I'll be short and as specific as needed: I have a setting that consists of (among several others) two major and huge nations, which are the almost exact opposite of each other: science vs. magic, republic vs. kingdom, corporates vs. guilds, secularism vs. religion, and so on.

Of course, they are conflicting each other, mostly because of the "modern" nation has the desire to conquer a fairly huge area, in which the "fantasy" nation is involved, too.

The problem is that in my depiciton, the modern empire looks like an "upgraded", futuristic version of any Western country, be it the United States, Germany, or anything else. By this, I mean the approaches of culture, invention, education, technology, ideologies, leaderships and so on.

This world view was mostly developed during several centuries from a "less advanced" society presented in the Middle Age. This way, the two empire may share some views on cultural values and such, making it harder to make people of either side believe, that the other one is an enemy that must be exterminated.

How can I "reach" it by purely ideological and/or political impacts, reasons and aspects?

I was wondering that, if the "fantasy empire" would apply Christian fundamentalism, it may have a repelling effect, but I'm not sure if I want to go this way.

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    $\begingroup$ Bear in mind that if you state that your "Western" culture is a democracy, you'll have to make it a democracy. In our world, western countries are republics : In a democracy, people vote to pass things, in a republic, they vote for representatives who'll do it themselves. Don't fall prey to the abuse of language that became prevalent of calling republics democracies because it sells better. $\endgroup$
    – Sarkouille
    Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 12:40
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    $\begingroup$ This kind of reminds me of the situation of Germany + allies and France/Britain + allies before WW1 - if you ignore Russia. German propaganda often aimed that they were the last true Christian nation in the area and of course France and Britain were more or less democracies at that point. Long story short: They ended up at war for multiple reasons, too many to name here. I would get my inspiration from there. $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 12:45
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    $\begingroup$ Please avoid real-life religions in your fiction, if it's not alternate Earth or future of real world. First, it is not probable religions will evolve in the same way (you probably don't have Rome and Jerusalem, for example). So it is a huge work to make existing religion fit into your world, for little to no gain and pretty significant risk of offending some of potential readers. $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 14:16
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    $\begingroup$ Kind of reminds me of the premise of Banestorm - people from alternate realities, including one pretty much like our Earth, are thrown into a fantasy world. They eschew magic at first but eventually rationalize it, as people do. $\endgroup$
    – Michael
    Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 20:29
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    $\begingroup$ The short answer to the question title is "you wait until the christian empire tries to meddle with the lives of those who are not its subjects." $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 20:59

9 Answers 9


I'm going to cast a dissenting vote, based on the "obliterating, exterminating war" criterion. I think you can certainly come up with compelling reasons to be in conflict with the fundamentalist "other" nation, but it would always come up well short of obliteration and extermination.

I'm going to be reductive in my definition of what constitute "Western Culture" and define it as capitalist democracy. Any future references to politics/politicians assume a democratic system with capitalist aims.

Ideally, the political leaders follow the will of the people - realistically, they are much more closely aligned to the will of lobbyists and vested interests (including their own self-interest). At best, they can contort the will of some the people to some extent (the classic example being the use of xenophobia as a justification for the erosion of civil liberties - "We're spying on you all for your own safety!")

Before a capitalist democracy embarks upon any campaign of warfare, big or small, it has to address the following:

Is it in the self-interest of political leaders?

Politicians all face one universal truth - their tenure in political office depends on popular support. If they wish to remain a politician, they must remain palatable to the people. Those aligned to a majority party get a bit more leeway to personally espouse an extreme opinion - but are still beholden to the self-interest of their peers. If that extreme opinion threatens the fortunes of the party, they'll be swiftly turfed.

I'd suggest that most modern warfare is conducted for political reasons. In rare cases, there's an ideological reason behind it - but even then, if that ideology is distasteful to the people, it needs to be obscured and a more politically palatable reason given.

In order for political leaders to embark on a campaign of exterminating and obliterating warfare, they would have to believe that doing so is in their best interests, or at the very least, an expenditure of political capital that can be readily compensated for in another policy area.

Is it in the self interest of those who hold the most influence over political leaders?

This point directly relates to the previous one. Political machinations require significant financial support and media reach, and as such, politicians are beholden to those who support them materially. Political donors want some return on investment. That might be broader promulgation of their ideology, but in most cases it's some material gain. They will support policy and action that is either directly or indirectly beneficial to them, or policy/action that is popular because it maintains their influence.

Is it in the interest of the people?

This is again directly tied to the first point. Politicians need public support, and while the populace is arguably the most maleable factor in the democratic process, they become less so in the face of extremist acts done in their name.

People are probably most prone to ideological decision making, but will ultimately act in their own self-interest - with the caveat that many people are incapable of critically analysing the effect of political policy and rely on the media to do so for them - which feeds back into the vested interests in the previous point.

