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    Default Is there a name for a hierarchical governmental system of delegated authority?

    I'm looking for any historical parallels (even rough ones) to the following political structure:

    1. An "absolute" monarch (absolute in principle, delegated in practice). Also center of devotional life (his wife is always High Priestess and holds highest ecclesiastical position) and military head (military is accountable to him, not to the local lords, although many officers are also noble).

    2. A set of regional high lords (3 total). These have essentially unreviewable high and low justice. Directly accountable to the monarch who only intervenes in extreme cases. They appoint rank 3 and lower nobles at their whim. Supported through taxes/duties on lower nobles

    3. Local lords. They exercise high and low justice, although nobles have right of appeal to the local high lord. Approve petitions for appointment for rank 5 nobles, nominate people for appointment to their own level or rank 4. Tax-supported, mainly by tradesmen/landed gentry

    4. Landed gentry. High and low justice, tradesmen have right of appeal. Nominates rank 5, approves rank 6. Rentiers with fiefs

    5. "Householding" gentry. Low justice only, and only in the absence of higher authority. Only ba can't appeal. Mostly hereditary, subject to approval on elevation. Earned through service to the state/military/wealth. Small landowners/business owners. Considered "jumped up tradesmen" by some.

    6. Courtesy nobles. No justice rights, but allowed appeal. Life titles. Default social standing for non-noble officers.

    Non-noble statuses are skilled tradesmen (journeyman/master level, approximately), common (free workers), and ba (2nd-class citizens, minimal rights. Not slaves, but certainly 2nd-class).

    Are there any even rough historical parallels I can learn from? Closest I can think of is (very very roughly) the Shogunate era of Japan, but I'm sure that's a bad analogy.
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    Default Re: Is there a name for a hierarchical governmental system of delegated authority?

    You could use the term "feudalism" and probably wouldn't be far off. It's not strictly a governmental system and its defining features seem to be a matter of debate, but it roughly describes what you're talking about and is frequently applied to contexts like Shogunate Japan and medieval Europe.
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    Default Re: Is there a name for a hierarchical governmental system of delegated authority?

    It's not all that dissimilar to an idealised and stretched out feudalism.
    You've potentially got a bit of conflict with higher classes and middle classes both able to appoint mid tiers.
    There is a massive potential for things going haywire when a new Class 2 person is appointed.
    Last edited by jayem; 2017-12-31 at 02:56 PM.

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    Default Re: Is there a name for a hierarchical governmental system of delegated authority?

    Quote Originally Posted by jayem View Post
    It's not all that dissimilar to an idealised and stretched out feudalism.
    You've potentially got a bit of conflict with higher classes and middle classes both able to appoint mid tiers.
    There is a massive potential for things going haywire when a new Class 2 person is appointed.
    Yeah. This civilization is undergoing upheaval currently--it's transitioning from a theocratic monarchy (in theory--the rank 2 nobles really ran the show autonomously in cahoots with the clergy) to a more ordered system. The "monarch" and his wife were chosen by the God-Queen directly right before her ascension to actual demi-godhood after the whole top of the clerical structure was chopped off.

    The "monarch" acts more as a counter-balance to the rank 2 nobles (who are the highest every-day authority) than as an actual ruler. So in practice, there are 3 equal rulers who stay out of each other's way and then a tie-breaker/military leader. One of the High Lords (rank 2) is ancient (using life-extension alchemy), another is a senile figurehead of a clan of viciously-infighting local lords, and the third is the 2nd-in-command of the monarch's personal guard (the monarch having been one of the Three before his promotion).

    In practice, appointments are by nomination--one person is nominated and the higher noble rubber-stamps
    it. The ancient High Lord is known for being capricious, though.

    I wanted to avoid the term "feudalism" because I know it triggers a bunch of people, and this isn't "true" feudalism (each noble only holds one rank and wields delegated powers).

    "Monarch" is in quotes, because formally he's just the Queen's Fang (the God-Queen still being the nominal ruler).
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    Default Re: Is there a name for a hierarchical governmental system of delegated authority?

    Does it need a particular name? Could you not just call it "[Civilization Name]'s Government"? Outside of political science and propaganda, who would use the name? I'm just wondering because you seem to be looking for one to use in the system, if so what role will it play there?

