So the heroes banded together, roamed the world, found new allies, amassed an army and set out to free their lands from the evil empire. And they succeeded! But what happens now? A lot of stories like go right up at the point where the good guys win and end there. Nice way to finish, but I've always wondered about what might occur after their hard fought victory.

Does a new government rise up from the ashes of the empire led by said good guys? Or would the land just fall in to chaos now that none is around to govern it? Would it be possible for them to face the same hardships as their enemies, like dealing with rebels wanting to rid themselves of their own style of government? What could possibly happen after the empire falls?


I'll take the occasion to mention Brandon Sanderson Mistborn series. Its practically the main theme of the second book.

Anyway, to make it short: any empire needs some sort of power infrastructure to work. It serves no good being an evil emperor if you don't have anyone who goes around, making sure every peasant stays in check.

Most evil empires are set in a fantasy/medieval word, so we can mainly talk about nobles, army lieutennants and priests, but this could really be true for any administrative figure. An army of tiny, zealous bureaucrats can work as well as a real army. After all your empire cannot sustain itself on pure evil: you will need someone to collect taxes for you, spread your orders, cull the locals, enforce law ... tl,dr: a lot of people, organized in some sort of gerarchical structures, are needed to make an empire function.

Now, when the good guys take down the evil boss, they'll have to deal with this state of things. Let's assume that the evil army isn't a problem anymore, because it's being conquered already, and rule them out (it's kind of a strong assumption, since there may still be rogue evil-battalions around, or experienced generals gone into hiding). The good guys have to choose how to rule - turns out, as you can imagine, that is not easy.

I'll also assume, from now on, that the best option is to keep the empire united and intact and try to avoid total chaos. A central government means order, and the good guys probably wouldn't want to be remembered as the ones who saved the land to let if fall into mayhem.

Sit on top of the previous infrastructure

One option is to convince all the government apparatus that there is a new boss in town. This could seem a quite viable option at the start, since the good guys have the upper hand with the military power.

This way poses several hidden and not-so-hidden threats. First of all, we may as well assume that most of the administrative higher-ups are evil, or corrupt, or have tainted themselves with horrible atrocities. Probably it will be hard for the good guys (from now on, the GGs) accept to work with them.

But this is true for lesser bureaucrats as well. Who knows, after all, how much corruption is spread into the empire organization? Probably most people who worked with the evil emperor felt that they were "just doing their job at the best of their capacity", but as it turns out, those people tends to be cruelly efficient when led by a convincing evil intent (If you haven't read it: Eichmann in Jerusalem - Wiki).

Some can be convinced to work with the GGs, some will retain faith to the previous emperor and try to silent undermine the establishment. Given months, the collection of taxes or food sources may get more and more crunky.

Keep this in mind, because it can be crucial.

Kick the castle down

Seeing how the previous option fares, the GGs may want to kill/exile/fire everyone who ever worked in the previous administration and replace them with people of trust and goodwil. And that's great! I mean, I'd have too my best friends leading far, important regions of my empire, rather than some possibly murderous stranger.

The point here is that if the evil emperor or his staff cared even a bit about efficiency (and someone, if an empire is able to sustain its weight, has to care about it) it means that the previous administration knew the work well, or at least, well enough to do it. The GGs are maybe good at winning the war, but may not have the sligthest idea on how to do accounting, how to collect and store taxes and supplies, prevent famine, disease spread, overpopulation in the main capital ... and whatever else.

It might take time to build a new system that works. This means a long period of instability and reduced tax income at least, total catastrophe at worst. Probably the GGs are on the good side of a lot of people, exspecially towards those categories oppressed by the evil ruler, but even those people will stop being supportive without a job, a shelter with decent conditions, and food in their bellies. Also, large masses of people are prone to have a short memory. "Hey, the last emperor was kinda bad, but at least was able to produce bread for all!" regardless than this was true or not.

So, it's probably good to keep your army around and try to mix between the two solutions - giving most power to people of trust but trying to learn all the possible from old employees before, if ever, replacing them.

How to deal with nobility 101

If your empire has nobles, you probably have to win them on the GGs side. Maybe there are some nobles on the GGs army (that was all good to overthrow the evil emperor, but now they'll want something in return...). Nobles tend to be quite proud, stingy, and good at scheming, thought - not exactly the people you want around. As it goes, they could be a major source of instability - even if not openly hostile towards the GGs.

In every empire in human history, there was the struggle between the central authority and the aristocracy / local authorities. This is going to stay, no matter what. Even the most good willed noble will try to get something for himself - now, imagine what the least good-willed can do.

Nobles conspiring to assassinate, or start a rebellion, are a clear example of this. They could right up take their lands, fortify them, and proclaim their region a separate reign. Either they will do this right away, or at a most propitious moment. Hostile nobles can work with reluctant bureocracy, zealous priests, and - even! - other nobles.

