Understanding Stellaris Ethics, Traits, and Governments Guide

Understanding Stellaris ethics, traits and how government works. Our Stellaris guide will walk you through ethics, traits and governments rewards and bonus.

This guide essentially provides an overview of all available Ethics, Traits, and Governments in Stellaris. You will not only be find a brief explanation about each one’s obvious as well as secret/bonus effects.

In addition to this, our Stellaris Ethics, Traits, and Governments guide also categorizes each of these in Strong, Situational, and Weak. Strong basically means that you cannot go wrong with the particular choice as it remains strong in almost all the cases.

Situational essentially means that a particular choice can prove to be really good or really bad depending upon the situation you are in. And finally, Weak means that a particular choice is either an overkill, does not justify its points, or is outright bad.

For more help on Stellaris, read out our Slaves Guide, How to Build a Strong Economy, and Beginner’s Guide.

Stellaris Ethics, Traits, and Governments Guide

As always, if there is something else you would like to know, do make sure to let us know!


Collectivist – Situational
Purpose: Slavery, Purge, Anti-Divergence

Slavery Tolerance is strong and pretty good for slavery races. However, do note that this does not affect your own POPs so conquered races will have their concerns about it. Ethnic Divergence modifiers are nice, but an overkill and Purge is a strong mechanic. Collectivist basically gives you a lot of control, but limited efficiency.

Individualist – Situational
Purpose: Efficiency, Energy, Happiness

The energy tile yield bonus is very powerful during the early game and is the strongest of the 3 production types. Later down the road, you will need less Power Plants which essentially means using planet tiles for buildings such as labs. Slavery Tolerance restricts you from using slavery, but also prevents your guys from being enslaved. Being locked out of government is not as bad as with Collectivist. This can be considered as having little control, but more efficiency.

Militarist – Situational
Purpose: War, Navy, Army

The military benefits in the game are not too good. Since mid and early game wars are decided in the space, the army does not play much of a role. Extra Influence from Rivalry and full orbital bombardment are quite powerful. As for unique buildings and getting more military tech, they do not provide much benefits. Lastly, do note that you need to be at war and not actually fight in order to get the happiness bonus.

Pacifist – Situational
Purpose: Diplomacy, Happiness, Tech

If you are looking forward to good relations, extra embassies can be good. Army Damage and the Food bonus does not come into play. As for unique building and habitability, these can be good for mid-game. Furthermore, you need to try and have more empire tech and few army techs, even if you plan to go to war.

Spiritualist – Weak
Purpose: Happiness, Psionic, Roleplaying

One of the major drawbacks of Spiritualist is insane opportunity cost. you will not only be able to use robots without happiness penalty, but will not have unique building. Other than that, Psionic are okay, but are not a unique tech for spiritualists.

Materialist – Strong
Purpose: Science, Robots, Efficiency

This is probably one of the best ethic choice you can make in the game. you will not only have the best unique building, but also pretty decent edict. Moreover, robots are pretty powerful when it comes to increasing efficiency and POP growth of your empire. This becomes even better with the fact that you can go to Synthetics.

Xenophile – Situational
Purpose: Diplomacy, Multi-Species Empire, Roleplaying

Contrary to Materialist, this is probably the worst ethic choice you can make in the game. you will get decent diplomacy bonus, but other than that you will not get nothing good for your empire and will not be able to make sure to edict. Moreover, it will not help you all that much with Federations.


Agrarian – Weak – 2 Points
An excess of food has limited effect on POP growth and is potentially useless once a planet is filled up. Moreover, you are very likely to get 10% food tech during the early years.

Thrifty – Situational – 2 Points
With this, you will get early Energy bonus which is useful for supporting the early Offworld spam and in order to keep energy relevant through the course of the game. Moreover, a lot of your empire’s energy production will be tile-based which will allow you to get 10% energy income for your empire which basically means less power plants.

Industrious – Weak – 2 Points
Since your early and mid-game Mineral income will come from offworlds, this trait is not as good as it sounds. Moreover, you can always use robots for a huge mineral yield bonus instead of this.

Intelligent – Strong – 2 Points
Since Science is strong during early and mid-game, this trait is the way to go. This will come in handy even if you are trying to go with Synthetics in the late game.

Natural Engineers – Strong – 1 Point
This can be considered as specialized version of Intelligent at a lower cost. Since it has the strongest military techs, this is one of the strongest traits.

Natural Physicists – Strong – 1 Point
Since Physics tree only a handful of important techs, it is not as strong as other two natural traits.

Natural Sociologists – Strong – 1 Point
This has Empire and Colonization techs, but is not as good as Natural Engineers.

Extremely Adaptive – 5 Points
This is good for colonizing different worlds and recommended for happiness-based builds.

Adaptive – Situational – 2 Points
Since it allows 90% habitability on homeworld type planets, it is recommended for happiness-based races. However, if you are not focusing on happiness, it is potentially useless.

Non-Adaptive – Weak – 1 Point
This is not designed for someone with happiness-based build or more aptly anyone. It is like wasting a point if you are planning on colonizing low habitability worlds.

Rapid Breeders – Situational – 1 Point
This is a decent early game trait, but as you begin to colonize planets outside the Homeworld, it becomes irrelevant.

Slow Breeders – Situational – 1 Point
This may cause a handful of problems in early game, but is decent for robot-based race with less micromanagement of food.

Talented – Situational – 2 Points
This goes hand in hand with anything that increases leader lifespan that brings various advantages.

Quick Learners – Strong – 1 Point
Allows scientists to get more XP from surveys and goes well with life-enhancing traits.

