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Magicians who were credited with great power often became chiefs and kings in early societies. [1] A magocracy is a form of government in which society is ruled by such magi, wizards, or witches.[2] The term is used in the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game and other works, by analogy with aristocracy, meritocracy, and theocracy.

Historical antecedents[]

If the premises of a fantasy world include individuals who are capable of wielding magical powers, it seems likely that the wielders of such powers would wield considerable influence. The concept of a magus takes its name from the priests of the Magian religion of the ancient Medes, who wielded considerable power and influence, until they were suppressed as a result of a revolt by the pretender Smerdis against Cambyses II.[3]

Similarly, Julius Caesar's Commentaries on the Gallic War portrays druids as a learned priestly class and the keepers of customary law, with the power of executing judgments. These druids were a non-hereditary class that became druids by submitting to an extensive program of training.[4] They were believed to wield magical powers to influence the outcome of battles, and offered sacrifices, including human sacrifice, to achieve these goals.[5]

Role-playing games[]

In Dungeons & Dragons the two main types of magic are Arcane Magic and Divine Magic. A government headed by the disciples of Divine Magic is called a theocracy. In a magocracy, only those with ability in Arcane Magic have a voice in government. Power is limited to the few who have the wealth and education, or magical heritage.

Typically, Arcane Magic users will have privileges, and the citizens will live in fear. Divine Magic may be restricted, or limited to followers of the state religion. In the world of Mystara, the Principalities of Glantri have banned all Divine Magic users.


Ursula K. LeGuin's fictional world of Earthsea could be called a magocracy. In this world, a school of magic constitutes the closest thing to a central government of an archipelago of pre-industrial cultures. In The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, the witch-king of Angmar is the leader of the Ring-wraiths: a former human king who dabbled in sorcery and was transformed by Sauron's enchanted rings. Guy Gavriel Kay's Tigana is a novel that features a conflict between two nations governed by sorcerers, in a world deliberately designed to be reminiscent of Italy during the Renaissance.

Within the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing worlds, perhaps the most well-known magocracy is that of the government of Thay, an ambitious empire that is ruled by the Red Wizards in the Forgotten Realms setting. It is an enemy to many nations, including Aglarond, Mulhorand and Rashemen.

The city of Dalaran in the Warcraft Universe is also an example of a magocracy.

A magocracy (though not referred to by that term) has also appeared in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, where Emperor Palpatine, inspired by a similar scheme initiated by the Sith-descended "Sorcerers of Tund," intended to use his grasp of the Dark Side to personally rule over the galaxy, instead of having his control mediated through a bureaucracy and military. His initial prototype for this scheme (incomplete at the time of his death at the Battle of Endor) was the planet Byss.

Many examples also exist in fantasy literature such as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Lyman Frank Baum. For the 2004 Interactive Fiction Competition, Joseph Rheaume wrote a game entitled Magocracy, set in the Magocratic Kingdom of Persis, in the TADS programming language, ultimately placing 18th.


  1. C. Aylott, Dynasties and Demagogues (Atlas Games, 2003: ISBN 1-58978-033-7).
  2. Herodotus, History, book 3.
  3. Julius Caesar, Commentarii de Bello Gallico, VI.
  4. Anne Ross and Don Robins, The Life and Death of a Druid Prince: The Story of Lindow Man. an Archaeological Sensation (Summit, 1990; ISBN 0-67169-536-3).
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External links[]

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