I have a scenario that I have, and I feel like I have it fairly well developed, but I can't shake the feeling that there's something more to it than I expect. So here's the scenario:

The Draconi are a race, effectively, of dragons in human form. Think lizard-men, but able to breathe fire. They exist in a medieval, D&D, World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings kind of world. They are the kind of nobility who enact the typical "luxurious royal life contrasted to miserable peasant life" in their kingdom. Recently, the Draconi King and Queen have gone off on a continental voyage, leaving their son, the Prince, to rule.

However, in their absence, the Prince has taken an iron fist to the kingdom; never truly taught to learn restraint, he now takes a slightly bratty, "take what I want because I can" attitude, very similar to the real-world Roman emperor Caligula. He spread his rule outward into neighboring, unruled villages and towns, and violently conquested them.

He's become legendary and infamous. There's rumors he kidnaps women for his own pleasure, and they might not be untrue. However, a few factors prevent other kingdoms from going into war with him: Number one, the Draconi Kingdom is one of the most powerful kingdoms, ever. They have an enormous military, and on top of that, they have tamed dragons - there have already been discussions about the overwhelming power of dragons as a military device. Number two, the Kingdom is powerful economically as well; it is set on top of a very mineral-rich region, and has a high number of valuable exports. And three, it is currently surrounded by a large ring of uncolonized wilderness, which takes about a month to cross. The Prince has refrained from waging war on any other kingdoms for strategic reasons.

I've already considered assassinations, attempts to overthrow, rebellion, the considerations of war and the like. But I still can't shake the feeling that there's something that's slipping my thoughts. So my question is: Does the political status of this kingdom seem realistic? Are there factors I've failed to consider?

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    $\begingroup$ A month away is somewhere between 1000 and 1500 km away, depending on your speed. That's a pretty big area of wilderness. $\endgroup$ – Vincent Nov 4 '15 at 16:09

As others have mentioned, there are wheels within wheels to this problem. Luckily you, as the author, can simply assert things happen a specific way - regardless of likelihood.

A little background

Typically Feudal governments balanced power between the monarchs and the nobility. Various members of the nobility pledge to support the monarch when summoned. The Monarch only directly manages the forces associated with his own land holdings. All the other forces in the kingdom belong to the nobility.

If you are a fan of the book & TV series, Game of Thrones, you can see how messy this sort of arrangement can get when some of the nobility figures it can do better on its own or has a chance to replace the Monarch.

Similarly these sorts of kingdoms tended to grow to the limit of their ability to manage, rule, control, and protect. Which means your relatively powerful Draconia will be surrounded by lesser powers who in aggregate are more powerful than Draconia.

Meaning to survive politics (both internal and external), the monarch need to be clever or have clever people working for them constantly balancing these various threats to the throne. Frequently, the monarch will set various threats against each other to keep them from eyeing the throne.

The Prince

Leaving a bratty and presumably annoying prince in power means that prince will begin to draw the ire of both the kingdoms own nobility and also the ire of surrounding countries.

In fact, the prince might do unnecessary taunting, make unreasonable demands, issue bad proclamations simply because he thinks he can.

Over time this will tend to make the nobility switch from internal squabbling and focus most of their attention on the source of their biggest irritations. The same will happen with the surrounding countries.

Some of the clever & powerful nobility might begin to think the kingdom would do better under their leadership and make plans accordingly. The most clever of the nobility will begin seeking alliances with others both inside and outside of the kingdom. Some as true allies, some as temporary allies, and some as patsies or fall guys if/when the king & queen return or things turn out poorly.

With a composite force of both Draconian nobility and outside countries, the outside country wouldn't have to worry as much about the Draconian qualitative advantage.

Basically if the prince becomes annoying enough, he'll focus everyone's wrath upon him and his kingdom and eventually be overthrown.

The problem

The longer the pre-prince political situation was relatively stable, the longer it'll like take for the prince's opponents to mobilize and coordinate themselves. For example, if the current king & queen have kept the kingdom in a relatively stable state of peace for the last 20 years, the prince's opponents might take years to be able to get everything moving.

If things haven't been stable for very long, then the prince's opponents might be able to organize a strike much faster. But to my thinking, it makes much less sense for the king & queen to leave the kingdom under these circumstances.

