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The Dwarves, they mostly live within their mountains while a wealthy but small percentage of them own land on the surface. They are very isolationist preferring not to take sides when conflict arises unless it directly affects them. The Hierarchy of the society in question is as follows:

  • The Tsar - He is the sole ruler of his vast underground empire. The position is passed on to the oldest son when the Tsar dies.
  • The Council - A council which makes decisions on matters beneath the Tsar and consists of a single appointed noble from each of the clans.
  • The Nobility - Wealthy clans of varying power and size that have held power for many generations. The most powerful clans swearing direct fealty to the Tsar while the smaller clans swear fealty to the various greater clans. What makes them a part of the nobility is the fact that they're clan has a seat on the council and able to cast votes on decisions.
  • The Boyars - wealthy non-nobles who own some mines and land but don't hold much power themselves and have only had their power for one or two generations along with nobles who've lost their seat on the council.
  • The Merchants and Tradesman - The ones who own businesses and work in accordance with the Boyars.
  • The Common Folk - The ones who work the land and mines for the Boyars and nobility.

The group of extremists in question wants to get rid of the nobility and the Tsar while also taking control of the mines and owning the land on the surface, and after achieving these goals they also plan to invade the surface and expand the Dwarven people beyond their mountainous homeland to greater territory on the surface. The tech level is around late 16th century with some technology of the Dwarves being ahead in some regards with the beginning emergence of snap lock muskets. The humans on the surface however only have tech equal around the end of the 14th century due to slower development on their part and also due to the Dwarves restricting trade and knowledge of their technology with them. How could a group of extremists overthrow and drastically reform such a society?

EDIT: More information because there has been a question on how this group is extremist.

The extremists are a group which is very anti-Nobility and want the people, the common folk, to own the mines and land they work and not be merely content with their lives. They also believe that the dwarven race as a whole is superior to the humans and even the elves because of their technological advancements. They believe that the nobility is holding back their people's true potential and by being rid of them they can then usher in a new age of progress for their people by invading the surface and establishing dominance upon the world above.

EDIT: To Clear up some confusion over my use of the term "Boyar" and what differentiates them from the regular nobility. Summarised, The nobility have seats on the council and the Boyar don't, Among the Boyar are disgraced nobles who've lost their seat and thus are no longer considered nobles by the other nobles, and there are also families who've only owned land or a mine for one or two generations and don't have a council seat. Additionally, if a Boyar gains enough influence they may be able to petition for their family to have a council seat, which would make them nobility, and the nobles may decide to have a vote on whether or not they may have a seat. The Tsar may also grant a council seat to a Boyar for whatever reason he wishes. Votes on the council are settled on a 6 to 10 majority basis.

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    $\begingroup$ That's a novel usage of the word "boyar". As a member of a nation which once actually had boyars I strongly protest against misusing a perfectly good word. Boyars were aristocrats, noblemen, period. We (and the Russians, and the Bulgarians, and everybody who actually had boyars) never had any other word for "noble" or "artistocrat" before we succumbed to the corrupting influence of the West. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Nov 1 '18 at 14:57
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    $\begingroup$ Any ressemblance with soviet revolution is merely a coincidence, there's nothing to see here...comrade $\endgroup$ – jean Nov 1 '18 at 16:24
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    $\begingroup$ @Vaolor What you are describing sounds closer to the Chinese Tuhao or French term Parvenu as it applies to the Nouveau riche - Rich people who have not (yet) become "established" enough to become full Aristocracy $\endgroup$ – Chronocidal Nov 1 '18 at 16:27
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    $\begingroup$ Suggestions... In Ancien Régime France, they distinguished between noblesse d'épée (nobles of the sword, "real" nobles) and noblesse de robe (nobles of the robe, ennobled lawyers or civil servants). Charlie Stross has a fascinating alternate history series about Merchant Princes. Ancient Romans made a three-way distinction between patricians, knights ("equites") and ordinary men... $\endgroup$ – AlexP Nov 1 '18 at 17:58
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    $\begingroup$ @Vaolor You should state what you mean by "extremist." Depending on your usage of the word, many of us today believe that this has recently happening and is still happening. For example, I personally consider the idea that we need to have a bunch of punctual 9-5 Mon-Fri jobs, and that if you refuse to accept that you will have a hard time getting ahead in life, to be an extremist position, yet that is currently the majority view in the US and it is forced upon us all by these extremists. $\endgroup$ – Loduwijk Nov 1 '18 at 18:10
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Find some neglected prince who is somewhere between 5th and 10th in line for the Throne, but is disrespected by other royalty for some reason (maybe even for their interest in outside world). Get him to conspire with you.

