First time asking a question. So my DM asked me to help design a city in our campaign country. Now to be able to give the city a function in the bigger picture i was wondering how the country could function.


The country has one capital and 12 big cities. Every city houses a member of the council that helps the emperor rule. The idea was that every council member has their own 'specialty' if i may call it that. Like someone who keeps track of trade and another person who keeps track of war/police stuff and advices the emperor on that subject.

Now my queston is how do i divide the topics that the emperor would need help with, to rule his country, using 12 different specialities/areas of interest? Not really sure what to call them. English is not my first language sorry.

So what does a country, where magic and other planes and monsters exist, needs advice in to be ruled properly?

I made a little list myself just of the top my head and I'm sure i'm forgetting something important.

What could be the 12 sections of expertise in the council:

  1. Forest, timber, lumber, export/import, animals/beasts
  2. Mountains, stone, jewels, minerals, export/import
  3. Metal trade, precious metals, export/import
  4. Trade relations, general, global, export/import
  5. Religion and regulation of religion
  6. Relations, Global/national, social stuffs, politics
  7. War relations, military, police
  8. Magic, protection of magical artifacts, information safekeeping, magical creatures
  9. Planar Protection, weak spots in between material and other planes
  10. Culture/history, libraries, information safekeeping,
  11. Life, health, famine
  12. Emperor things, searching for new emperor
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    $\begingroup$ Since you are new and nobody has said this yet, I'll give the standard advice : It is better to wait some time (a day?) before picking an answer. Picking an answer early makes some people not answer even if they might have a better answer. And if somebody writes a better answer anyway, having your answer unpicked kind of sucks. So it is better to just upvote and maybe comment first and only do the pick after some time. $\endgroup$ May 16 '20 at 12:42
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You forgot the most important 2, agriculture and taxes. without those the rest of it is not going to exist. Also who is taking care of roads? $\endgroup$
    – John
    May 16 '20 at 13:05
  • $\begingroup$ I think there is no way to answer this in a way which is not opinion based. Look at the world governments all around the world. There is no standard set of ministries. Italy, not a Monty Python show, for a while even had a "minister for the relationship with the parliament" and a "ministry for simplification". $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    May 16 '20 at 13:08
  • $\begingroup$ @VilleNiemi Oh thank you. It just said something about accepting an answer and i didn't realize i could accept only one. oops! $\endgroup$
    – Jara Arts
    May 16 '20 at 13:20
  • $\begingroup$ Any set up should probably have some odd aspects to it. Some for historical reasons -- the Secret Service ran both president's security and counterfeiting investigation because when they needed a security force, this one was there -- and others for philosophical reasons -- bards go not under the eighth department but under the seventh, and state it was the department of harmony. This produces much of the variation that @L.Dutch-ReinstateMonica describes, and does have the benefit that you can put any important things into the existing departments without being too coherent about it. $\endgroup$
    – Mary
    May 16 '20 at 16:08

Though only tangentially related to the actual question posed, I do not think that an advisory council should be distributed between the cities. Firstly the government of any great city requires more or less all the expertises listed, and secondly, the point of advisors is to be accessible when the Emperor needs them. So unless magical videoconferences are widespread, the Council should sit in the capital, and the other cities should have lesser councils of similar composition.

The actual composition of the council is mainly subjective. It depends on the setting details: What are the main economic activities in the realm? How magic works? (that would for example decide if there need to be separate Councilmen for Magic, Planar Protection and Religion)

You should also think about the powers the council has:

1) Is it a purely advisory body, providing information and advice, but always leaving the decisions (and their execution) to the Emperor?

2) Or are the members more like ministers of a modern government, wielding authority given to them by the Emperor, and directing bureaucracies?

3) Or can they vote about things?

(So if the Emperor wants to levy a new tax, in case 1. He asks the Councilman of Finance and the Councilman of Trade, deliberates on what he hears, and then commands other subjects (provincial governors, imperial freedmen or whoever) to execute what he decided. Whereas in case 2. He only commands the Councilman of Finance to levy the tax, who himself fleshes out the details (what cities should pay and to what deadline, census, etc...), and directs his underlings (tax collectors and accountants), and then reports back to the Emperor.)

There is no one side-fits-all formula, so I will present some examples I made up hastily:

Empire with irrigation around a river (think ancient Mesopotamia): This empire has an agricultural heartland of ancient cities, centered on a fertile riverbed. Around it live subdued Hill Cities and Pastoral Tribes. The Emperor is also a High Priest and is held a Descendant of Gods. He rarely leaves the capital, leaving conquest to his battlefield commanders. The High Council is composed of Men from different statuses:

  • Three Marshalls: These are field military commanders, commanding one army each by geographical subdivision.
  • The Overseer of Channels: A great minister, responsible for a large staff of civil engineers, directs operations to keep the lands irrigated but not overflooded. He has special judicial authority in all water-related disputes (eg. when the people of a village divert water from the canals of another), and direct public labor to constructions.