So when we measure against those criteria, I just can't see a situation where a modern (or future) capitalist democracy would ever support the obliteration and extermination of another empire.

The people of an educated, modern society generally care for the welfare of their common man. We even have significant support for animal welfare, and broader concern for the welfare of the environment. For the people to support the extermination of anything, it must be utterly abhorrent, like infectious disease. Given that you've cited shared cultural values, I just can't see enough potential for animosity against the "other".

Even if you could establish a plausible reason why the other empire is incontrovertibly evil, there would be significant opposition to the idea of sending your friends and relatives off to die in large scale warfare. The only way the populace would accept that sort of sacrifice is if there was a compelling argument that not doing so would be worse.

You might be able to find support from political donors who stand to gain from contracts for security, weapons or construction - but again, the scale of "obliterating, exterminating war" becomes an issue. It necessitates unprecedented government control over industry and resources, at which point capitalism and the free market goes out the window. Rather than the overly generous government contracts with minimal oversight that small scale conflict might give rise to, I'd expect the government to enact powers that give them the right to compel any enterprise to cease operations and commit their resources to government mandated activities to aid the war effort, and would expect it to be done without profit.

Without the people or the vested interests, the politicians have no self-interest in starting such a war.

That's why I think the answer is a resounding "you can't". I've completely ignored the idea of global politics and assumed that only the "western culture" and the empire exist in this world, because it becomes even less feasible if there are other states with their own agenda.

Realistically, I think that both nations would gradually become more and more like one another with the advent of globalisation (if that has happened or will happen), and violent conflict would give way to something more "diplomatic" - where those with the concentration of power and wealth steadily gain control over more power and wealth, without any real regard for cultural or national boundaries.

  • $\begingroup$ Or as an alternative to this long-winded answer which cites no references, something short and sweet - the rage virus infects the entire empire, mandating their obliteration and extermination. $\endgroup$
    – Vocoder
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 3:26
  • $\begingroup$ Amazingly deep and precise, at least with the eye of me, a person who sucks at politology and tactics. I especially appreciate that even your premises nailed it, even though I gave very vague descriptions. Unless a better one comes, I think I'll accept it as the answer. $\endgroup$
    – Z..
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 9:55

You don't really look too far back in history to find how this could work. Have the government control the press, followed by a suppression of free speech, and you are 90% of the way there.

Send the clock back to the 1930s, and you find that Nazi Germany was a Modern Western Nation and they did exactly that. They were technically a representative democracy (in very loose terms). They weren't particularly religious, unless it served their purpose to be. So all your nation has to do is control information (Great Firewall of China), Supress free speech and dissidents. That lays the bulk of your groundwork

Next, Just declare the Fairy nation as "Other". Sample script: "they aren't like us. They have unnatural abilities. I bet their power comes from skinning cats and drowning puppies. I heard where one of them cast a really huge spell after eating a baby. They aren't like us. We are better because we work for things and they just use magic. There is no morality to that. There is virtue to hard work. They aren't like us, we're better "

From that point it's a very small step indeed to a genocidal war. Religion never even came up, but can be used as an excuse to get the slightly more meek to fall in line.

The point being is that there is a switch in human nature going back to before recorded history. Cast your enemy as the "Other" successfully and rational thought just...stops. Nazis cast Jews and the Romani as the "Other". The USSR cast the Western Decadent Nations as the "Other". ISIS in the middle east casts everybody as the "Other". Once someone is the "Other" they cease being human and anything you choose to do to them is okay.

This is scary, because it has happened over and over in human history and is still happening now. Here is a fun example in the USA. To the Democrat Party, the Republican Party is the "Other", and vice-versa. Anything you can do to the other party is valid because they aren't like us.

  • $\begingroup$ how it works $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 17:59
  • $\begingroup$ Another good example is the Japanese and Chinese. When the Japanese were expanding, they convinced themselves the Chinese were no better than dogs. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 21:01
  • $\begingroup$ Exactly. the examples are all over history. $\endgroup$
    – Paul TIKI
    Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 21:22

You could go with a Manifest Destiny style approach. Convince the people in the more advanced society that they will be bringing civilization to the poor, uneducated, savages, and they'll jump at the chance to conquer them and keep their land.

You don't need to go to fiction for this, either. Just look at the history of "The Irish Question". 700 years after the English conquered Ireland, the British public were still being fed much bullshit about how the Irish weren't fit to govern themselves, were uncivilized brutes, and in need of the loving hand of Mother England to gently teach them. Never mind the numerous armed rebellions and the fact that a majority of the Irish didn't want them there. Please note that I am not talking about The Troubles or Northern Ireland (I don't want to start a politically charged firestorm here, after all). This is all stuff over a century old, i.e. before the Anglo-Irish Treaty and the creation of Northern Ireland.