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    Daemon

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    Default Re: Is there a name for a hierarchical governmental system of delegated authority?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    Does it need a particular name? Could you not just call it "[Civilization Name]'s Government"? Outside of political science and propaganda, who would use the name? I'm just wondering because you seem to be looking for one to use in the system, if so what role will it play there?
    I'm mainly looking for analogues so I can refine it and so I have a short-form descriptor that makes sense to players. I'll probably use "quasi-feudal" or something similar as short-hand, but would like a more specific descriptor if one exists.
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    Default Re: Is there a name for a hierarchical governmental system of delegated authority?

    Seems like a mashup of feudalism and older monarchy like in Rome where the emperor was pontifex maximus, the highest religious authority and worshipped as a god after his death.

    Edit: when reading this again sounds just like absolute monarchy to me.

    Absolute monarchies like France delegated authority to the aristocracy

    You have a king > dukes > counts> landed knights (lords) > household knights > courtesy titles and appoinments
    Last edited by RazorChain; 2017-12-31 at 04:26 PM.

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    Default Re: Is there a name for a hierarchical governmental system of delegated authority?

    I might call this an absolute monarchy because there is an absolute monarch.

    The details of how the absolute monarch delegates his power isn't important as long as the monarch technically has the right to change the structure if he doesn't feel it's working. If there are certain rights that the nobles or the people have which doesn't come from the monarch allowing it, I might find another term.

    Maybe use "monarchical bureaucracy," if the lords' powers come from them or their forefather being appointed into the position, even if it is taken as a given that the monarch will always re-appoint the lords' successors every time a lord retires or dies.
    It always amazes me how often people on forums would rather accuse you of misreading their posts with malice than re-explain their ideas with clarity.

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    Default Re: Is there a name for a hierarchical governmental system of delegated authority?

    Or if people are chosen by merit then it could be meritocratic monarchy
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    Default Re: Is there a name for a hierarchical governmental system of delegated authority?

    Quote Originally Posted by RazorChain View Post
    Seems like a mashup of feudalism and older monarchy like in Rome where the emperor was pontifex maximus, the highest religious authority and worshipped as a god after his death.

    Edit: when reading this again sounds just like absolute monarchy to me.

    Absolute monarchies like France delegated authority to the aristocracy

    You have a king > dukes > counts> landed knights (lords) > household knights > courtesy titles and appoinments
    Quote Originally Posted by Vitruviansquid View Post
    I might call this an absolute monarchy because there is an absolute monarch.

    The details of how the absolute monarch delegates his power isn't important as long as the monarch technically has the right to change the structure if he doesn't feel it's working. If there are certain rights that the nobles or the people have which doesn't come from the monarch allowing it, I might find another term.

    Maybe use "monarchical bureaucracy," if the lords' powers come from them or their forefather being appointed into the position, even if it is taken as a given that the monarch will always re-appoint the lords' successors every time a lord retires or dies.
    I like monarchical bureaucracy. I envision this country as being quite bureaucratic (with the former theocratic elements having been mostly bureaucrats) and the tradition having been one of pro-forma nominations with rubber-stamp appointments. The most recent monarch is intentionally shaking things up and is quite a wild-card. His ascension to the throne is also very recent, only 5 years or so.
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    Default Re: Is there a name for a hierarchical governmental system of delegated authority?

    I'd look into the Persian (Achaemenid) Empire. Absolute monarch, but regional governors who enforce his will. Very multicultural/multiethnic, with regional governors usually coming from local people. That will get you 1, 2, and 3. 4-6 can be added in without too much trouble, I think.

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    Default Re: Is there a name for a hierarchical governmental system of delegated authority?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sky View Post
    I'd look into the Persian (Achaemenid) Empire. Absolute monarch, but regional governors who enforce his will. Very multicultural/multiethnic, with regional governors usually coming from local people. That will get you 1, 2, and 3. 4-6 can be added in without too much trouble, I think.
    Oooh. Thanks!
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    Default Re: Is there a name for a hierarchical governmental system of delegated authority?