  • The Overseer of Levies: A great minister, he ensures that the Hill Cities and the Pastoralits contribute the required number of soldiers to the Imperial Army, and that the army is well equiped, He balances the Marshalls, who are heroes and tactical masterminds, but can not feed their armies alone.

  • The Overseer of Magicians: A quite great minister, overseeing the guilds and associations of magic users. Special judicial authority in charges of dark magic usage (necromancy, etc...)

  • Overseer of Geometers: An important minister, deals in land ownership and boundaries.

  • The Overseer of the Court: An important minister, runs the Imperial court itself, its ceremonies and the goods needed to maintain its splendour.

  • The Overseer of Envoys: An important minister, he manages foreign relations and emissaries.

  • The Twelve Delegates: They are the representatives of the core cities. They are not specialists, rather local politicians and lobbyists.

  • The Master Diviner: He is not a minister (does not have a ministry under him, only a few acolytes), merely a advisory specialist for predicting the future and expiating prodigies.

  • The Master Physician: Attends to the personal health to the Emperor, and gives advice the Delegates and Marshalls to prevent epidemics.

  • The Examiner of Pleas: An advisory legal professional. He is not a judge, only checks supplications whether they are worthy to the attention of the Emperor, and gives advice.

Note that there is no minister of finance: This is a society before money was invented, and the needs of the administration are collected for the court in kind under the Overseer of the Court and the Levies. There is also no supreme spiritual and judicial authority in the council, as these are the Emperors special prerogatives.

So you could think about how the system in your country came to be and evolved: In my case it looks like this: There were city-states in the heartland. One conquered the others, and its King became Emperor, and its patron supreme god. The Master Diviner and the Master Physician were in the entourage of the King before the conquest, just as the Overseer of Court and of Envoys were previously royal officials. The next emperor invited the Delegates into the council to help rule the cities peaceably (wars were frequent previously), and created the Overseer of Channels and of Geometers to delineate the territories and irrigation water claims of them. The next emperor conquered the Hill Cities, and created the Overseer of Levies to help control them. The next emperor left the system alone. The next was slothful, and created Marshalls to command the army in his stead, and the Examiner of Pleas to spare him the nuisance of dealing with appeals in petty cases. After a dangerous demonic outbreak the Overseer of Magicians was added, and the system was mature.

  • $\begingroup$ very very good points. Now i'm just helping the DM and she came up with the system and is still working on it so i'll pass it on to her. I think the plan was for the council to be in the capital at all times and like representatives of the cities based on the cities original function/trade or speciality or something. And yes the city itself also needs all the points you mentioned covered to function. Thank you very much! $\endgroup$
    – Jara Arts
    May 16 '20 at 13:04

Primarily, they would have expertise on the matters concerning their city and its surrounding area. Their primary function in the council would be to represent the interests of their city and its citizens and to advise the king on matters concerning their home region.

The basic purpose and function would be to make sure that the king is aware and informed on matters of importance to the cities. This helps avoid needless friction between the king and the cities that could be caused by the king ignoring matters important to the cities or by him making decisions unpopular with cities thru ignorance. Basically, if the councillors are happy with what the king is doing the cities should not be starting rebellions or conspiring with foreign powers. Although this would be more reliable if using more than one representative per city.

Models to use would be things like the US Senate with its two senators per state. Realistically a country with a king would probably be derived from the feudal models but seriously it is better to leave that stuff to the DM. They did not ask you to develop history and political system for the country so you probably should not do so.

Secondarily, the councillors would have specializations based on the specialities of their cities if any. For example if most of the trade goes thru your city, the councillor would be first among equals when matters of trade are discussed. If the major magic academy is in the city, others would naturally defer to the councillor on matters of magic. The councillor for the capital would probably be the authority on political matters. The holy city of the main religion would have great weight on matters of religion.