For a more recent example, what about the creation of Panama? America wanted the Panama Canal built, so they gallantly assisted the locals in their drive for independence! Go America! Ignore the fact that Panama was a part of Colombia!

There's also the Mexican-American War. In a nutshell, Mexico owned land that the US wanted. After the bitter fight over Texas' independence from Mexico, most Mexicans were disinclined to negotiate for a straight up purchase of the land. Both sides got themselves worked up to the point that fighting broke out. After that, the honor of the nation (on both sides) required war. End result? The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the Mexican Cession. The USA gets California; Utah; Nevada; parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Arizona, and New Mexico; and the Rio Grande set as the boundary between Texas and Mexico.

TLDR version
Nations having the same (or similar) cultural values is no bar to war. If nation one is more powerful and wants something nation two has, a casus belli can always be found or manufactured. If the more powerful nation can convince its people that the war against—or conquest of—nation two is "for their own good", or that nation one deserves the land more than those savages do, it makes a war so much easier to start.

  1. You could have a minority area in one country with more affiliations to the other country try to secede, or invite troops from the other country in. This sort of thing could easily lead to war. This is what happened recently in Crimea: putatively it is a pro-Russian area and so allowed Russia to annex it. It is helpful if the area in question is not just a heap of impoverished serfs, but has something intrinsically valuable (like Crimea's warm water port at Sevastopol).

  2. You could have war over a moral issue without having overt religion. The issue of slavery was a big driver of the American Civil War, although the issue there is that the government as a whole was going to upend the slavery system and with it the economic basis of the South, so they rebelled. But I can imagine a high minded society embarking on a war of liberation to compel another society to free its slaves. There also needs to be underlying economic imperatives - for example the use of slave labor gives the other country a competitive edge in some economic arena, which they will lose with their slaves. Maybe your magic users can use golems or something in place of slaves and so are the high minded ones.

  3. You could have war as a distraction from economic or other political issues at home. Nothing unites like a common enemy. Rally around the flag! I suspect that exactly this motive is behind the increased Russian aggression lately: patriotic distraction.

  4. You could have war as an endeavor profitable in itself to certain parties. Munitions dealers make big bucks when there is war and this is true war after war. These munitions dealers sell to both sides and act behind the scenes to provoke conflict / pay off politicos. Opportunistic munitions dealers can add fuel to a fire started for other reasons.

  5. Magic itself can be the issue. You can make magic have occasional very disturbing side effects or involve entities which the nonmagic users find unsettling. When one of these side effects wash over the border, the nonmagic using country decides to create a no-magic DMZ (get it?). The magic users fight back.

Usually wars are complicated. If the war is the main thing of your story, several of these issues might factor in.


First, Motivation to Fight wars

Almost every war is fought because of greed, hatred or fear. Either someone wants what someone else has, is seeking revenge for a perceived wrong, or is afraid that the opponent is going to attack. While the belligerents may coat the baser motivation with moral, philosophical, religious or ideological varnishes. Hitler wanted Austrian territory, so he took it. His motivation was the unification of the Germany.

Rarely, religious belief motivates war. While most 'religious' wars are motivated by greed, hatred or fear, and have religon smeared over as a motivation, some Wahhabi Islamic Terrorism is motivated not out of fear, hatred or greed, but out of a sense of duty to their God.

Very rarely, one nation gets involved to stop an evil (like ethnic cleansing, starvation, or some other obvious atrocities.) A nation that involves itself does so to bolster its international image, to be consistent with the view it has of itself (we're the good guys.)

Culture Doesn't Matter

The USA has fought wars with Germany (a western, "Christian" nation) during the two world wars, and fought a civil war, where the two sides shared more in terms of worldview and culture than they differed. Europe has fought many wars amongst themselves for centuries, despite having a western worldview and a similar religious outlook.

Create an Issue

You just need to define the motivation, based on greed or fear. Does nation 1 want a resource or territory that nation 2 has? Has past conflict between the two left a sense of hatred and mistrust? Is nation 2 afraid of what nation 1 is? Then you need to create an issue with which the aggressor can point to as an attempt to make the other nation the "other." Each side will attempt to justify their actions to make it sound moral.

  • "We all know that the territory is ours!" (Falkland War)
  • "You re denying the innate human rights of such and such." (Spanish-American War)
  • "They killed our people, now we're going to kill their!" ([Northern Ireland], 4 most gang warfare, tribal warfare, Hatfield and McCoy feud)

Make your Christian* empire fundamentalist & intolerant, and endow them with a divine mandate to subjugate the rest of the world to their religion. Then the opposing empire will ultimately be forced to choose between submission and effective extermination.

*One could, of course, substitute the name of another religion here, but for Worldbuilding purposes it would be best to make up a name.