    Imperial Union: call it an Empire of discrete states, and the differences in law / borders of local authority will make sense.

    Confederate Feudalism: call it a Confederation and you can justify a lot of oddness, since they're all signing up and making compromises to be legally equivalent.

    The United States of _______: aside from a few chuckles, the hierarchical authority can be represented pretty well over here in the USA, from federal -> state -> local, and the local-layer conflict between the aristocratic interests (in the USA these are counties) vs the middle-class (which are cities).

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    Default Re: Is there a name for a hierarchical governmental system of delegated authority?

    Empire, not in the generic sense of "really big multicultural kingdom" but in the specific Eastern Roman/Byzantine sense. The Emperor was head of the armed forces and head of the church. The Empire was divided into Themes, administered by a Dux, which had the same origin as the western Duke. But unlike a Duke and his Duchy, a Dux had no right to the lands they administered and could be (at least theoretically) recalled at any point.

    Although I would like to point out that there's no such thing as "true Feudalism", Feudalism is a blanket term describing a relationship that was understood differently in different times and places.
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    Default Re: Is there a name for a hierarchical governmental system of delegated authority?

    The name of the type of government where a single individual holds absolute power is called despotism. The ruler is called a despot.

    Delegating the task of ruling to the court is a necessary and universal part of government, dictatorships and democracies alike do it. (there's no name for that since all governments do it)

    The cool thing about being a despot is that you get to name your own title freely. If the despot wants to be called emperor then he's emperor, if he wants to be called democratically elected prime minister then that's what he is.
    Godking, emperor, the chosen one, supreme leader, master. Or you can go with something fancy sounding like "Archon" or "Deity"
    Last edited by Mastikator; 2017-12-31 at 05:39 PM.
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    Default Re: Is there a name for a hierarchical governmental system of delegated authority?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mastikator View Post
    The name of the type of government where a single individual holds absolute power is called despotism. The ruler is called a despot.

    Delegating the task of ruling to the court is a necessary and universal part of government, dictatorships and democracies alike do it. (there's no name for that since all governments do it)

    The cool thing about being a despot is that you get to name your own title freely. If the despot wants to be called emperor then he's emperor, if he wants to be called democratically elected prime minister then that's what he is.
    Godking, emperor, the chosen one, supreme leader, master. Or you can go with something fancy sounding like "Archon" or "Deity"
    No it's called Autocracy and the leader is an autocrat :)
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    Default Re: Is there a name for a hierarchical governmental system of delegated authority?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mastikator View Post
    The name of the type of government where a single individual holds absolute power is called despotism. The ruler is called a despot.

    Delegating the task of ruling to the court is a necessary and universal part of government, dictatorships and democracies alike do it. (there's no name for that since all governments do it)

    The cool thing about being a despot is that you get to name your own title freely. If the despot wants to be called emperor then he's emperor, if he wants to be called democratically elected prime minister then that's what he is.
    Godking, emperor, the chosen one, supreme leader, master. Or you can go with something fancy sounding like "Archon" or "Deity"
    I've always used "despot" to talk about those who rule a) by direct force and b) in opposition to the will of the people. I won't use real-world examples, but Emperor Palpatine is an example, in my opinion.

    Quote Originally Posted by RazorChain View Post
    No it's called Autocracy and the leader is an autocrat :)
    I've always used "autocrat" to refer to the more benign/neutral version of what I call a despot--someone who rules relatively directly and maintains tight reign on whatever subordinates exist. Everything exists at his whim, without even traditional rights and privileges.
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    Default Re: Is there a name for a hierarchical governmental system of delegated authority?

    Quote Originally Posted by RazorChain View Post
    No it's called Autocracy and the leader is an autocrat :)
    Okay true, a despot is an autocrat who rules with direct force. The autocrat could also rule with... something else I guess. Can't think of anything that isn't just layers or euphemisms for direct force but I'm sure someone else can.
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    Default Re: Is there a name for a hierarchical governmental system of delegated authority?

    A lot of these words for governments were created later and applied retroactively, anyways, and they're not all mutually exclusive.