Even if they work with you, their are still regional authorities, and giving them too much power will be detrimental to the empire - assuming you want to keep the empire on, of course.

Foreign Relationships

Yea, I know. Most evil empires are so evil and so big that there is literally nothing beside them. If the previous emperor didn't conquer all that was there to conquer, tho, the GGs will have to deal with their neighbours, they be either other empires/kingdoms/coalitions of city states or "whatever sort of dweller of the wild regions". Now, the second kind of neighbour can be an hassle to your border region, but should be in check (unless they manage to unite all the tribes in one enormous raiding party, of course).

The real treat are those neighbour kingdoms. Maybe they hold a grudge against the empire, maybe they just want more land for themselves; the point is, the best moment to wage war to someone is when he isn't able to respond. Probably the GGs will have to wear energies and resources to mantain order and internal affairs, so, it will be difficult for them to resist an assalt from a foreign nation. Better still if this happens at the same time with a noble revolt in another part of the empire.

Much and more:

I kinda spent half an hour or more on this answer, and you'll be tired of reading my rants. Is there more? Oh, yes. Surely someone else will bring up religious matters (more so if the evil emperor was lead of a cult), economics, and who knows what else. Hope I did provide some good insights, tho.

So, quick recap:

Does a new government rise up from the ashes of the empire led by said good guys? Yea, but it's a ton of work.

Or would the land just fall in to chaos now that none is around to govern it? Could definetly happen, regardless of the GGs intentions. Lead an empire is no easy task; in real life, empires often didn't survive their emperors (Alexander the great is a great example of this). Chaos can be temporary, tho. Some sort of order should emerge from it, after much bloodshed.

Would it be possible for them to face the same hardships as their enemies, like dealing with rebels wanting to rid themselves of their own style of government? Absolutely. But before dealing with rebels, they have to deal with all the administrative duties! Common routine, yes, but the larger the empire, the more difficult it gets.

What could possibly happen after the empire falls? Chaos, as you stated it; more war, as I explained earlier, between different factions; or a longish period of instability and insecurities after wich a new empire eventually rises.


Fiction is not your only resource; consider revolutions in real life. Consider the American Revolution: King George and Britain was the evil empire, our Founding Fathers were the rebels. What did they do after they won? They formed a new government from scratch; no trace of the English system anywhere; no Royalty, no peerage, no permanent Titles, no birthright privileges.

They wrote themselves a new Constitution, rather short and to the point. They were already divided geographically, they formalized that. Then they got on with business much as it was before, with more freedom, less taxation, etc.

They did have some squabbles and yelling matches. They did have to come back and meet again to revise things a few years later. But most people feel they did a passable job, and they definitely threw off the yoke of the English completely, abandoned the system of Monarchy and Royals completely, and this all lasted for long after the last of the original rebels had peacefully expired. (Charles Carroll was the last surviving Signer of the Declaration of Independence; he died at the age of 95 in 1832).

I will note, the Americans did this without killing King George, and without entirely destroying his Military people or assets. That was due to their distance from England, but you can build similar isolation or barriers into your story: How much damage you do to the existing infrastructure is truly up to you as the author; as is the willingness of the Kings men to accept defeat and accept the Rebels as their Leader.

[The Rebel Leader: "You may solemnly swear to surrender arms, walk away, rejoin your family and leave war forever. Or you may remain a soldier, your only oath of fealty will be to protect and defend with your life all the people of this land equally. Or our champions have agreed to give you an honorable death in unarmed single combat, with a respectful funeral. The choice is yours."]

Like the American Revolution against the British, your story will be more believable if the Rebels have discussed, before they won or even began to fight, what they believe in for forming a country, and if they were, like the Founding Fathers, relative to most others of their time, well read enough in political theory to engineer a new working system.

Then your post-victory phase doesn't have to start from scratch with your characters suddenly acquiring all kinds of new ideas, many of which are rather dry reading. You have already sprinkled those dry bits throughout, from the beginning: As opinion, camp fire debate, and ideological justification for fighting in the first place.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ There are a lot more revolutions in world history which didn't end so well, though. The French revolution lead to the reign of terror. The arab spring lead, depending on country, to anarchy, civil war or even more totalitarian regimes. The US revolution is an anomaly, and really only worked due to the large distance to the oppressor regime. $\endgroup$ – Philipp Aug 17 '17 at 8:54
  • $\begingroup$ It might also be worth pointing out that the first decade after the American Revolution was not without problems. The period between the declaration of independence and the ratification of the current constitution was a quite chaotic time dominated by infighting between states and a powerless congress. The Extra History series on the Articles of the Confederation gives a very good impression of that historical period. $\endgroup$ – Philipp Aug 17 '17 at 9:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Philipp But we have examples of both outcomes in reality, making both outcomes plausible. The French Revolution also destroyed the Monarchy, and is considered to have triggered a global decline in monarchies, replacing them with liberal democracies: The USA is NOT an anomaly. Even in France: Although France fell to Napoleon, it eventually revolted again, defeated him and became a liberal Republic. Impossible without first destroying the Monarchy, which never returned. My point was, taking over the old apparatus is not the only choice. And in fiction the author chooses success or disaster. $\endgroup$ – Amadeus Aug 17 '17 at 9:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Philipp I specifically mentioned that. The OP should certainly consider such history in their story; along with Castro's successful revolution in Cuba. The Post-Revolution phase can be fraught with power struggles and opportunists, its a free-for-all with nobody in charge. Those are not just good story fodder for the Post-Revolution story, however the author makes it turn out. The conflicts and struggles of the heroes against villains, frauds, opportunists and violent power seekers are necessary for a good story; a story without high conflict is like proofreading recipes in a cookbook. $\endgroup$ – Amadeus Aug 17 '17 at 10:07

