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Terrestrial Liability #168
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Mar 17, 2001
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One of the big pieces missing from Stellaris is the absence of any internal politics. I've been tinkering with some ideas about how an internal politics model might work, and I put together the ideas below as a coherent whole. Would love to hear what you guys think about it.


There will be one faction per ethic in all empires (assuming you have citizens of that ethic). These would be immediately present as soon as you have any citizens that have that ethic.

Factions will have these values:
1) Happiness - how this faction feels about your government
2) % of Citizen Population - just the number of citizen pops empire-wide with this ethic
3) Mobilization - how active this faction currently is (see below)

As it works currently, you will get influence from factions. There is some total amount of "faction influence", and you get the sum of (faction % of population * faction happiness) for all factions.

Faction happiness is partly based on the current state of your empire (as it is now) as permanent (but small) modifiers, and partly based on recent actions (as larger, temporary modifiers). As an example, the egalitarian faction would have a small positive permanent happiness modifier for having universal citizenship, and a larger positive temporary happiness modifier (that ticks down) for accepting refugees, for instance.

Faction mobilization is driven by the same factors as faction happiness, but it is doubled for negative modifiers. So actions that a faction dislikes will rile them up more, compared to actions they do like. This too ticks down to zero over time for temporary modifiers, but not for permanent ones. Faction mobilization multiplied by % of citizen population determines "faction power", that is the amount of say that faction has in determining internal affairs. This is treated as a fraction of the total "faction power" of all the factions, so you can say for instance, that the egalitarian faction has 24% of total faction power among all the factions.

Powerful, unhappy factions will make demands that you adopt certain policies, certain traditions, or take certain actions (with more/less player input depending on the form of government). If they are particularly numerous in certain colonies, they may declare independence. If they are spread out, they may start a civil war.


Instead of being a list of choices, which you can change freely, policies will be displayed visually as a web of icons (or concentric circles, if you prefer), with the ethics on each axis (i.e. all the egalitarian positions on one side, and all the authoritarian positions on the opposite side). At any one time, your empire will have a set of policy positions, and you can only move your policy positions one step at a time (i.e. each policy has pre-reqisite policy positions that you need before it can be adopted, and you can move back and forth in the web). At the middle of the web are the more moderate positions, and towards the edges are the more extreme policy positions in each ethic direction. So for instance, you might imagine "AI rights" would be one line of policy positions, with "AI banned" on the spiritualist end, and "AI citizen rights" on the materialist end (with an egalitarian element), but with intermediate positions in between you have to move through to get from one to the other.

Moving policy positions will cost influence. The amount of influence depends on a few factors: 1) how extreme the position is, 2) the power of the relevant faction(s), and their opponents, 3) how large your citizen population is and 4) your government form (democracies get more of a discount for popular policy changes, but also more of a penalty for unpopular policy changes, whereas oligarchies, imperial and dictatorships progressively experience less cost differences regardless of the policy's support). Each policy in a faction's direction gives a permanent modifer to that faction's happiness and mobilization, but also a negative modifier to the opposite faction's happiness and mobilization. Each policy move also gives a temporary modifier, again to the relevant ethic's faction and it's opposite. Some policies might be shared between two different ethics, which would result in smaller changes towards both ethics (and also smaller negative changes to the opposing ethics). The form of your government is itself a policy position (this would lie on the egalitarian/authoritarian axis).

As an extension of this, an empire's overall ethics is now dependent on the sum of their policy positions. As you shift your policy positions around, your nation's ethics might change as a result.

Faction Demands

Factions will make their demands heard - particularly in more participatory forms of government. Once every few years, if there is a policy position that is supported by faction(s) that have over 50% faction power that you can move to, but you haven't adopted, the factions in question will ask you to adopt that policy position. If there are multiple such positions, then the one with the most support will be the one chosen. Accepting will change your policy position, but declining will make those factions unhappy temporarily (and more mobilized). Note that this might temporarily drive your influence into the negatives if that is necessary to take that position.

Note that for this purpose, declaring rivalries, wars, signing treaties, etc. as well as edicts also count as policy positions. So a powerful militarist faction might team up with the egalitarians to demand you declare war on the slavers, for instance.