    You could be an autocrat who ruled with force. You could be an autocrat who was temporarily appointed by a republican system. You could be an autocrat who ruled because people thought if you didn't, the sun would fall crashing onto land and incinerate everybody.
    It always amazes me how often people on forums would rather accuse you of misreading their posts with malice than re-explain their ideas with clarity.

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    Default Re: Is there a name for a hierarchical governmental system of delegated authority?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sky View Post
    I'd look into the Persian (Achaemenid) Empire. Absolute monarch, but regional governors who enforce his will. Very multicultural/multiethnic, with regional governors usually coming from local people. That will get you 1, 2, and 3. 4-6 can be added in without too much trouble, I think.
    Oh that is a nice example.

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    Default Re: Is there a name for a hierarchical governmental system of delegated authority?

    You could also look at the Roman Govenor system, which went by appointments and ruled over by the Emperor. Altough the Emperor named his own successor instead of his governors
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    Default Re: Is there a name for a hierarchical governmental system of delegated authority?

    No easy system label names, but I'd recommend reading a bit on the governments of the

    Aztec

    and

    Inca empires..
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    Default Re: Is there a name for a hierarchical governmental system of delegated authority?

    Definitely not feudalism - not only has the term been so distorted by now that even professional historians have to redefine it with every new published paper, most of the definitions I've seen are based around the idea that the person at the top is giving land in exchange for service. Not a lot of that going on here.

    It's definitely absolutist, seeing as the top dog has absolute power - in theory - to do whatever he wants.

    Calling it monarchy is a bit more questionable - the defining characteristics of a monarchy are two ideas. First is that the identity of the nation/kingdom is not primarily defined culturally, but by who is the current king or ruling dynasty. The second idea is that there is some reason, usually higher power, why the current ruler is in place - this mostly takes the form of it being hereditary (surely God wills this new guy to be king since he was firstborn of previous king), but it isn't universally or cleanly so in all cases (see Chinese Mandate of Heaven).

    If not monarchy/kingdom, what then? Well, not republic, since public has no part in directly governing their affairs. Union, Federation and other words like these may apply if there were partial states that merged together, willingly or not, to form it, but otherwise probably not. Empire - well, empire has a lot of baggage, historically, it's used to brag about you being a descendant of Roman Empire or giving equivalent status to foreign lands (hence why Chinese and Japanese words for their states are translated as Empire), modern definition is that it is an entity that governs many different cultural groups. Tells us nothing about what the government looks like, though.

    The rigidly separated hierarchy you described does bring peerage to mind, so you may want to look into that, but that's more of a subsystem than an entire government.

    There was one state in medieval Europe where you had nobles appointed to their offices, Kingdom of Hungary, but in this case, the offices were higher ones - you were born a noble and appointed a duke at the king's pleasure (well, it's a lot more complicated than that, but this one is close enough for TTRPG). Everyone called Hungary a kingdom and just remarked on weird local ways. I've heard medieval Hungary described as delegative absolutist monarchy (slightly paraphrasing, the actual phrase is not directly translatable) in modern discussions.
    Last edited by Martin Greywolf; 2018-01-01 at 01:56 PM.
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    Default Re: Is there a name for a hierarchical governmental system of delegated authority?

    Quote Originally Posted by Martin Greywolf View Post
    Definitely not feudalism - not only has the term been so distorted by now that even professional historians have to redefine it with every new published paper, most of the definitions I've seen are based around the idea that the person at the top is giving land in exchange for service. Not a lot of that going on here.
    The above is fodder for a deep and involved conversation about anachronism and historicity. The short version is that the academic community started rejecting the idea the construct of "feudalism" over 40 years ago. The slightly longer version is that the academic community reached a consensus on the matter over 20 years ago. That consensus is that "feudalism" in its classical definition from 1944 by Francois-Lois Ganshof was never valid. The absolute reality is that the academic community has now rejected the entire idea for over a decade longer than it was actually accepted.