Typically these secondary focuses would not be formally acknowledged or really based on the city. Rather the interests powerful in the city would affect the choice of the councillor and the amount of prestige and type of expertise he has. A trade city dominated by trade interests would choose someone who is an expert on matters of trade and capable of representing them in such. And those same trade interests would have large influence when matters of trade are discussed to make sure what their representative is listened to.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm not trying to do the DM's work. I was just curious on how this would function for when i get to start my own campaign and worldbuilding. I know nothing of politics and you guys make some very good points that she might not have considered, who knows. Just helping her like she asked me to :) $\endgroup$
    – Jara Arts
    May 16 '20 at 13:13

It looks like you've got a good start there. These "areas of interest" are usually called Ministries or Departments. Here you can see the Ministries of the UK Government. And the same for the US Government. And here, the various departments of the Ministry of Magic. As an example, this is how one empire in my world divides these duties, which they call magistracies:

First Magister -- this ministry heads the imperial bureaucracy
Lord of the Treasury -- money matters, the mint, mathomhouses
Magister of the Home Services -- domestic affairs
Magister of the Overseas Services -- territories and islands far far away
Chancellor of the Exchequer -- economics, taxes, revenues
Lord Admiral of the Navies and Marines -- military
Lord Field Marshal of the Armies and Militias -- military
Magister of the Civil Service -- focuses on the bureaucracy itself
Chancellor of the Emperor's Justice -- court system
Lord Speaker for the House of Nobles -- legislation
Lord Speaker for the House of Divines -- legislation
Lord Speaker for the House of the Freemens Moot -- legislation
Lord Speaker for the House of Folksdage -- legislation
Lord Gravio of Angera -- semiautonomous regions within the empire
Lord Gravio of Rumnias -- semiautonomous regions within the empire
Chancellor of the Posts and Highways -- infrastructure
Lord Keeper of the Seals and Signs -- keeps everything legal
Lord Great Chamberlain -- manages the imperial household
Lord High Constable -- justice and policing
Magister for Dwimcraft and Witcraft -- magical & intellectual
Magister for Policies and Writs -- something between propaganda and information
Magister for Civil Ministries -- liaison between imperial and local governments
Lord Bishop of Pylycundas -- religious & spiritual
Lord High Priest of Our Lady of the Seas -- religious and spiritual
Lord High Justice for Angera -- semiauthonomous region within the empire
Magisters without Portfolio -- sinecure without a specific department


I think than many of the answers are useful and correct, providing good advice, but when I first read the title of the question, it prompted me to think of the National Security Council structure used in the US, or the Privy council that used to be more strongly used by the British. Or other small advisory boards or groups that influence, a strong willed wife, a set of college friends, or extended family that may operate outside of an official government structure.

These councils are often much smaller composed of only a few people. These people may of course run departments or organizations that also feed them information. In modern times, this can be very complex with multiple layers or tiers of people working to provide good advice, and I think for the British the privy council is largely honorary.

I think part of the fun and the palace intrigue that makes your question interesting is thinking about where the boundaries of power are between the different groups being represented and do they really have the ear of the king. Even if there is representation by geography, or by occupation, which of those groups actually get their voices heard, and how do decisions get made.

I think you can propose any number of types of structures, and org charts can help figure out where the conflicts and alliances between advisors can occur. But perhaps how you overlay the personalities, and competencies of the people near the top that make the decisions, and how far the people at the top can reach down through the bureaucracy and meddle can add a lot of flavor. If the system is good and the advisors are corrupt, or the system is bad, and there are good people advocating for change.


Each city sends a member to represent that city. Persons advising on general matters are based in the capitol.

Suppose I am a wealthy merchant based in a maritime city with a large port. But the representative from my city is concerned with libraries and has never set foot on a ship.

The representative in charge of commerce for the nation comes from an inland mining city, and is in fact the owner of large and profitable mines. He knows even less about shi ps or ports than our librarian council member! Our librarian councilor is very nice but there is my money at stake and no-one to advocate for me with the king!

Each city would send a councilor to represent its interests generally. That councilor would live in the city and probably be well vested in its interests. Advisors concerned with more general things like libraries or religion would probably be based in the capitol although not necessarily; if there was one city which for historical reasons was the religious center that advisor might be based there.

  • $\begingroup$ The Capitol with an o is a hill in Rome (Mons Capitolinus, where the Romans had the temples of Jupiter and Juno and the state archives), or a large neoclassical building in Washington, D.C. (where the Senate and the House of Representatives meet). The city where the government of a country resides is called the capital with an a (from Latin capitalis, "of the head", "of the greatest importance"). $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    May 16 '20 at 18:52
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP. /hangs head in illiterate shame/ $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    May 16 '20 at 20:22
  • $\begingroup$ No shame; English is notorious for reducing all short unstressed vowel to schwa, so the confusion is natural. In most other European languages the two words have different pronunciations, so that confusion is very much less likely. I make this kind of comments in order to provide a little mnemonic help to help overcome the difficulties of English spelling. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    May 16 '20 at 20:56

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