The more authoritarian your government, the higher the percentage of faction power is necessary before the factions ask you to do something. This means that dictatorships might experience very few such demands, but when you get them, the support behind the policy is huge, and it may be unwise to decline.

Diplomatic Actions & Civic Changes

These now require influence as well, and the influence cost is scaled as if they were policy positions in and of themselves. So if you have a powerful pacifist faction, declaring war is going to be very expensive (or indeed unaffordable), particularly if no other faction supports the war; and even if you can pay the cost, you're going to have a really pissed off pacifist faction.


I'm not entirely sure about this, but one idea might be to merge the tradition trees into the policy system, and merge unity production into influence production. The idea here is that to adopt certain traditions is effectively moving in certain policy directions, and this would further differentiate different nations apart, because you can't adopt opposing traditions. The other side to this is that it gives you some way to boost influence/unity income, while the scaling cost of policies and claiming distant star systems should still increase further than however much you can increase your income. In some extent, this represents the effective political power of your government. In this case, unity modifiers would also apply to all influence cost modifiers (i.e. a traditional species would make it cheaper to change policies).
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There's a lot of good stuff here. I like the idea for faction demands for one.

And that idea for traditions is very interesting! I like how it's dependent on what your Empire is like, and what it values over time, rather than allowing for the same rough style each time you play. And how much income you get by abiding by your ethics/government is very nice too. If you want to break away from that, you'll need to do it in a smart way.
How does adopting Ascension perks work? And how would the Unity campaigns work? Since people usually end up stockpiling Unity to have a bunch at once. Is that still doable, or are you more limited?
Considering your government ethics should almost always be the clear majority of your nation there should not be many if any demands from other factions without support from your own ethics. Also for an ethics rework it should (finally) take pop happiness into account for ethics attraction. People will not start a revolution in a nation they are perfectly happy with but one they hate for whatever reason. So just like with crime 100% happy pops should never switch away from your governemnt ethics but the lower it gets the more likely it can happen until at 0% it is outright impossible for them to switch to your governemnt ethics.
I really like this proposal. I just have two problems with it :

1. Making everything cost influence would likely end up with the same “mana fatigue” than Imperator had at its release. If it were my choice, most diplomatic treaties wouldn’t cost influence per months.

2. I wouldn’t scrap unity. Influence is the ressources about external politics. Unity is the internal ressource. While it is perfectly ok that factions are the primary producer of influence, I believe making changes in the internal laws should cost unity, not influence. Maybe the unity production could be bumped a bit to take into account this new use.

Other than those two probably major points for the OP, I like the idea that factions make demand, that they react to the things we do in a more profound manner and that policies aren’t free to change. Add some Parliements to that and even factions which would function more as political parties, with more than one ethics and shifting values and demands, and it would be wonderful.

The devs need to see this thread and make an internal politics expansion and/or overhaul.
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I really like simple system for Mobilization, but I think there a way to simply it. Currently, each faction has several issues, and you gain influence by meeting those issues, or loosing it by ignoring it. If we add in this idea, what I'm imagining is this.

Every several years or so (quicker in bigger empires?) Each faction selects one issue that it doesn't have fulfilled and generates a demand from that issue - the demand puts an ultimatum in front of the player - Do this thing within X years - if you do, you get a huge unity/influence boost, if not, faction mobilization increases. This works for policies, treaties, wars, as well as construction. This sort of splices the Democratic agenda system as a global thing, but...

As you laid out, the frequency and demands of faction varies by government type (i.e. so Democratic empires have to acquiesce to demands much more often).

Then, if faction mobilization gets high enough, the game could check for certain events, which could include
- Classic Rebellion
- Terrorism, resulting in lower stability
- High Crime
- General Strikes - overall resource outputs
- Diplomatic Incident - cause a major loss of opinion with another empire

Along with this, I think all policy changes should require influence to shift as well (and you could get a discount based on your empire x the current size of the faction's favorbility toward that policy, as you outlined above).
Thanks for all the positive feedback!

One thing to keep in mind here is that mobilization is really a double-edged sword. Although factions are more likely to be mobilized when they are unhappy, it can be useful to have a happy faction that has high mobilization, because then you can push your policy agenda in a certain way. The idea here is that mobilization represents the degree to which the faction's members are engaged in politics, and thus "faction power" (% of population * mobilization) is really like a measure of parliamentary control, or political influence within your nation.