    Quote Originally Posted by Martin Greywolf View Post
    Calling it monarchy is a bit more questionable - the defining characteristics of a monarchy are two ideas. First is that the identity of the nation/kingdom is not primarily defined culturally, but by who is the current king or ruling dynasty. The second idea is that there is some reason, usually higher power, why the current ruler is in place - this mostly takes the form of it being hereditary (surely God wills this new guy to be king since he was firstborn of previous king), but it isn't universally or cleanly so in all cases (see Chinese Mandate of Heaven).
    Without digging up the source, you're paraphrasing an actual textbook or dictionary definition I believe. Either way, "Nations" are not possessed of a "singular identity" but many competing identities. You mention both National and Cultural Identity with the connotation that only one of the two can exist at any given time. This is not accurate, National and Cultural Identities are neither mutually inclusive nor mutually exclusive, both usually exist simultaneously and the latter usually exists in parallel with numerous competing variations.

    The second idea you mention is a completely separate thing; a rationale for, not a condition of monarchy.

    Quote Originally Posted by Martin Greywolf View Post
    There was one state in medieval Europe where you had nobles appointed to their offices, Kingdom of Hungary, but in this case, the offices were higher ones - you were born a noble and appointed a duke at the king's pleasure (well, it's a lot more complicated than that, but this one is close enough for TTRPG). Everyone called Hungary a kingdom and just remarked on weird local ways. I've heard medieval Hungary described as delegative absolutist monarchy (slightly paraphrasing, the actual phrase is not directly translatable) in modern discussions.
    This is going to be highly dependent on what "offices" you're referring to. Nevertheless, most states that I'm aware of throughout the History of Western Civilization made extensive use of "appointments" whether through peerage or bureaucracy.

    I can't comment on your description of medieval Hungary since eastern European history is not, following the collapse of Byzantium, an area I'm overly knowledgeable about. That being said...I'm incredulous of the description of a "delagative absolutist monarchy" but I would be interested in hearing a more detailed description of the concept.

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    Default Re: Is there a name for a hierarchical governmental system of delegated authority?

    "Devolved autocracy" sort of describes what you've got here. If the rights and privileges of the various classes are codified in a law code that can't be altered arbitrarily you could even call it a "constitutional autocracy," though that's sort of an oxymoron.

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    Default Re: Is there a name for a hierarchical governmental system of delegated authority?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mastikator View Post
    Okay true, a despot is an autocrat who rules with direct force. The autocrat could also rule with... something else I guess. Can't think of anything that isn't just layers or euphemisms for direct force but I'm sure someone else can.
    No.

    An autocrat is someone who's rule is based on his own power. He doesn't rule because he is the legitimate ruler by law. He doesn't rule because it is the will of the people. He doesn't rule because traditions demand so. He doesn't rule because he has divine favor.

    He rules because he himself has the power to do so and he wants to and there is no serious challange.

    This is what autocrat means. The "auto" part of the word means "self" and is there to show where the power to rule comes from. Similar to democrat where demos stands for people or theocrat, where theo stands for god.

    Despot on the other hand (when it does not mean the Byzanthine court title of ruler over a despotate) is someone who rules with absolute power. It is not about where this cower comes from or about how benevolent it is used it is about that it is concentrated in one hand without any checks and ballances. A Roman dictator would be a despot as well an absolute king would be.


    And while we are at it, a tyrant is someone who has usurped power, usually violently. That term is mostly about legitimacy, but considering its meaning its use is also nearly always an attack on the ruler. And taking power violently and illegitimate tends to lead to a violent and unjust rule anyway which is where the other connotations come from. Occassionally the word can also be used for someone who starts a legitimate ruler but grabs far more power than he should have by law or tradition jeopardizing his legitimacy this way.
    Last edited by Satinavian; 2018-01-03 at 02:41 AM.

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    Default Re: Is there a name for a hierarchical governmental system of delegated authority?

    A "tyrant" as used in colloquial terms generally refers to the style of rule more than the technical or actual source of authority. A "tyrant" is a ruler who exerts his power in onerous ways for petty or selfish purposes. Often said to be "abusing" his power, though arguments can be made over whether it's "abuse" when the government he sets up explicitly permits it, and devolves into pedantry over philosophical matters.

    It doesn't really matter if the tyrant came to power via military coup or is the legitimate heir to an ancient throne. It's HOW he rules that makes him a tyrant. A genuinely good autocrat who assumed the throne by his own might but who ruled wisely and fairly and was popular because of the prosperity, security, and happiness of his people would be termed "tyrant" by very few, and generally only those who were, themselves, tyrannical and found themselves out of power when this man took the throne.

