In an Empire-sized kingdom with gods actively in society, what could go wrong?

The society I have designed is in a high-Fantasy setting with more or less direct maintenance by the Pantheon of Gods. Each has a structured and active Role in, as well as a selfish interest in, the continuance of an orderly society. A goddess of Nobility hand-picks the most qualified rulers, A goddess of Medicine runs temple hospices equal to modern clinics, A goddess of Charity runs self-sufficient poorhouses in every town larger than a hamlet, A goddess of commerce facilitates exchange and inflation, and a god of Justice (albeit a demented one) runs a court where the judge knows all the defendant's thoughts.

The practicum of the prior paragraph is that:

  1. Crime rates are abysmally low in most places, across the board. My justification being that the relatively normal life enjoyed by the poorest in society would prevent them from being tempted into crime, as well as the hanging axe of a criminal court who knows guilt beforehand.
  2. Medicinal treatment is better than modern hospitals, even pre-electricity. The temple doctors are bound with a literal and enforceable by divine smiting version of the Hippocratic oath, and trained by a goddess with complete and All-encompassing knowledge of the human body (she helped design it in the first place). When certain cases like cancers or viral infections arise, she personally has the magical know-how to eliminate them with unearthly and non-invasive precision.
  3. Political unrest is not feasible, as every part of the nobility takes enforceable-by-smiting oaths against rebellion, disobedience, and sedition, as well as being carefully handpicked by an impartial and un-influenceable divine figure. The society is unusually orderly, with a direct federal-feudal hierarchy (i.e. fiefdoms do not divide, unite, expand, or contract, merely are taken over by a different person.)
  4. Taxation and commerce is almost impregnable, with a (very) rules-lawyering goddess overseeing all of the economics. She handles the minting of coins, distribution of bullion, and actively micromanages inflation. She also runs what is essentially a bank, with extra-dimensional storage spaces for valuable and currency, and keeps obsessively perfect records of all account totals.
  5. There is also a goddess of the Afterlife, who manages the recycling and/or destruction of souls. Anyone who chooses not to reincarnate can allow themselves to be obliterated. reincarnated souls are stripped of all memories, but retain the core aspects of their personalities.
  6. A goddess of Agriculture manages Farming, and helps eliminate crop and herd pestilences, as well as occaisonally snagging rainclouds when it is too dry. Though she doesn't have a formal following, she only helps those who contribute some of their crops to her temple.
  7. A goddess of Hunting handles the Animal side of food production, as well as stepping in to aid fisherman and their like. Her temple members are foresters and wildlife wardens, stopping the depletion of forests and rivers.

All of these divine figures, though competing in a larger sense, cooperate to maintain their own prevalence in society and the volume of prayers and donations their respective temples receive. There is no religious conflict in the streets, as every sect has a very well defined place to fit, and actively needs/interacts with the others constructively. The average commoner, if not a doctor, merchant, noble, soldier, judicial officer, or undertaker, is free to worship whomsoever they please, none at all, even multiples at the same time. A banker will not be refused medical treatment, nor a Noble financial advice, purely due to their religious beliefs.

I believe I covered every base. I believe I have constructed a healthy and well-managed society. However, like every worldbuilder hoping to make a perfect system, I am incapable of seeing what faults are hidden within the wider picture.

  • Cultural differences are minimal within the human population.
  • Racial tensions are (for the most part) limited to an antagonism towards prior enemy powers.
  • The infant mortality rate is next to zero (excellent pre- and ante-natal care)
  • The mores and values of the society are more or less aligned with the system.
  • The concept of a societal contract is in place. (i.e. Rule of Law applies)
  • The Aristocracy is Meritocratic, though education is still better in noble circles
  • All external kingdoms/places operate with more or less all of the above gods in place.(At least charity, medicine, death, and commerce) Nobility is less common, with Justice being the least common outside of the human empires.
  • Assume all of these systems came to be because of a begrudging concord between the various gods and those affected by their domains. (i.e. Doctors benefit from Medicine's knowledge, but must swear to be fair and dedicated.)
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    $\begingroup$ My first thought is that if you introduce perfect healthcare to a pre-industrial society, population will blow up beyond sustainability. You haven't made a goddess to produce infinite food, or one who gets people to have 2.1 kids on average and no more. $\endgroup$ – KeizerHarm Jun 24 at 18:40
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    $\begingroup$ Sudden shortage of food --> civil unrest --> deaths --> cannibalism, further to KeizerHarm's comment, the question lacks context within a material world. $\endgroup$ – A Rogue Ant. Jun 24 at 18:52
  • $\begingroup$ Food is managed by a goddess of Agriculture, and a close tie with Hunting, but to a lesser degree than other aspects. The ability to prevent/clear crop-killing diseases and insects boosts one, while the Animals being husbanded enjoy all but perfect health. Added Info in Edit 1 $\endgroup$ – Viable_Beret Jun 24 at 20:10

So are there other gods in existence? Another god deciding to screw with things could cause all kinds of problems. Or maybe human belief can create gods and so sometimes people get gods that they think they want but don't fully understand.