Slow Learners – Situational – -1 Point
This can be good for players who do not plan to use leaders outside scientists.

Very Strong – Weak – 4 Points
This is way overpriced for decent army boost and okay-ish mineral bonus which may not come into play too often.

Strong – Situational – 1 Point
This gives bonus to planetary defenses and late-game war tactics.

Weak – Situational – -1 Point
This is good for pure singleplayer experience and for players who want a peaceful game.

Nomadic – Situational – 1 Point
This is ideal for resettlement mechanic and useful for larger empires trying to populate new worlds.

Sedentary – Strong – -1 Point
This is useful for those whose empire’s policies do not allow them to migrate or resettle.

Communal – Situational – 1 Point
Effect: 5% Happiness
This is for those who prefer a happiness-based build, especially when combined with other happiness-based traits.

Solitary – Situational – -1 Point
Effect: -5% Happiness
This does not have any major impact overall, but make sure you do not fall under minimum happiness threshold.

Charismatic – Situational – 1 Point
Effect: 1% Other Species Happiness per Charismatic POPs
This grants foreign species and Synthetics with happiness bonus as well as +10 diplomacy.

Repugnant – Strong – -1 Point
Effect: -1% Other Species Happiness per Charismatic POPs
This is for those who do not want to play with foreign happiness and can endure a little diplomacy setback.

Conformists – Situational – 2 Points
Effect: -20% Ethnic Divergence
Since there are a few ways to reach the same effects, spending 2 points seem like an overkill.

Venerable – Situational – 4 Points
Effect: +120 Year Leader Lifespan
This is again an overkill despite the insane bonus. There are many tech and policy options that allow you to achieve the same thing.

Enduring – Strong – 1 Point
Effect: +30 Year Leader Lifespan
For 1 point, this is an absolute steal. You will save a lot of influence by having to hire less leaders and useful for fleeting generals which will help you a ton.

Decadent – Situational – -1 Point
Effect: -10% Tile Yield on Planets without Slaves
This is pretty self-explanatory! There is no point of it without slaves.

Resilient – Situational – 1 Point
Effect: +100% Garrison Army HP and +50% Planetary Fortification Bonus
This is an end-game trait that is only useful when used for defense.


Indirect Democracy / Democratic Utopia – Situational
Effect: +1 and +2 Leader Starting Skill Level and -10%/-20% Leader Recruiting Cost
This is good for leader-focused builds and goes hand in hand with leader traits – especially lifespan ones. The advanced version is not good in the sense that it is relatively easy to hit Level 5 with leaders.

Plutocratic Oligarchy / Mega Corporation – Situational
Effect: +5 and +10 Mineral and Energy Tile Yield
This is meant for those who are constantly at war since excessive Mineral and Energy can be used on both civilian and military projects. Other than that, it is weaker than it seems.

Despotic Empire / Star Empire – Strong / Situational
Effect: +10% and +20% Slave Mineral and Food Tile Yield, -15% and 30% Building Cost
This is good for those who use slavery or are looking for building cooldown reduction. It also allows to build an oversized Military Station per ruler which is good.

Moral Democracy / Irenic Democracy – Situational / Strong
Effect: +10% and +20% Happiness
While this can be good for happiness-based builds, do note that there are many global happiness resources which will ensure that you do not reach a happiness overkill.

Peaceful Bureaucracy / Irenic Protectorate – Situational
Effect: +1 and +2 Leader Pool Choices, +1 and +2 Empire Leader Capacity, -15% and -30% Leader Recruitment Cost
This is good for getting leaders with specific traits or scientists for research purposes.

Enlightened Monarchy / Irenic Monarchy – Situational
Effect: -25% and -50% Edict Cost, +25% and +50% Edict Duration, +1 and +2 Core Planet Limit
This is ideal for empire-wide edicts allowing influence to be used on planetary edicts or outposts. All in all, it is a powerful government for edict-based playstyles.

Direct Democracy / Subconscious Consensus – Situational
Effect: +2 and +4 Core Planet Limit
This helps in speeding up the expansion process without going through Sector. Moreover, you should face no problems swapping to another government after you are done with expansion.

Science Directorate / Illuminated Technocracy – Strong / Situational
Effect: +1 and +2 Research Alternatives and +1 and +2 Empire Leader Capacity
It goes without saying that having tech options in early and mid-game is of paramount importance in the game. In addition to this, you will also get extra leader capacity.

Theocratic Republic / Transcendent Republic – Situational
Effect: -10% and -20% Ethic Divergence and +2 and +4 Core Planet Limit
This can be considered as a stronger version of Direct Democracy, but with a weak Ethic. This will allow keeping ethics in check for a large empire without worrying about other Ethnic Divergence effects.

Theocratic Oligarchy / Transcendent Oligarchy – Weak
Effect: -10% and -20% Ethic Divergence and -15% and -30% Leader Recruitment Cost
This can be considered as one of the worst governments in the game. Since you can get Ethnic Divergence from various global effects, there is no point wasting a government slot.

Military Republic / Martial Democracy – Weak / Situational
Effect: -10% and -20% Army Upkeep, -10% and -20% Navy Upkeep, +5% and +10% War Happiness
This is weak in early game, but grows stronger in end-game. In the late game, you will benefit a lot for reduced upkeep and use War Happiness alongside Militarist ethic.

Military Junta / Ordered Stratocracy – Situational
Effect: -10% and -20% Ship Cost and -25% and -50% Ship Upgrade Cost
This can be considered as opposite of Military Republic in the sense that it is good in early game and becomes useless during late-game. One thing that you need to note here is that the reduced ship cost also covers ship upkeep.

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