Some time ago I started writing yet another set of D&D rules – for the last three or four campaigns I've had I've used custom sets of rules – as it cuts down on the rules arguments and allows me to create innovative systems to drive play in the directions I want. [Although I admit the last set died stillborn when I got my copy of Blue Rose and discovered that Green Ronin and I had been thinking along the same lines with both the True 20 system and the ideas of feats and levels. It's not the first time it's happened, either. I was disappointed with Earthdawn for limiting itself to commercially available dice. Steam engine time!]
Now I wanted a set of Old School Rules because I wanted to go back and visit the old idea of the megadungeon, because, frankly, I'd grown nostalgic. And I wasn't ready to recreate a campaign since the idea was haunted by the ghost of my players (the last had died a year previously). So I wrote a nice simple set of rules which I liked and tuned them. But meanwhile The Crater seems to have frown into an extended sandbox campaign. Which is not surprising. I like world development and tend to write reams of background information my players will never get to see – they don't need to and it's basically for me. [I'm not really complaining about this, since the advent of the DCC RPG makes me want to use that for some good old-fashioned dungeon crawls. I really do like this game.]
Anyway, one of the things I was playing with was actually defining level as meaning something in the game context, so that places and things all had a level that could be compared directly to player level, so that single "level table" could be used to create most things of importance in a direct sandbox style, (although it is less a case of rolling a distinct level but randomly modifying the level one would expect to meet with an exponentially skewed dice roll). [Note that the system is orientated towards a lot more higher level play than is common in most D&D games, so that I envisage most players will tend to be operating in the 5th to 11th level sweet spot. In fact 1st to 3rd level characters are considered ordinary people (what would be "0 level characters" or "normal men" in most systems).]
Anyway, beneath the cut are my notes for Religious Assets to give you an idea of what I'm looking at with these tables. [When finalised they probably be released for free under a creative commons licence.]
Imperial Cathedral (15th level Religious Asset)
Imperial Cathedrals are only possible where a religion exercises authority over an empire, either because it is itself an imperial power, or because it is the state religion of one. It requires imperial resources to create and maintain such an asset. Real world examples of Imperial Cathedrals are St Peter's Cathedral / The Vatican (Catholic Christianity), and the Hagia Sophia (Orthodox Christianity). The Masjid al-Harim (Islam) is also considered an Imperial Cathedral, even though it does not exercise imperial power, simply because it is the holiest place of Earth and the destination of the pilgrimage by every one of the faithful.
The true master of an Imperial Cathedral is the acknowledged head of an imperial religion. Normally the election of a character to the position of Supreme Pontiff is sufficient to elevate the character to the 15th level, as it satisfies the requirements of an epic quest of Great Renown (you try getting elected by a council of your peers and deny that it qualifies as an adventure quest). The Pope of Catholic Christianity is considered just such a 15th level character. Normally this elevation occurs out of a pool of eligible 14th level characters – the cardinals in the case of Catholic Christianity.
The other alternative is that the Imperial Cathedral is under the direct control of one or more 14th level characters, who essentially act as custodians of the asset. This is the case if the imperial power of the religion is invested elsewhere (such as is the case of the medieval Orthodox Christianity where the Emperor is formerly invested with being the defender of the faith), or where there is no formal head of the religion. In such cases becoming a 15th level character is achieved by becoming an acknowledged prophet of the religion.
Royal Cathedral (13th Level Religious Asset)
Royal Cathedrals are the primary focus of a religion in a kingdom. It requires the resources of a kingdom to support such an asset, and it is only possible if the religion is supported by the state. Real world examples are Notre Dame Cathedral (France), St Paul's Cathedral (England), the Kong Miao (China), Angkor Wat (Cambodia), and the Temple of Solomon (Israel).
If the Royal Cathedral attains trans-national importance it can be considered a 14th level Religious Asset. Real world examples of this include Shwedagon Paya (Burma), which was a site of great pilgrimage and scholarship of the Buddhist faith.