Conspire with a few powerful clans, by promising them even more riches and power from conquering human land. Ideally candidates are clan that is rich enough to produce an army, but lacks political power or respect.

Start spreading rumors that humans want to invade dwarves and steal their riches. If necessary, hire some human thieves or bandits to do just that.

Stage a coup-d'etat, killing every royal so your pocket price becomes Tsar. Use armies of the loyal clan to prevent other clans from taking power for themselves. Attack and kill the clan that is leads the opposition, redistribute their lands, mines and riches to loyal clans. Repeat until opposition ends.

PS Your political system is overly complicated. Boyars are same as Nobility, and defined by ownership of land (including mines), which is the only source of power in medieval settings. Power means army, which requires money or resources, and these come from land. You can have different levels within nobility (Game of Thrones is a good example); IRL boyars were the top non-royal level.

The next-powerful class are merchants and craftsmen, who own the technology and skills to create or deliver goods. Industrial revolution meant that technology became more valuable than land.

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    $\begingroup$ Ideally, frame the killing of the other Royals as the actions of another party - perhaps your rivals, to set them against each other and reduce their armies, or perhaps the imagined "human insurgency" to rally people to your cause $\endgroup$ – Chronocidal Nov 1 '18 at 16:29
  • $\begingroup$ A little bit of an explanation for the political system. In order to actually be counted as a noble, your clan or house must hold a seat within the council. Among the Boyar class, there are disgraced nobles who've lost a council seat and no longer can decide on decisions and there is also a sort of up jumped class of wealthy landowners who've only had power for one or two generations and haven't established themselves with the nobles. additionally, the council may uplift a Boyar to the nobility by giving them a seat on the council through a vote. Hope that explains some of it. $\endgroup$ – Vaolor Nov 1 '18 at 16:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Vaolor thanks for exlanation, it makes sense to have new and old nobiles, as well as those with/without land. The conspirators can use those tensions. I still do not think you could own substantial amount of land without being a noble in a RL medieval setting. Back then, you did not own land, you rented it from the king, and that fact by itself made you nobility of some kind. But your story is not in RL, of course :) $\endgroup$ – Bald Bear Nov 1 '18 at 16:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Bald Bear I've added some more details to the question. $\endgroup$ – Vaolor Nov 1 '18 at 18:47
  • $\begingroup$ Land is the primary source of power in the medieval ages, but this is not a medieval setting; it is a renaissance setting. Guilds and merchant groups controlled significant power during the Renaissance. Their power and influence was both a product and a cause of the Renaissance. $\endgroup$ – BobTheAverage Nov 1 '18 at 19:23
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Start a religion.

It may take longer than you prefer but it works. If the nobles see it as a way to keep the workers in line (and too busy to think about rebelling) they'll not only approve of it but they might even donate some resources, like meeting space or even salaries for the clergy. If you're lucky, the nobles won't want to come to services.

Then you have safe ways to meet up and spread information among workers. And you can start organizing. Slowly, the religion will start amassing more and more power. At first they can justify this by taking the burden off of the nobles.

For example, they can take care of feeding workers who are sick or injured or survivors of dead workers. Then, without the nobles having noticed the transition, they're suddenly in charge of food distribution to workers in general. Then to other parts of society. Then the nobility realizes the religion is in charge of everyone's food. But it's okay because the religion is neutral and benign. For now.