Perhaps a more likely scenario would be if the prince had already reached maturity and had a hand in the rule of the country. If he had, he would already have developed enemies. Those enemies may have already plotted the overthrow of the prince after the king dies or abdicates. In a situation like this, the prince's enemies would have to vastly accelerate their plans to dethrone the prince before the king & queen return.

  • $\begingroup$ Noted... The first thing I'll need to consider, if the Draconian kingdom is more similar to classic Feudal monarchies or has become something of its own. But I'm glad you brought up the latter two points, because it both adds insight and confirms my own thoughts - especially that latter one. Draconi live for a very, very long time - it's not unreasonable to think the king and queen had been ruling for a few centuries. They figured the Prince would do fine - which he isn't, but the ideal resolution is that he becomes better as the story progresses. Thanks! Gives me some peace of mind. $\endgroup$ – BHustus Nov 4 '15 at 19:03
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    $\begingroup$ As a matter of fact, on the second point, by the time the story is presented, that's already begun to happen. The nobility is growing tired of waiting and is developing plans to abdicate him at LEAST until the king and queen - who are much, much better - come back. $\endgroup$ – BHustus Nov 4 '15 at 19:05

One giant question comes to mind. Why is there a month's worth of distance between this kingdom of kingdoms and everyone else?

If this kingdom is truly the most powerful and most wealthy, it stands to reason that the surrounding regions would be populated. This is particularly true if they protect their kingdom well (patrols on roads and in villages).

I say this because you imply that A. The leadership of the kingdom has been good (if not entirely benevolent) and B. They are economically and militarily strong.

People are going to want to trade with them, and trade is a whole lot easier if you are not camping out in the wilderness for a month. If enough traders are travelling to this kingdom to make it economically powerful then inns, small towns and such would naturally pop up along the most common trade routes.

  • $\begingroup$ I wasn't totally certain about the distance involved, and a month was more of a placeholder figure than anything. Most of the reason for the distance is simply because there wilderness is difficult to inhabit, without much value in the land inherently. And additionally, the other kingdoms have begun to withdraw their borders as it became clear the Prince wouldn't sit around with peaceful intent, never content with what he has. That was how I figured, at least. $\endgroup$ – BHustus Nov 4 '15 at 17:54
  • $\begingroup$ Let's keep in mind that borders are usually based on geography and defensible locations (mountains, rivers, etc.) which the kingdoms are unlikely to abandon. Also, even "uncolonized wilderness" may have a significant population eking out a living, if nobody feels like taking them over. So there will be probably townships offering shelter for merchants while working hard to stay under the radar to avoid being taken over by either side. $\endgroup$ – Peter S. Nov 5 '15 at 15:26

The fact this kingdom lives in a bubble of wilderness, as has been mentioned, seems at odds with it being wealthy. Wealth is generated through trade. You can have a monopoly on the world's gold mines, but unless you can sell it to someone else it's not going to do very well. Now, according to Google Maps, a walk from Moscow to Paris will take about 560 hours over about 2800km. Which translates into 23 days of walking, so it's going to be over a month to do it. So you're telling me your kingdom is ~2500km away from everyone in a bubble of nothing?!

As has been stated, seems more likely that in order to become wealthy they will have many smaller neighbours, and be the dominant continental power. The neighbours may be sparsely populated. If you still want them in a bubble of nothing, perhaps one way of getting around it is having the kingdom surrounded by mountains on three sides, and sea on the other. Or sea on three sides and mountains on one... or whatever. That way at least they can make use of their material wealth to create a powerful navy to empower their own trade dominance, multiplying their income.

The political question seems more obvious to me. Yes your prince can be as ruthless as he wants and get away with it. It depends on exactly how you create the culture and politics of your realm. Consider that quite often historically kings were regarded as living Gods. Literally. Egypt's Pharaohs, Russia's Tsars, Japan's Emperors, even North Korea's Kim Dynasty. If your monarchs are actually dragon people and the people are not it'll make the claim all the more real. But monarchy manifests differently between nations. England and Sweden for example are unusual historical examples as their monarchs were not absolute; legally bound by constitution or tradition to defer power to other estates.

There will be at the least a noble estate, and they typically were the most powerful of the estates. In the feudal system kings granted land and title to lesser nobles who helped them; in times of war or otherwise. The nobility were effectively the nation's administrators, and without their support the crown will be in trouble.