The master of a Royal Cathedral is normally considered the senior religious leader in the kingdom – the Primate – although this is not always the case. For example, in the case of the Anglican Church, the Primate is actually the Archbishop of Canterbury, whilst the state cathedral is St Paul's (technically the seat of the Archbishop of London). Thus the master of an 11th level Religious Asset (the Cathedral at Canterbury) is a 13th level character (the Primate of the Anglican Church), whilst the master of a 13th level Religious Asset is actually an 11th level character. This is because historically Canterbury Cathedral was the centre of the Anglican Church until it was eclipsed by the creation of a true Royal Cathedral of St John's.
The Patriarchies of Constantinople, Alexandrina, Antioch, and Jerusalem during the Byzantine Empire are also considered to be the site of Royal Cathedrals (although Constantinople was upgraded to being an Imperial Cathedral thanks to the sponsorship of the Byzantine emperors).
Great Cathedral (11th Level Religious Asset)
Great Cathedrals are only found in the major cities of the land as it generally takes the resources of a province or principality to support them. They are usually closely associated with their location. For example, York Cathedral, or the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Again, if the Great Cathedral has trans-national influence it might be considered to be a 12th level Religious Asset. Due to the influence of the Oracle of Delphi, the Temple of Apollo at Delphi is considered just such an asset.
The master of a Great Cathedral is generally termed an Archbishop and is the religious head of their archdioses. For example, the Anglican Church has five great sees (Canterbury, York, London, Durham, and Winchester), each of which is the site of a Great Cathedral (although London was promoted to being a Royal Cathedral). They are considered to be 11th level characters, although particularly influential archbishops might be 12th level (for example, the Archbishops of London and York in the case of the Anglican Church).
A "Great Cathedral" is probably the most prestigious form of religious asset for a minor religion, and probably marks the head temple or the birthplace of the religion, if in fact the minor religion possesses one at all. [For the purposes of this discussion a minor religion generally doesn't have a overriding hierarchial structure, and is generally dependent on local resources, or the patronage of the state, for it's status.] The Parthenon of Athens, Temple of Athena in Ephesus, the Mahabodhi at Patnar, and the Temple of Jupiter in Rome are all considered to be "Great Cathedrals."
Cathedral / Great Temple (9th Level Religious Asset)
A Cathedral is normally the largest religious asset that can be directly supported by a large city, and as such is generally only found in major cities, where it is the principal place of worship. Having a Cathedral is often a source of pride for the community.
A Great Temple is typically the largest temple possible for a minor religion. Whilst it may not be the only religious asset in a city, a large proportion of the city's "religious capital" will be committed to supporting it's existence, so much so that no other Great Temple can exist in the city.
The master of a Cathedral may go by several titles, such as Metropolitan, Bishop, or even Archbishop (although a distinction is made for the true Archbishops described above). The master of a Great Temple is commonly referred to as a High Priest. They are typically considered to be 9th level characters.
Large Church / Large Temple (7th Level Religious Asset)
A Large Church or Large Temple will usually be the a major point of worship in a city or town. A town would be lucky to support a single Large Church or Large Temple, a small city could support a couple, whilst a large city could well support several.
The master of a Large Church or Temple will be a 7th level character, typically given the title of Priest, although they might be given an official honorific to distinguish them from lower level priests, such as the "Right Reverend Father Nikolas," as opposed to the "Reverend Father Klaus" (5th level), or simply "Father Tomas" (3rd and lower levels).
Small Church / Small Temple (5th level Religious Asset)
A Small Church or Small Temple is the smallest specific religious asset. That is, it is the smallest dedicated religious asset that may be actively purchased by a settlement, although it may not be the smallest religious asset in the settlement.
A township will almost always have a Small Church. Generally the only reason for not having a Small Church will be because the religion is heavily balkanised in the settlement and no religion can gather the resources to construct an actual Church of their own.
It is also the largest religious asset that can be directly purchased by an individual without the external support of a settlement, although the indivdual would be left with the cost of maintaining the Church or Temple if it was not colocated in a large enough settlement. For example the lord of a manor could build a Small Church on his manor as a sign of piety (replacing the normal manorial Chapel). However the church would need to be actively maintained by the manor (it could not be supported by the manor itself), and would be a drain on the lord's resources. On the other hand establishing the Small Church in a township means that it is self-supporting (even though it is technically not a "town asset").