Yes how to solve the problem of the evil empire here are a few common tropes as well as some real life possibilities.

  1. The good and righteous heir to the throne: this is how the problem of the evil Empires is usually solve in fiction have the heir to the throne defect from the bad side and joined the good guys and help overthrow his dad. Once In Charge he can turn the evil empire into a good or at least not so evil empire.

  2. Occupation and rebirth. Let's look the most common inspiration for the evil empire the Third Reich. Once the Third Reich was defeated the US and Russian forces occupied the countries which had formerly been taken by the Third Reich. In the USA's case the occupation didn't really last long just long enough to reestablish their Old Governments. In the case of Russia the Old Government wasn't reestablished but instead the countries were formed into a new entity called the Soviet Union. In either case though you have a time of essentially martial law for at least a little while and tell old governments can be rebuild or new governments can be formed.

  3. You can do nothing. This is probably the worst thing to do but it's possible for you to do it, after all your calling as a hero was to take out the evil empire you've done that you've destroyed their armies and now their leader is dead. If you want you could just go back home and let things work themselves out, true there might be chaos maybe Wars from from factions within the empire that have been hostile to each other for quite some time and only held back by the strength of the evil Empires Imperial and are now free to resume hostilities, true that the remnant of the Imperial Army may rally behind one of the few remaining generals and might form an even more evil empire but that's another Hero's problem your job is done.

So we're clear I'm assuming that you not only killed the leader but also destroyed the evil Empires Army. If not then you really haven't defeated the evil empire. And you now have to fight his generals you will try to use the military to seize power and make them self the new emperor Star Wars the expanded universe or Star Wars Legends if you want to see some examples of how that would turn out.


The problem

When you remove a government, you leave a power vacuum. This vacuum is larger the more authoritarian the previous government was. Everyone with power will try to use the opportunity and fill that vacuum by seizing power. Organizations which might be relevant are:

  • Religious organizations (Egypt 2011)
  • Remnants of the old military (Egypt 2013)
  • Neighboring states seeking an opportunity to increase their sphere of influence (Ukraine 2014)
  • Competing paramilitary organizations (ISIS in Iraq since 2006)

When there is more than one faction which considers itself able to fill that power vacuum, then you will likely end up in a long and bloody civil war (Lybia 2014 till today).

In those cases where the resistance does have the resources to fill the power vacuum itself, they usually discover that they have a crucial problem: They are good at toppling governments but not so good at forming them. Guerilla fighters don't make good politicians.

Often the new revolutionary government starts well meant and with great intentions. But because they are lacking proper statecraft skills and political experience, things soon go downhill. There will be voices which claim that things were actually better under the old regime. Counter-revolutionary movements start to take form. To regain control, the revolutionaries will again rely on the instruments they know how to use: violence and terror. In the end they just end up as a regime which is just as oppressive as the one they replaced. Examples:

  • The Reign of Terror after the French revolution
  • The Bolsheviks after the Russian Revolution which ended up in the formation of the USSR.

The solution

Writing a story about the virtuous rebels seeing their ideals crumble under the harsh reality of realpolitik might make for an interesting story (ex: George Orwell's Animal Farm).

But if you would rather like to write a story where the rebels are successful at reforming the state for the better, they will most of all need good and experienced politicians in their ranks. These must be politicians who believe in the general ideas of the revolution, but are not so fanatic that they want to enforce them immediately and above all other interests. They must be aware that they won't be able to change the country over night. They must work within existing structures and gradually reform them to the society they want while minimizing any collateral damage. Not with force but with good rhetoric and clever negotiation.

This surgical approach to reform won't be liked by the more extremist elements among the revolution. They will consider that approach half-assed and will question the loyalty and resolve of the politicians. So the extremists will have to serve a backseat role in rebuilding the country. You might want to consider sending them somewhere far away to fight another revolution.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.