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    $\begingroup$ Dang, beat me to it, I shouldn't have spent so long drafting. I'll leave mine up for a bit, see if there's anything you'd like to cannibalize. $\endgroup$ – Jim Nov 1 '18 at 17:19
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    $\begingroup$ Alternatively, start by converting the nobles. If you give them the message that with the right gods on their side they can subjugate the entire known world, the more intellectually challenged ones will buy it, at least. Once the peasants have bought into the idea, you can excommunicate the troublesome aristocrats who try to think for themselves, and the peasants won't follow them if they try a counter-rebellion. $\endgroup$ – alephzero Nov 1 '18 at 17:29
  • $\begingroup$ Jim, luck of the draw. :-) $\endgroup$ – Cyn Nov 1 '18 at 17:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Cyn I've added some more details to the question. $\endgroup$ – Vaolor Nov 1 '18 at 18:48
  • $\begingroup$ Vaolor, your additional details make "starting a religion" an even better fit, IMHO. Good luck with it! $\endgroup$ – Cyn Nov 1 '18 at 19:46
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Your revolution is missing a strong base and since your dwarves seem to share some common ground with the old Russian Empire, I'll give you a simple alternative: Dwarf Rasputin. A charismatic religous leader can be the center of your extremist movement, as Rasputin did, your leader will proclaim himself (or herself, she can be Drawf Joan of Arc)a holy person or a messenger of the Gods. But they will side with the Common Folk instead of the Ruling Class.

If you add some repression and corruption you can get a valid revolutionary situation and your extremists will have a chance at success.

EDIT due to OP EDIT

What you've described is within the causes of a Revolutionary Situation. Given the state of technology and assuming religion is part of the status quo (ej. The Tzar has been ordained by the Gods) an strong religious (with a political agenda) leader can be the engine that launches a Civil War that overthrows the goverment.

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  • $\begingroup$ I've added some more details to the question. $\endgroup$ – Vaolor Nov 1 '18 at 18:49
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Lie. A lot. What you're doing is essentially a scam. Instead of scamming people out of cash, you're scamming them out of their country, but the same principles apply. Put pressure on your marks until they're not thinking clearly, then suggest what you want them to do in such a way that they think it was their own idea all along.

Start with a generous amount of fearmongering. Make sure that your people believe that the humans are horrible terrible people, the worst sort of barbarians, ready and willing to invade your lands, slaughter all good, honest, hard-working dwarves, and tear down dwarven society as a whole. Repeat this until they really believe. In fact, things will generally go better for your rule if you just don't ever stop propagandizing.

Eventually, someone (presumably a councilor or the like, unless your society has a separate professional army, which it probably doesn't) will get put in charge of fixing the "human problem". Make sure that someone is sympathetic to your cause. It's great if they're a card-carrying member of the Invade the Surface Party, but control through e.g. blackmail or bribery can be effective - just make sure they don't slip their leash, so to speak. If the chosen councilor or general isn't yours, and you can't make them yours, have them removed by whatever means are necessary: blackmail, character assassination, regular assassination, backroom politics ("if you let us take the lead on the Human Committee, we'll support your bid to lead the Farming Committee"). Continue until someone sympathetic to the cause gets the job. This may cause a fair amount of havoc, which you should take every opportunity to blame on the humans and/or wishy-washy, ineffectual councilors.

Once you're in charge of fixing things, have your confederates spread rumors that everyone else is wishy-washy and lax on the subject of the humans. This works doubly in your favor, because in addition to eroding popular support for the other nobles, those nobles will be encouraged to contribute generously to defense in order to save face... but you control all the defense efforts, by the Tsar's decree. Play your cards right and your enemies will hand you all the power you need to dismantle them if the time comes.

Throughout all of this, the pace and excess of your propaganda should increase. You're not satisfied until the public well and truly believes that the humans need to be, if not crushed, at least denied with all possible force ("crushed" is more helpful when it comes time to implement the second part of your plan, invading the surface). What happens next is up to the rest of the government.

It's possible that they will willingly cede you the power and resources you need to carry out your invasion plans. If so, you win! If your invasion goes well, the wealth and lands you seize will help secure your position when the nobles get uppity again. If it fails, well... don't fail.

More likely, the nobles will buy into the threat, but insist on "helping" solve it - some with good intentions that just happen to conflict with yours, others with selfish motives. In either case your goal is to use your position as the final arbiter of all things human-problem-solving to paint them as misguided or treasonous, and have them sidelined, exiled, or purged (adjust to taste, and keep in mind that they may be assets in the future if handled correctly). Eventually the council will shift to a composition that will give you power as above.

The last option is that the government will do nothing, refuse to be baited, or even rebuke you for your efforts (and/or political grandstanding). In that case, your job is much trickier: you'll need to use the fear and anger you've instilled in the population to launch a coup, aided by whatever hardliners you can scrape together among the nobility. (Don't forget to shore up your support by offering people generous rewards after your victory. You can even promise to promote upstanding commoners to a newer, more effective council of nobles, if that's what it takes to get them to storm the barricades for you.) There are a lot of ways this can go wrong, and you may find it more advantageous, not to mention safer, to simply wait and continue to apply pressure.