The other thing here is that "influence" (the resource) is being massively expanded into something more like HoI4's political power. Combining unity and influence is supposed to unite them into a single kind of mana representing your ability to shape your society. You should be able to expand your amount of it (with unity buildings, which I guess will become "influence buildings") by a bit, but you'll really never have enough of it to do everything you want. Beyond that, it should be harder to shape your society as it spreads out over more systems and has more citizens, which will really produce some internal development advantages to having a "tall" empire, whereas a "wide" empire will have less means to control its own internal development (or just be less developed in terms of traditions). There's also going to be a trade off between expansion, internal policy, and diplomacy, all of which will consume the same limited resource.

I haven't really thought through the consequences of what happens fully to the tradition system if we combine unity with influence like this. One idea is that ascension perks will become special policies you can adopt, which are highly expensive (like the more "extreme" policy positions) and thus limited in number in some way. Unity ambitions would become just a more expensive form of edicts, but that could be itself gated behind having to adopt certain policies to be allowed to run those edicts.

Now I haven't really figured out how gestalts would work in a system like this. A simple system would be to have a set of "traits" that a gestalt consciousness would evolve towards, so for instance, your hive might try to adapt to all kinds of planets, or specialize at living better on specific planets. Or you might try to increase the ability of your drones to fight better, at the cost of production. I guess it is possible to come up with a set of policy-replacements, which would work in the same way, involving tradeoffs between orthogonal directions of development, which would be developed by using the combined influence/unity as a proxy for "attention".
Every several years or so (quicker in bigger empires?) Each faction selects one issue that it doesn't have fulfilled and generates a demand from that issue - the demand puts an ultimatum in front of the player - Do this thing within X years - if you do, you get a huge unity/influence boost, if not, faction mobilization increases. This works for policies, treaties, wars, as well as construction. This sort of splices the Democratic agenda system as a global thing, but...
So unless one is willing to change his policies (normally you dont because you want to continue with the ones you have already picked for a reason) the factions who have unfullfilled demands will just regularly complain and get a bit more angry (temporarily) until RNG makes them revolt or whatever is possible with their current strength. Which sounds just anoying. If you get an event that said faction really tries to push that issue because you are in a situation where they have a chance that the majority of your pops is going to support that issue then thats another thing but some 30% issue (at best should not really be much of a concern (neither in democracies and not at all in dictatorships).
Thanks to the OP for these precisions. However, I'm going to double down on my comment above about how we shouldn't merge influence and unity.

A big problem PDX devs face whenever they want to do an internal politics mechanic is that not all players are thrilled by it. Some want to expand and be relatively free to be "the will of the nation".

At release, Stellaris had only influence. The player could build buildings giving influence, just like you propose. But then the devs felt the need to break it down and to add unity because they wanted to prevent a situation in which the player would directly choose between expanding and develop his country. To me, this makes sense, at least gameplay-wise.

Merging those two values, while I see the idea behind, seems a step backward. What is likely to happen then is that people won't ever change their policies until they swim in influence later in the game. They will experience factions with frustration (if enforcing a forced-change in policy makes them lose influence) and won't actively engage with the mechanic as they would if the only drawback were to delay a bit some bonuses (traditions).

My point is that while the mechanic you propose looks good in theory, it is too impactful for many players, me included I guess.
What is likely to happen then is that people won't ever change their policies until they swim in influence later in the game. They will experience factions with frustration (if enforcing a forced-change in policy makes them lose influence) and won't actively engage with the mechanic as they would if the only drawback were to delay a bit some bonuses (traditions).

So I think you've hit the nail on the head here about an important issue: that using influence for expansion is always the best use for influence. I'm kind of concerned about this happening too, which is why I think that there needs to be some way of generating more influence, even if you never have so much that you stop worrying about it.

One outcome from my system is that you probably won't be "forced" to change policies by faction demands often, because your policy agenda should mostly be aligned with the more common factions, barring some giant shift in ethics (like if you conquered your opposing ethic neighbor and gave everyone citizen rights, for instance). But that's really just an answer to one specific concern.