But there are other groups who held power, defacto or dejure. The church was extremely powerful in medieval Europe, and could often make or break political dynasties, as well as demanding large portions of land from kings to dedicate to monasteries (which were then as often centres of learning as industry) and the like. Back then people were swimming in religion, and there was no division between religious and state; conceptually or otherwise. Royal power was stabilised by church approval. However, the church may not be that independent. For example, the Orthodox Church in Russia has almost always been subservient to the state. Then there are less powerful estates, like the merchants, or the middle class. Who may be more powerful in your realm. Or maybe they don't exist.

To conclude, it's very possible that your royals are bloodthirsty and ruthless and get away with it, especially if they have historically been absolute in their power. Perhaps they were always absolute and not constitutional monarchs. Perhaps the church is their servant and not their equal. Perhaps the middle class doesn't exist and most people are rural peasants who wouldn't know any better. Perhaps the nobility is happy with the monarchy for any number of reasons, and so is tolerant of abuses of power - up until a point.

Vlad the Impaler may be a good case study here. He was ruthless, quite literally bloodthirsty, and instrumental in pushing back the Ottoman army. But he was imprisoned in the end by his own nobles because he had undermined their authority.

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    $\begingroup$ So far this looks like one of the most solid answers, which surprised me after this question was silent for so long. Skimming your answer, I'm considering a few things, namely that the country is a peninsula - meaning naval trade would be its primary source of income - and it would be easy to block off the other side from other countries with mountains. Admittedly I didn't know much about distances and still don't, but I'll be sure to give your answer a more scrutinous examination when I can. $\endgroup$ – BHustus Aug 14 '16 at 1:31

I would say it is regrettably realistic. Things to consider:

  • In most medieval states, there was a balance of power between the king, the nobility, and perhaps even the most wealthy commoners. The prince will have to regard the will of the nobles, or there will be a palace coup which swaps the figurehead without questioning the system. Your description sounds too centralized for a medieval state.
  • Smart kings and nobles will try to exploit the peasants without killing them. They don't tax away the seed corn or the food to get over the winter, they only tax most of the surplus.
  • Heavily oppressed peasants might try to evade by going into the wilderness/forests. That would make them outlaws, poachers, and tax dodgers, and the king would see it as only right and proper to extend governance and protection to these lawless areas. Compare some of the historical roots of the Robin Hood legend.
  • The other evasion was to go to the cities, where things might be run by an oligarchy of guilds rather than the heavy hand of the nobility.
  • You mentioned that the prince occupied towns. Was any property in those towns owned by wealthy foreign merchants, or religious orders?
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the suggestions. The Prince may be awful, but he's smart enough to placate/bribe/"take care of" the nobles if they start to grow into his distaste. As for the state of the kingdom - the people living in the kingdom are actually fairly well off. The Prince is not so much "cruel" as he is "ignorant"; I always make the comparison that he's like someone new to a job who hasn't had the time to figure out the intricacies of leading, so he abuses his power. If peasants begin to report problems, he usually dismisses it to the treasurers or other managers below him, who handle it. $\endgroup$ – BHustus Nov 4 '15 at 18:02
  • $\begingroup$ Even "abuses his power" is a poor analogy. He doesn't get involved too much in the actual "political" part of his position, because it's "boring", so he doesn't go around demanding wealth (he's plenty wealthy already, dragons do hoard after all), moreover just indulging himself how he pleases. He's naïve, I suppose. $\endgroup$ – BHustus Nov 4 '15 at 18:04

Are there any other noble houses? I presume the prince will seek a princess/queen in due course. Could the nobles be conspiring for their "house" to become prominent?

Also, what about the political allies of the parents? I guess they aren't in favour of this new direction for the kingdom. Have they been allowed to form a rebellious faction or were they mercilessly put down to consolidate his power?

  • $\begingroup$ The prince, at the moment, isn't terribly interested in selecting one particular woman for queen. His parents are still technically the rulers, he's only taking over for them. The nobles - mostly other Draconi - do try to converse with him, but he's not fun company and his poor reputation leaves their decisions to bring their daughters to marry a bit uncertain at best. As for the parents' allies, they're not particularly pleased, but those that did try to rise were quickly snuffed out. $\endgroup$ – BHustus Nov 4 '15 at 17:57

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