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    $\begingroup$ There are real world examples of this working, but be careful of how history will remember it. A good example would be Hitler blaming the Jews for all of Germany's problems. $\endgroup$ – Anketam Nov 1 '18 at 17:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Cadence I've added some more details to the question. $\endgroup$ – Vaolor Nov 1 '18 at 18:49
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OK overthrow a government.
nothing easier as that ...
First you need a plan, the plan what you want to do if you would lead this country. You need to convince others you're right. When you are getting opposed by the government (from your position illegally or unmorally) , because you're too extremistic it comes to the turning point of the whole story:
You need a strong supporterbase to make a big revolution
When you have convinced more than a quarter of the common people you have a power to be recogned with.
If you have half you can successfully make a civil war with your supporters and with that split up succesfully from the government.
When you have more than half of all people convinced, up until more 3/4 you can win a civil war easily, even against the army.
when you have very many more than 3/4 you have already overthrown the country and won the not even started war.
So whatever you do, you need to be backed by many people.
Meaning you need to be good in convincing others

EDIT:
You show up a (or more) fault(s) of the nobility. Like oppression. Then you spread the rumors about the storys common people happened. Make sure everyone feels the oppression could hit him/her self, that everyone is threatened. People will rumor more and fears consolidate.
The turning point is another fault by the government, which lets everyone jump up and raise their powers to get rid of the nobility.
And then follow above
- every "fault" can be government made or put the blame on the government.

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  • $\begingroup$ I've added some more details to the question. $\endgroup$ – Vaolor Nov 1 '18 at 18:49
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Your revolution will be the product of Dwarven, not human, thinking.

An underground mining culture will never use nor value rifles. In a world where every building is bulletproof, a world of tight spaces and short sight lines, an innovation in long range piercing weaponry will be greeted with disinterested shrugs.

The weapon of choice in brutal underground fighting is strategic suffocation- controlling flames that suck the air from the tunnels, and directing choking smoke down others. Dwarven defensive thinking is focused not on controlling access to a space (which is easy underground) but on maintaining life support to a space (which is hard).

The Nobles and Boyars don't control the mines and land above- they control the air and water pipes that connect them, and they control the mining winch rooms, and the doors that swing shut in the event of a mine fire. Or a riot.

The innovation that suddenly makes revolution possible and changes the power equation is explosives.

Young PowderMasters mastering the mining techniques suddenly make whole new areas quickly and easily accessible. New frontiers open up, ones not previously controlled by the old regime. At the same time, Those PowderMasters recognize the obvious military applications of their skills.

By banding together, they can share their art with each other more easily, and restrict access to others. This guild is the start of their secret society, and shared power makes for ambitious plans.

And how will they keep control of this brave new world they are creating? A blasting charge can just as easily remove an air access pipe as it creates one. Easier, really.

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  • $\begingroup$ The thing about the muskets, the dwarven extremists do plan on invading the surface once they gain control of their nation. Explosives may be useful in its strategic uses with destroying ventilation shafts and collapsing passageways but on the surface, explosives can only really be used in sieges with destroying walls and fortifications and on the field, the use of explosives becomes less devastating in the form of bombs... $\endgroup$ – Vaolor Nov 2 '18 at 23:12
  • $\begingroup$ ...The dwarves do have large hollowed sections of their underground cities and this is where muskets could come into use and with the nobles so focused on heavy infantry, muskets could become a great thing for the extremists because of their lack of access of armor but with the access of guns, this no longer hampers their fighting force because training a soldier with the use of a musket can take little as a month or two instead of years which it would take to train capable infantry. $\endgroup$ – Vaolor Nov 2 '18 at 23:12
  • $\begingroup$ And though tunnels and ventilation shafts could be destroyed, this might not be wised considering The extremists want to run the nation after they've gotten rid of the Tsar, nobles, and boyars because destroying infrastructure would also affect the common folk whom they need the support of to create a successful revolution because without such support they have no chance at taking on their opponents. $\endgroup$ – Vaolor Nov 2 '18 at 23:28
  • $\begingroup$ @JKimball While a basic musket might not be as useful in a tunnel, a few blunderbusses could absolutely control the choke points of a tunnel system, and could be loaded with scrap slag from smithing operations. $\endgroup$ – Cadrac Nov 9 '18 at 7:23
  • $\begingroup$ If you want a weapon that can control a chokepoint by forcefully expelling lots of slag shrapnel, might I interest you in a grenade? It takes even less training to use than any firearm, is intuitive and natural to a mining culture, and is much more dangerous in a constrained environment. $\endgroup$ – J Kimball Nov 20 '18 at 14:27
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As history taught us multiple times :

Convince the poorest(the common folk) to carry out a revolution and destroy the entire hierarchy, making the people love and later elect you their leader. Enforce their feeling of patriotism and nationalism.