A different source of tensions is the underclass and how good things are. Usually in the real world the poorest and weakest have a harsh life which prevents too much organizing and protesting. Here they are all healthy, not abused and potentially have the time and energy to plot.

Additionally they know for a fact that divine forces have judged them to not be worthy of leadership which some will take as a slap in the face. What happens to people that have leadership skills but no ethics? They don't go away just because they aren't given power, they will find ways to take it and potentially attack the system that has rejected them. Possibly by organizing worship of other gods that were not chosen to participate in the system.

The justice system is both harsh and perfect at determining guilt. This means that as soon as you commit any sort of crime you have a huge incentive to leave society entirely. Outlaw groups and alternative societies are going to potentially have huge influxes of recruits who cannot ever re-join society. Especially if common offenses like drunken antics, adultery, lying, etc are harshly punished.

  • $\begingroup$ Other gods do exist (countless thousands of minor ones), though they were actively and deliberately pushed past the ends of the earth, if not outright destroyed by the Major ones. The remaining ones are mostly fringe forces, or utterly devoid of power . The goddess of agriculture essentially commited suicide by trying to teach humankind how not to die every thirty second. $\endgroup$ – Viable_Beret Jun 24 at 19:50
  • $\begingroup$ The punishments for different crimes are scaled and administered via a system of Geiases. Adultery is not a crime, nor perjury... per se. However, if you were indulging in Drunken antics, a Geias forcibly stopping you from swallowing alchoholic beverages for a certain time frame would be your punishment. Fraud and charlatanry would result in a geias against speaking untruthfully. A geias is a simple magically induced status which creates an effect when a condition is met. $\endgroup$ – Viable_Beret Jun 24 at 19:57
  • $\begingroup$ If it seems I'm being overly defensive here, it's more like I'm trying to parse out solutions to your valid points. $\endgroup$ – Viable_Beret Jun 24 at 19:58
  • $\begingroup$ I think I would likely have to include Moral character weighting and an oath of ethics for rulers and administrators within my sytem, to try and keep things relatively sane. $\endgroup$ – Viable_Beret Jun 24 at 20:01
  1. Differing strategies.

The goddess of Charity is at loggerheads with the goddess of Commerce. Commerce sees poverty and hunger as a natural consequence of the market. Charity points out that the market could be managed in a different way that would greatly minimize hunger and poverty. Commerce is inflexible. Charity is creative, and recruits Justice to her side and together they lean on the rules set out by Commerce. Commerce tries to recruit Nobility to her side but it is a marriage of convenience and difficult for both. Charity seeing herself with the upper hand starts changing aspects of the rules laid out by Commerce. Does this sound so fantastic?

2. External influences.

Your gods rule an empire. The empire is an amalgam of previously autonomous realms. Outside the empire are inhabited lands, some also governed by gods. A distant empire is aggressive, with their gods deeming it just and economical that they take from regions that cannot oppose them. Your nation is not prepared for war and does not have a god charged with that. They must either figure out how to do it in a hurry or recruit someone who knows how.

