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This writing exercise is meant to accompany this post about the Forum “polity,” in which power is held by at least some of the populace and exercised collectively through open debate and shared government. If you like this exercise, read the above-linked post and then come back.

  1. What gives the people real power against a would-be ruler or oligarch? Is it military weaponry? Broad wealth? Magic?
  2. What institution translates people’s individual wishes into a unified policy? Is it an elected legislature? A popular debate followed by a vote? Discussion and consensus by tribal elders? A shared religious law that dictates behavior?
  3. Who has the right to participate in the above institutions, or to choose representatives? In other words, who is enfranchised? (Remember that the famed Athenian democracy, for example, included only about ten percent of the city’s males.)
  4. Are decisions made effectively, especially in crisis moments? Is the process too slow? Does it have a tendency toward alarmism? Can voters be bought off or intimidated?
  5. Are there groups of people who are specifically excluded, like slaves or women, or elves, or biological humans in a cybernetic society?
  6. If the populace makes a decision, who carries it out? In other words, who is the executive or executor? Are they selected, or elected, or hereditary, or something else?
  7. How might the executive actor gain power over time? How might it gain power suddenly? How might it lose power, and/or legitimacy?
  8. What changes in society might undermine the basis for the Forum polity? List at least five.
  9. What ideology justifies the Forum, instead of a monarchy or other non-participatory form of government? How might that ideology be challenged? Does the ideology threaten any neighbors?
  10. Looking back at your potential points of conflict, which have the most resonance for your story?