A key element of Slower Than Light is personalities, or the NPC characters that will be making decisions on the player’s behalf when their ships or colonies are out of practical contact with the Homeworld. Also of concern are populations, which represent the total population of a settlement, be it a colony or a spacecraft with a large civilian complement (such as a generation ship.) Populations and personalities affect each other based on government types.
Both personalities and populations have political leanings. At present the political scale has two axes. The first is Isolationism/Expansionism — whether the person or population prefers policies that maintain their colony’s present size and focuses resources on improving it, or if they prefer to use those resources to expand their influence in hopes of getting more resources and improving their situation that way. The second axis is Empire/Homerule. This value determines whether the person or population prefers to coordinate with other colonies and the Homeworld towards their goals, or if they prefer to act strictly in the best interests of their colony.
Each manned entity (be it ship or colony) has a personality in charge, called the Executive. Decisions made for that colony depend entirely on the Executive’s political values. When a new ship is created, the Executive for the nearest populated place makes the decision for who should command that ship, and it will generally match the Executive’s political alignment. If the nearest populated place is the Homeworld, the player chooses the commander’s political alignment.
Populations are complex entities that consist of a collection of subpopulations. These subpopulations each have a number of individuals in them, they consume a certain amount of energy per capita (which can be loosely read as their economic status) and they have a political alignment. Populations exercise no direct control over the decisions made for a colony, but they may exercise control over who the executive is.
When a leader falls out of power, an “election” is held for a new leader. How that election is held depends on the government type. In a democracy, the new executive has the political alignment of the largest subpopulation by population count. In a dictatorship, the new executive has the same political alignment as the old leader. In an oligarchy, the new executive has the same political alignment as the subpopulation with the highest total energy consumption, and so on. In all of these cases, upsets are possible, but unlikely.
If the population and the executive’s political alignments fall far enough apart, for a long enough period, there may be a revolution. A revolution is a chance-based event in which some subpopulations rise up against the others, and a result weighted by the total energy consumption of each side decides if the revolution is successful. If it is, a new government type is selected, and a new leader immediately placed in power.
That’s a quick summary of the political system in Slower Than Light. With only three types of entities, it is quite simple, but I feel it provides considerable depth of play.