I'm not sure if we can resolve our disagreement, but I do think that being forced to decide between using a single resource for external vs internal development is a good strategic choice. For one thing, it's really weird to have two different resources, both representing political capital, but used for different purposes. And the trade-off between the two choices itself is interesting, because that adds a different strategic element to the game as well. What is problematic is when one of those choices is so manifestly better than the other, that it's kind of a waste to take the other choice (as is currently the case for influence: expansion is so much more worthwhile than any other use of influence). My hope is that generating empire-wide bonuses through policies/traditions will be seen as being just as useful as taking over another system, because it's more interesting to have that choice to make, rather than to simply take another system when you have enough influence, and take another tradition when you have enough unity. But that's definitely a balance issue that needs to be designed around carefully.
I'm not sure if we can resolve our disagreement, but I do think that being forced to decide between using a single resource for external vs internal development is a good strategic choice.
Lets call it mana and why should internal and external be mixed? Instead (what is already in game) you can simply make things more expensive for large empires (higher unity cost for traditions and also increased cost for edicts) when it makes sense. And only increase the costs a little other times (research). As it could be seen with imperator the mana mechanics are not really favored by the majority of players (me included). And for example i personally absolutly hate artificial (and stupid) limitations like only 1 megastructure can be built at a time unless you picked that edict (and i think one ascension perk too) while at the same time the argument is that there is a large amount of special workers needed and yet any empire no matter how small can build them as long as it has the recources but your 10k+ pop empire cant have multiple at once (again besides edict and ascension perk bonus). As well as them costing a lot of mana regardless of how much alloys you produce per month or your general economic strenght.
About "mana", Imperator's (and to a lesser degree EUIV) mistake was to give us very few agency on how we gain it. I don't see unity as a mana in the same sense because, as I said before, you can decide how much you produce, with a tradeoff that you won't have certain other ressources.

Meanwhile, influence is decided by a few of your actions toward your factions and other empires. Tying too much mechanics to influence only increases the burden and threatens it to suffer the "mana fatigue" I talked about earlier. I know you proposed to bring back the mana generating buildings, though, so influence would probably then be completely different and resemble unity.

Like @Make Victoria 3 tells (great name, btw), I think that the difference between unity and influence is that they are respectiviley the internal and the external "mana". Both (especially unity) are controllable, meaning you can have more or less depending on your actions.

There is something to be said for indirect effects, and I think @Make Victoria 3 makes the point when he talks about greater unity costs. That means when you invest a lot of influence to expand, your unity cost will be (relatively) greater, unless you keep constructing monuments giving unity. I find that a far more subtle tradeoff between unity and influence than a flat merge of the two systems.

As internal politics is, well, internal, I still think unity is the sensible pick if we want to integrate your system to it. An added advantage I see is that a player completely ignoring the demands of the factions would then receive less influence from his factions, but would still be able to expand. A player heavily modifying his empire (maybe to fit its environment and/or please his factions) would be delayed in his "superbonuses" tradition tree, and thus toward his ascension perks. This to me seems like an interesting trade-off. Merging everything would just blur the subtetlies of the current (and possible expanded) system.

One thing I like with your (revised) idea is that it could be a way to assign more sensible effects to unity. Currently, I'm sure we agree it's lacking. You can basically only do two things with unity : traditions and some edicts. If it would involve the internal political situation in your country, that would justify its existence far more
I would be fine if the "resource" used here is unity instead of influence. The idea is simply to have a "political power" resource that is necessary to shape your society, which is limited in supply (representing an inability to micromanage society in a precise way). Unity is somewhat like that: you can produce some of it, but it never really scales the same way as say energy or minerals.

Frankly, I kind of see influence and unity both being intangible resources that have only very few specific uses. Influence, in itself, is just basically the "expansion mana", and all other uses of it are secondary to that. I think we all kind of agree that is somewhat silly, but because of the central role it is playing right now in limiting empire expansion, I can see why you may not want to lump it together with unity (because it might overwhelm the other uses of the combined resource). If anything that might be more of a balancing issue: the political cost of expansion should probably be fiddled with, so that it becomes a real choice whether to go for another system, or for the next tradition/policy. But that's going to be a discussion about the nature how one occupies systems - I find the current situation way too permanent for just setting up a small outpost; however that kind of rises organically because the influence cost is so damn high.