The benefits of purchasing and mantaining a Small Church for your own use is that it can provide a +3 blessing when directed towatds a specific purpose as the priest(s) intercede with the gods on your behalf. Such a church requires a 5th level priest and attendants to be fully operational.
Chapel (3rd level Religious Asset)
You can always find a Chapel in a city (unless the worship of the deity in question is proscribed by the authorities, in which case you might have to look harder). A town will always have at least one Chapel, and maybe more (you should be able to find a 2nd level priest in a town). A manor will typically have one Chapel attached directly to the manor (usually dedicated to whatever deity the lord of the manor worships under the doctrine of Al Mia Fano).
It is also possible to directly purchase a Chapel. The benefit of doing so is to provide a specific +2 blessing to an endeavour through divine intercession. This requires at least one 3rd level acolyte and 3 novitiates to pray for your success and interpret the divine oracles for you.
Chapels are generally not considered to be religious property, although their attendents are considered clergy (but not priests). While clergy may actually perform the neccessary religious rituals, and may even be ordained, they are generally prevented from owning church property or collecting tithes on their own behalf. A Church, on the other hand, is considered church property, even if it is privately owned.
Shrine (1st level Religious Asset)
You can generally find a Shrine in any village, tended by the local village priest, who will be a 1st level character, although probably one without extraordinary abilities. If a town does not have a Chapel it will certainly have a Large Shrine with a 2nd level priest in attendance.
You can also purchase a shrine to gain a +1 blessing to a characteristic roll for a specific task. If you desire this belessing to be ongoing, then you must also provide a 1st level priest to properly attend and maintain the shrine and pray for you. However you can also create one-use shrines for specific events that don't need to be maintained by a professional priest.* An example of this would be raising a small shrine to the Goddess of Childbirth when expecting one's first child.
[* Although failing to take care of the shrine through neglect may in fact attract a minor curse for impiety, as would destroying it without deconsecrating it first. what the gods give they can also take away.]
Aside: Monotheism versus Pantheism and the Religious Asset
Most of the examples given above are very monotheistic in nature, simply because it is the easiest to describe. The same model can be used for a pantheistic religion, except in this case the Religious Asset will not generally be dedicated to a specific deity and may in fact represent a number of different buildings in different locations with their own attending priests. This is represented by dropping the effective level of the Religious Asset by one level for determining staffing and support.
Generally the dominent member of the pantheon, which may be the ruler of the pantheon or may be the deity that most closely aligns with the nature of the community, will take the primary role within the community, with the other principal deities having minor roles.
For example, the town of Fisherton, renowned for it's fishing fleet, might establish a large temple to Pelagia the Goddess of the Sea. Normally this would be a 7th level Religious Asset, but as Pelagia is just one deity in the pantheon of Krud, the High Priest of Pelagia in the town will only be 6th level. But this also means there will be a Small Temple of Krud (with a 4th level priest), and two other Small Temples (probably to Cerise the Goddess of Grain and Tomtom the God of Drummers). Finally there will be effectively 6 Large Shrines (with second level attendants) dedicated to the next six deities of the pantheon.
All these temples can exist in the same town because they are non-competive and share worshippers.
But what happens when there are competing religions (a polytheism). In that case the effective level or the religious asset is reduceded by two levels for determining staffing and support (for up to three religions), or by three levels (for up to six), and so on.
The Free City of Tolken is home to three major faiths that are competing for worshippers, sometimes violently. Normally the city would support a Cathedral (9th level), but instead the city supports three Large Temples (7th level) that face each other across the City Square (the fourth side being the Council Palace).
Which is more powerful? Well, remember that the base effective level of an asset will be modified by a dice roll, so it may well be that one or more of these religions may be more powerful than the others, or it may be a three-way tie for supremecy.
Finally Religious Assets tend to wipe out (or rather absorb) the Religious Asset directly beneath them. Thus a city with a cathedral will not possess a Large Church, although it will possess several Small Churches.