  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, as I said, I was wondering on this possibility, but want to avert as long as it's possible. I'd like to depict the two empires comparably pleasant to live in, for outsiders, in order to facilitate the representation of th "two sides of the coin" principle. Thank you anyways! $\endgroup$
    – Z..
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 8:17

I don't see why you are looking for excuses.

You aleeady states that at least the Republic is looking for land to conquer. That's more than enough insentive to declare war, even without agression and with common values or culture.

The USA did it when they made a war to happen with Mexico and ended up annexing most of what is now known as the Souther States, they also tried to do the same to Canada except they had to withdraw and call it a day when the White House began to burn. Japan, Korea and China have some cultural common grounds for thousands of years - writing, religion, ... - yet they went regularly at war with each other in order to expand their territory and their borders alternatively expanded throughout the ages.

As I said, if the insentive is land or resources, there is virtualy no limit.

If what you are concerned abut is public opinion, there is nothing that can't be solved by good old propaganda : - Control of the media : You can bar your people to learn about them, making them more shapeless, more likely to became Others, you can also rewrite History, for example by inventing wrongs they did to the Republic in the past. - False flag operations : Cause a terrorist attack or whatever and revendicate it as the Kingdom. - Smear campaign : If you use ads, news and whatever to shout at the republic's citizen that the Kingdom is a lair of bastards with immoral lives and perverse behaviours, they will believe it sooner and later, especially if you shut down their empathy for them by barring them from learning anything good or neutral about them.

You can also go for more subtle ways : - Negative depiction in cultural content : see how the Russians are depicted in most movies and the like made in the USA during the Cold War ? Rocky IV ? - Quietly passing bills that have bad effects for the people : double jackpot as you can rip your citizens off and increase hate and revengeness toward the Kingdom. The favorite one of that kind is currently "They steal your jobs !" in the real world, as an example. That one allow you to block them from entering the Republic, the consequence being that most people in the Republic won't know anybody from the Kingdom and will be less likely to consider them as humans, hence allowing you reach your next goals.


Some thoughts immediately come to mind when thinking about conflicts: 1. Past wrongs, a historical event or events that have never been properly resolved can be trotted out by the new regime to polarise public opinion in favour of an invasion or other military action. This could be in the form of an unfavourable treaty (Germany and the treaty of Versailles for example), a forced truce where the border is in dispute (Israel before 1994 when they made their border with Jordan official), or backing a third party in an old dispute. 2. External conformity, if the nations in question have been forced to conform to an overarching imperial influence in the past they are likely to harbour all sorts of unresolved resentments and tensions which often result in bloodshed (Europe after the fall of Rome, the modern Balkans after the Ottoman collapse) 3. Present competition, two powers that both want the same position on the world stage (the USA and the USSR from the 1950s to 90s) may not attack each other but they may find reasons to if push comes to shove. 4. Resource scarcity, if there is major competition for strategic resources open warfare over reserves and sources may result if economic and diplomatic channels fail to reach an accommodation or an existing accommodation collapses for whatever reason. 5. Wrongful death, whether this is an assassination or an accident it can be used as an excuse if tensions are high or it can create tension if seen in the right light.

Christian Fundamentalism, any religious fundamentalism really, can and often is courted and stoked by political elements to justify a variety of conflicts. So called "holy war" whether under the name Crusade or Jihad is usually a political animal in a priest's clothing, the fighters often believe in the religious justifications of the cause while their leaders are getting rich on the land and spoils gained by "holy" warriors.

I'd have a look at a contrast/comparison on feudalism and oligarchy if you're looking at building a kingdom too, they're both options with a ruling class that can be headed by a monarch but they create very different internal political set ups and thus different motives for war. Also have a look at the concept of a High Kingdom, they're more loose knit than a traditional feudal set up and they can get into wars as a kingdom that are in fact only about a single member having a disagreement with the neighbours that the rest of the kingdom isn't really invested or involved in because the members can be extremely diverse.


This is a classic situation of the fox and the hound in which two groups are raised nearby to each other and over time gain conflicting ideologies. Clearly, the fox represents the less futuristic clan and the hound, who gets to live in a house, represents the technologically advanced kingdom. In this, the owners (Humans) represent gods (Side note: Your gods should be named something like Walaga, it sounds SUPER good in stories I use it in mine all the time). but back to my point the hound has been raised to believe that it needs to kill the fox (not entirely sure on this point didnt watch the movie) but at the same time they were friends which is like how ur two kingdoms share ideologies, but still wanna fight.

If this explanation doesnt work, I can also do Toy Story

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    $\begingroup$ I would point out that more than one god named Walaga would get confusing. Unless Walaga was the family name and they had different first names. That works for us. Except our last name is not Walaga. Yet. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 13:32
  • $\begingroup$ Actually that is where I got the idea my last name is Walaga. Other names can be Walago or Walagu or even Waluigi $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 13:41

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