and culture. This doesn't mean that a democracy couldn't exist, however.

This might imply that the people under a democracy are much more prone to care about one of the same race. This doesn't necessarily mean that they would care about someone of a different race, perhaps rather showing disdain instead.

You may see a group of senators or a single leader perform decisions on what to bring to a vote, and while there may be corruption or trickery, it would be well-hidden.

Hive mind

Another idea of a system of government that obviously wouldn't be applicable to human beings might be a hive-mind. Each individual would be capable of telepathy. There would likely be an interesting contrast between each individual having a voice and each individual being a drone at the same time. There would be very little protest to decisions being made because in a certain sense, every individual is a piece of a larger whole. If you were to talk to one such individual, for important enough discussions, it would be like having made a speech to all of them, with their ease of transmitting ideas.

There may or may not be a central leader that acts as a tie-breaker. This central leader could be simply another member of the species or it could be a queen-like monstrocity. The only question would be how much influence this queen would have on the rest of them. However, whether it be her decision or a collective-decision, you would still see mostly consent between all of them.

It would likely be difficult if not downright impossible to get them to use "I" in the place of "we", seeing as they would likely have difficulty distinguishing one another. When they do set their minds towards doing something, they are relentless and unstoppable.

Other races would likely steer clear of this race, though it might happen that they occasionally need to cross paths.

An example of a hive mind system that comes to mind is the Borg in star trek.

  • $\begingroup$ @Robin Hive minds could very well be beneficent - it would depend strongly on their origin and evolution as well as their understanding of the collective "non-self." Keep in mind that the Borg ultimately saw themselves as a BENEFICIAL EVOLUTION of the standard non-self, and it's only us weak individuals who are repulsed by the lack of identity that find them horrifying. A hive mind that understands the concept of "multiple perspectives" might very well be a force for building a utopia... $\endgroup$ – Isaac Kotlicky Mar 20 '15 at 11:16
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, I already had some sort of hivemind race in mind, but it would be a lesser race, not that important to the story. $\endgroup$ – Robin Mar 20 '15 at 11:19
  • $\begingroup$ @IsaacKotlicky I think that was one of the more disturbing aspects of the Borg: this idea that utopia is possible if you remove all the aspects that make us human. As such, I would definitely not do without in a story. :) $\endgroup$ – Neil Mar 23 '15 at 8:20

This will depend on how you want to portray the races, e.g. are the elves noble like in Lord of The Rings, or manipulative and xenophobic? Are the dwarves industrious, organised and logical, or alcoholics with short attention spans and a tendency to add magma to everything (as they frequently turn out to be in Dwarf Fortress)? With those in mind:

1) I can't see any solid reason why an elf couldn't be a Duke, or a dwarf an Earl, or so on.

2) If the "evil" races (I'm assuming you mean goblins, trolls, orcs, etc.) have shorter lifespans, you could have the dwarves/elves use them as serfs/slaves/peasants. Or you could use humans instead, since we'd already have shorted lifespans.

3) There probably would still be political dynasties, in which holding power (most likely for the sake of holding power) would become the "family trade". If this particular race is heavily focussed on science, perhaps you could base the nobility system on how many papers and discoveries they and their ancestors have published or made, and have the nobles point to this as proof that they are fit to rule.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you, your answer made me see that I still need to think about some aspects that I had not yet considered. $\endgroup$ – Robin Mar 20 '15 at 10:21
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    $\begingroup$ While you can apply nobility titles to whatever political organization you have, in order for them to be meaningful, there has to be an equivalent of a feudal power-base. In the humans' case, this was land, and you'd have to figure out something equivalent for underground dwarves and forest-dwelling elves. $\endgroup$ – Mike L. Mar 20 '15 at 10:38

The way that the fantasy-webcomic Drowtales approached this, was to make longevity dependent on mana[1,2].

The souls of long-lived races would draw Mana to them and large cities would have high concentrations of Mana, practically stopping the aging process. The connection with nobility and peasants is that the nobles are long-lived because they tend to stay in the cities they rule and because they are proficient in mana arts, similar to how medieval nobles would be expected to be proficient in swordfights etc. If you're a productive member of the city and hang around to serve the empress, you live a longer life than if you work in some far-away mine or are exiled to some remote location. It is therefore in the best interest of the underclass to preserve the status quo and defend the city from being decimated by invaders or depopulated for other reasons.

In Drowtales, mana would also be expended in warfare and one could over-exert onself so as to deplete ones mana, aging or dying as a result.

[1] http://wiki.drowtales.com/index.php/Mana_Arts

[2] http://wiki.drowtales.com/index.php/Drow

  • $\begingroup$ A fine mechanic, but I can't use it as my magical system won't work with this definition of mana. In my world mana would be really seen just as 'life force' or 'life essence'. Weaker wizards would suck this essence from their surroundings, being limited to lesser spells, but there will also be better wizards who learn to pull that from their own body's and souls, training some sort of 'mana muscle' and enhancing their mana pool. The magical system doesn't discriminate any of the races as well (except for life span to learn theorems and such). $\endgroup$ – Robin Mar 20 '15 at 12:42
  • $\begingroup$ I like the idea, though I don't know how much influence this would have on a form of government. $\endgroup$ – Neil Mar 26 '15 at 13:39

A patron to science

In the real world, the feudal system had an emperor/king on the top and nobles that owned land (and the people on it). The nobles paid tribute and aided the king in war.

With regard to question 3, an intelligent and scitech-focused race might replace the above system with an emperor who is patron to a court of scientists, engineers and entrepeneurs. Rather than a modern investor relationship, an owner of a research institute has pledged allegiance to the emperor and will direct his research to aid and empower the emperor. In return for this, the scientist has "ownership" of his employees, his field of study, priority in selling goods to the court, etc.

Having researchers doing fundamental research under one of the "noble scientists" is not too different from the concept of "standing armies" in Medieval Europe. They must be maintained continuously but only contributes to profit in occasional bursts. Depending on how versed you are in the social life of academia, there are also parallells with feudalism in the loyalty to your field, the adherence to research agendas set by the state emperor and in groups of "mercenaries" for hire. The "patron" concept and Silicon Valley venture capitalism meanwhile also carry some similarities.

With regards to the long life expectancy, devout scientists would love nothing more than several lifetimes more of what they're already doing. The unobtainable noble prize becomes a little less unobtainable if you could spend an extra lifetime getting really good at your field. 400 years of being a lab-slave? Bring it on!


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