Tell the people how unfair this hierarchy basically is, and propose the only possible solution - killing all the current leaders and council members to later "democratically" elect a single leader who will lead the dwarves to prosperity.

In the late 16th century, I guess that wouldn't be hard - speaking of history, think of the french revolution; the french people were - technologically - quite similar to your dwarves. They too had just discovered explosives etc., however also including cannons, so it should be far easier for your dwarves then it was for the french people back then.

Worst case : The noble men have all the weapons. At first try to convince the soldiers;if this doesn't work, start a guerilla war, and starvate them.

But you can be sure they will elect you, because you were there leader back in the revolution, and also know how to influence the people.

However, make sure to stay in the background as long as the hierarchy is still alive - else they may kill you - the leader - before the revolution gets a chance to suceed.

Finally, build up your own hierarchy, and see how long it lasts...

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  • $\begingroup$ This doesn't work with medieval technology. As the saying goes, God made men, but Sam Colt made them equal. Firearms are the equalizer. The peasants stand no chance against well armed and armored, trained and experienced fighting men in the 16th century. A revolution of the unarmed people was really feasible until...oh....around 1776. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Nov 1 '18 at 16:59
  • $\begingroup$ They do stand a chance. $\endgroup$ – LMD Nov 1 '18 at 17:02
  • $\begingroup$ Edited the post; think of the french revolution ! $\endgroup$ – LMD Nov 1 '18 at 17:08
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    $\begingroup$ @kingledion I did put that there is some technology ahead of the 16th century such as snaplock muskets, the flintlock's older brother. The peasants could make raids against blacksmiths and gunsmiths to acquire weapons for their cause and because most of the fighting, if there is fighting, is going to occur below ground cavalry should not be an issue and the fighting will happen in underground tunnels where one can only deploy a limited number of soldiers in a restricted area of fighting. $\endgroup$ – Vaolor Nov 1 '18 at 17:25
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    $\begingroup$ Just be careful--this method could easily slip beyond your control. Once convinced that those in power are all evil, the peasants may include YOU in that. Remember Robespierre eventually fell victim to Madame Guillotine himself. $\endgroup$ – Cadrac Nov 9 '18 at 12:43
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You need some kind of power base to start a revolution.

In a medieval setting, it might be hard to incite the common folk to revolt. Having essentially no weapons, and being poor, they have very large odds against them. Consider Russia; there were multiple uprisings of serfs in Russia, but none overthrew the tsar until the Russian Revolution, which was well after the medieval period. But there are alternative routes to a revolution, some of which might make more interesting scenarios an uprising of common folk.

It's possible that the merchants, tradesmen and boyars are very unhappy with the situation. Say they control nearly all of the economy, but have very little political power. If they are disaffected enough, they might be induced to revolt, and if together, they control enough resources, the revolution might be successful.

And then, in the chaos following the revolution, your conspiracy of extremists could seize the power from the merchants, tradesmen, and boyars. (Think the Russian Revolution, where the Bolsheviks ousted the other socialist parties and took all the power for themselves.) And they could unite the dwarves by starting an expansionist campaign on the surface. (Think of the French Revolution, where Napoleon raised an army and conquered half of Europe.) Finally, they could double cross the merchants, tradesmen, and boyars, eliminate all the elites, and try to raise up the common people. (Examples of this might be during the French Revolution and the Chinese Cultural Revolution.)

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Totally different attempt : Blackmail the Tsar. Everybody has something valuable. Control him from the background. When you notice him slightly considering the possibility of reopposing, force him to state that one of your men was a secret son of him noone knew. Then assassinate him and his children. You will have the next Tsar.

Now start widening your power and dominating the council & later country ! Convince the people that you are the leader of the poor. Also, portray the other races as the "real threats" for your "glorious race". Use propaganda.

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