  • $\begingroup$ Point One is a good one, though some mitigating factors are present. Charity, to a degree, is independent of commerce. She actively uses her power to provide and purchase food for those who are in her temples. She has a carte blanche from the other temples food donations, and usually can requisition small donations of goods from different places, within reason. $\endgroup$ – Viable_Beret Jun 24 at 20:26
  • $\begingroup$ As for their conflicts and their interactions, they are kept to a minimum publically. It's a mexican standoff between them, a Delicate power sharing agreement. Very few- if any- moves are made push others around, so as to preserve the status quo. Everyone gets their place, but only as long as everyone plays nice. If word gets out conflict is brewing, people might start bucking the system. $\endgroup$ – Viable_Beret Jun 24 at 20:28
  • $\begingroup$ To point No.2, The system is... Not ruled by the gods, so much as overseen. Human figures and rulers fill in the different layers of power. Nobility's entire career is keeping decent and competent people in charge, and limiting political upheaval and corruption. An Emperor, a human one, does exert power over his military and minor lords, but a divine magna carta binds both sides. The lords can't rebel or act seditiously, but the Emperor must be reasonable in his demands. This system is echoed at all layers. $\endgroup$ – Viable_Beret Jun 24 at 20:31
  • $\begingroup$ Although, yes, the Goddess of War is... Discouraged from ever coming back. On a lore standpoint, she was very quickly shown the door after convincing most of the known world to engage in World War Stone Age. $\endgroup$ – Viable_Beret Jun 24 at 20:35
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    $\begingroup$ The Charity vs Commerce conflict is take right from the real world. If Charity asks no questions about the status quo and just supports the poor that is one thing. If Charity starts getting proactive and begins to object to processes that cause poverty that is where conflict can begin. $\endgroup$ – Willk Jun 24 at 20:40

The society has no safety valves. People who want things they can't have will be endlessly reminded of it, until they can't conform any more and run amok. You need a way to bleed off tension.

One model would be the classic nobleman's jester or fool: someone outside the normal constraints, who can speak truth to power because he doesn't count. Of course, there's a god for these people, and they're likely to be a Trickster, who does similar things on a larger scale.

Another problem with the society is that sometimes there are no really good answers to problems. Whatever is done, quite a few people come off badly. If they have an expectation of justice, but feel they've been denied it, they're on the path to rebellion.

And finally, how perfect is the gods' judgement and insight? If they visibly make poor decisions (and people's opinions on this are not always fair or well-judged) then again, faith in the system starts to decay. A system that "should" be perfect can suffer a loss of support far more readily than one accepted as imperfect.

  • $\begingroup$ For the third point, I think it is realistic to expect such fomentation to occur, and the mitigation of that would lean further from a Monarchy. I would hope a system of forced arbitration and compromise would help mitigate some of those tensions... though that too has flaws. $\endgroup$ – Viable_Beret Jun 24 at 20:02
  • $\begingroup$ As for your question at the bottom, the Gods have human-like minds, but have active interests with fair play and an image of impartiality., Nobility, she is stuck up to a degree, and insists on only choosing the most qualified candidate. Commerce is a rules lawyer, Charity and Medicine are more on the Lassez-Faire side, Afterlife is Authoritative, and Justice is obsessed with interpretation of intent. Additionally, each has the knowledge that participation within the system is optional, and strive to make it better inside it than out. $\endgroup$ – Viable_Beret Jun 24 at 20:06

This society is a dystopia. Humans are managed like livestock in a barn. There is no free will... all good that humans do is coerced. The gods do this to gratify themselves that they're the best at Sim City 2000: Divinity Edition. Or maybe just to harvest them.

The flaw is the inherent corruption of such. The lack of principles. There is no evil in this world, because there is no good to contrast it. The gods being magical and even (mildly) omnipotent mean that even the strongest-willed, cleverest human can't escape... his or her own thoughts would betray him even if they never showed in his face or were heard in his voice.

Given the sheer contrariness of humanity, what sort of behind-the-scenes bloodbath are the gods conducting? Of course the smitings have to be automated, they wouldn't be able to keep up with the work otherwise.

One might hope that there's an anti-pantheon or a devil out there working to free people from this obscenity.

  • $\begingroup$ That is an excellent point, all in all. And, yes, smiting is automated via gieases. freedom is possible, though mainly through a stratedgy of not taking unbreaking oaths. Escaping to the far ends of the empire, for example. The gods manage through societal contract, if you don't like it, you can leave. Life goes on elsewhere as normal. $\endgroup$ – Viable_Beret Jun 24 at 20:17
  • $\begingroup$ They aren't omnipotent, either. They have limited ranges and thought bubbles. They can only read a memory if they are standing in front of you and actively trying. The administrative parts of their powers are largely through automated spells and gieases. {I.e. you break an oath to them and they get a little notification in their mailbox.} Justice is partially exempt to this. Once you step into a courthouse, he can see through you. Not on the street though. $\endgroup$ – Viable_Beret Jun 24 at 20:20
  • $\begingroup$ The average man, once born into the system, does not get tied to it until he becomes a profession within one of the temples, or breaks a law with serious consequences. Anyone else can simply walk around living their daily lives within the law with no fear of smiting. Justice has to convict you before you get smote, and the Others can't do anything until you take an oath to them. $\endgroup$ – Viable_Beret Jun 24 at 20:23

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