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    Default Re: Is there a name for a hierarchical governmental system of delegated authority?

    Is that not an ogliarchy? Or am I focusing too far on the aspect revolving around the high-lords? I think I might be, but it sounds to me what you want is a theistic ogliarchy.

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    Default Re: Is there a name for a hierarchical governmental system of delegated authority?

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    I'm looking for any historical parallels (even rough ones) to the following political structure:

    1. An "absolute" monarch (absolute in principle, delegated in practice). Also center of devotional life (his wife is always High Priestess and holds highest ecclesiastical position) and military head (military is accountable to him, not to the local lords, although many officers are also noble).

    2. A set of regional high lords (3 total). These have essentially unreviewable high and low justice. Directly accountable to the monarch who only intervenes in extreme cases. They appoint rank 3 and lower nobles at their whim. Supported through taxes/duties on lower nobles

    3. Local lords. They exercise high and low justice, although nobles have right of appeal to the local high lord. Approve petitions for appointment for rank 5 nobles, nominate people for appointment to their own level or rank 4. Tax-supported, mainly by tradesmen/landed gentry

    4. Landed gentry. High and low justice, tradesmen have right of appeal. Nominates rank 5, approves rank 6. Rentiers with fiefs

    5. "Householding" gentry. Low justice only, and only in the absence of higher authority. Only ba can't appeal. Mostly hereditary, subject to approval on elevation. Earned through service to the state/military/wealth. Small landowners/business owners. Considered "jumped up tradesmen" by some.

    Edit: Rank #2 can also correspond to the leaders of ministries that controlled the army, treasury, and bureaucracy. Each was headed by a noble who occupied a position for which "vizier" might be an appropriate, though certainly not native, term. The office wouldn't necessarily be hereditary, though it could be de facto, and the "viziers" would have significant holdings outside of their office.

    6. Courtesy nobles. No justice rights, but allowed appeal. Life titles. Default social standing for non-noble officers.

    Non-noble statuses are skilled tradesmen (journeyman/master level, approximately), common (free workers), and ba (2nd-class citizens, minimal rights. Not slaves, but certainly 2nd-class).

    Are there any even rough historical parallels I can learn from? Closest I can think of is (very very roughly) the Shogunate era of Japan, but I'm sure that's a bad analogy.
    The closest historical parallel I can think of is probably Ming China. You had a system where the Son of Heaven had a divine, absolute right to rule, but it was highly dependent on the metaphysical state of the kingdom. Meanwhile, various lords exercised a lot of real power as the emperors became less competent and dutiful. As for ranks of nobility, #2-#3 can correspond to the major local lords and landholders, who stepped into the power vacuum if/when the Emperor couldn't, while #5 and #6 are natural matches for the (aristocratic by birth and training) Confucian bureaucracy as well as middle-ranking army officers. Traders, craftsmen, and peasants round out the class structure in both formats.
    Last edited by KarlMarx; 2018-01-04 at 08:53 PM.

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    Default Re: Is there a name for a hierarchical governmental system of delegated authority?

    Quote Originally Posted by KarlMarx View Post
    The closest historical parallel I can think of is probably Ming China. You had a system where the Son of Heaven had a divine, absolute right to rule, but it was highly dependent on the metaphysical state of the kingdom. Meanwhile, various lords exercised a lot of real power as the emperors became less competent and dutiful. As for ranks of nobility, #2-#3 can correspond to the major local lords and landholders, who stepped into the power vacuum if/when the Emperor couldn't, while #5 and #6 are natural matches for the (aristocratic by birth and training) Confucian bureaucracy as well as middle-ranking army officers. Traders, craftsmen, and peasants round out the class structure in both formats.
    That actually works pretty well. Which fits, as this nation is very SE-asia flavored--they're using Khmer names and architecture, Vietnamese titles for now (because I couldn't easily find a list of Khmer ones), and it's got that Confucian "everybody know your place" vibe. Although I mixed in a bit of Central American step-pyramids and some snake/serpent themes (including adding sibilants to the older names).
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