The Magic Economy

Recently, I looked at restrictions for religious development, and it sparked a bit of discussion.  The concept that ‘Income generated by a religious house should be used to further the aims of the deity’ hasn’t attracted much comment, and the little I have received has been positive.  However, it has led to a bit of a discussion on who should be building Temples and Churches, and who should be controlling the income they generate.

The Aims

So what do I want to achieve, first and foremost, I want to stop religious developments becoming a go-to tool for general income generation.  I also want to add more substance and flavour to my world, in a way that help PCs to build and Role Play as a part of the world – rather than as an outsider passing through.

For these purposes, a priest is a member of any Character Class who can cast divine spells.  Cleric, Druid, Oracle, Inquisitor, Adept, Paladin, Ranger etc.

Religious Developments for Income Generation

Religious developments are attractive in a lot of ways, they help balance Economy and then (as they develop) start to generate an income, through magic, that doesn’t need balancing, which has advantages over other developments.  That was done purposefully, to keep religious developments comparable with businesses and strongholds.  However, that ‘special’ income is generated by a priest’s commitment and promise to a deity, and the priests’ powers are dependent on the deity’s goodwill.  A priest who doesn’t follow their deity’s philosophies falls out of favour, and is liable to lose their spells and other divine abilities.  Sure, most DMs are fairly generous in their interpretation of PC actions –  but we are a lot less generous in our interpretation of NPC actions  :}

The implication of this, is that NPC priests NEED to stay on the right side of their deity, and NEED to make sure they are promoting the deity’s philosophy – or else they will lose their divine powers, and they won’t be priests any more.  And, let’s face it, Adepts with no spells are about as useful as a Commoner.  NPC priests will insist that money they generate is used to promote their deity’s philosophies.

Role Playing 1

Just about every fantasy world is polytheistic, there are lots of different deities and, generally, only divine casters are required to choose one deity (or philosophy) as a patron.  Most characters get along in life by making offering, donations and prayers to which every deity is convenient at the time – and that is a very reasonable approach to a polytheistic setting.  If you are going on a journey?  Make an offering to the patron of travellers.  Setting up a business?  Make an offering to the patron of trade and commerce.  Your father just passed away?  Call in a priest of a Psychopomp but, if you can afford it, you will have to donate something.  Even priests with a Patron Deity follow the same philosophy – when it falls outside the Patron Deities area of interests.

I don’t want to stop PCs from developing a religious side of their character, nor do I want to stop PCs from supporting or making significant offerings to a deity – or even two or three deities. That is good role-playing.  I can see that a wealthy PC might want the blessings of a deity, or two, on a regular basis – and the easy way to achieve that is to build a shrine, of some sort, to the deity.   However, except at the most basic level, that isn’t a commitment to further the deity’s philosophies.

So religious buildings that do not produce Magical Items (Hermitages, Shrines, Great Shrines & Graveyards) should be available for anyone to develop.  It is a nod in the deity’s direction, recognizes the deity as important to the character.  It also gets the character regular blessings, leaves the character in good standing  and brings that deity a little more influence in the world. However, it doesn’t tie the PC to the deity in any significant way, nor does it really advance the deity’s agenda.

Some characters, without divine abilities, might want to take a deity as their patron, or promote a deity’s philosophies, however that implies commitment, and the PC needs to role-play that commitment.   The entourage rules provide a good way of doing t good way of doing this, by allowing the PC to take a priest as an entourage member.  It is worth noting that a character’s entourage includes squires, cohorts and other followers generated by feats as well as those defined within the entourage rules.

PCs can have quite a large entourage, so this isn’t a particularly onerous requirement.  However, the priest must select a deity or philosophy to follow – and this will affect the way they expect their employer to behave.   Which brings us back to the PC role-playing their commitment to the deity.

Role Playing 2

Two things underlie this section – World Demographics and Economic crunch.

When I build a world, I use a slightly unusual demographic mix.  It doesn’t quite match with the data published in the book, but it seems to match quite closely with the level spread that I have seen in publish modules.  Most Characters who only have NPC classes max out at level 5 and secondary characters with PC classes tend to max out at around level 10.  There are exceptions, of course.  PCs will face higher level enemies, and they will meet ex-adventurers that are higher level.  Most won’t quite match a PC in terms of power and ability, but they will be much closer.  A very few, generally antagonists, will be a match for the PCs, some will be more powerful.  There will be more powerful monsters – but normal, civilized, humanoid NPCs aren’t a match for the PCs.  That is what makes the PCs special and the focus of the game :]

However, it means that Entourages and even Cohorts are not as ‘special’ as PCs, and they will all be lower level than the PC.

By Economic Crunch, I am thinking of the rules around crafting magical items.  Even the smallest shrines encourage donations by casting spells, performing ceremonies and helping the local people out.  That just goes towards the running costs of the shrine.  Many of those ‘donations’ will be food, clothes, good will, bundles of firewood etc  – although there will be some coin involved. However, that isn’t enough to make a profit or serious income for that the priests need to make and sell magic items – and that means characters with feats, and the appropriate levels to gain them.  So a quick look at the rules …

  • At level 3 most priests have the option to take Brew Potion or Craft Wondrous –  both of which are capable of producing items in the Minor Items list.
  • At level 5 Craft Arms and Armour and Craft Wand are available, and it is possible to craft in the Medium Items list.
  • At level 7 Forge Ring is available, and it is possible to craft items in the Major Item lists as well.  Only a very few of the lowest value Items  – BUT they are in the Major Items list.

Note:  I decided that Scrolls aren’t sufficient to generate an income for a religious house.  Priestly scrolls are useful, but only to other priests.

So, looking at that in terms of the religious developments available :-

  • No Magic Income: Shrine, Great Shrine, Graveyard  and their variants.  These can be built by any character without restrictions.
  • Minor Magic Developments: Holy House, Chapel, Holy Grove and variants. The PC is CL3 in a divine casting class, or they have an entourage member at CL3.  This class of building becomes available to PCs between L3 (PC) and L8 (Cohort ranger/paladin).  The development MUST follow the philosophy of the PC/Entourage’s deity.  
  • Medium Magic Developments: Priory, Temple, Abbey, Minster and variants. The PC is CL5 in a divine casting class, or they have an entourage member at CL5.  This class of building becomes available to PCs between L5 (PC) and L10 (Cohort ranger/paladin, Entourage-Assistant Adept).  The development MUST follow the philosophy of the  PC/Entourage’s deity.  
  • Major Magic Developments: Cathedral or variants.  This is much more restricted than other religious developments, as cathedrals are such iconic and important places, on top of that Bishops are very influential people and Deities only want the best people to serve their most prestigious houses.  The PC, or their cohort, must be CL 7 in a full divine casting class – Cleric, Druid, Oracle or Inquisitor.  The development MUST follow the philosophy and style of the  PC/Cohort’s deity.  


OK, no one has asked any real questions yet, but it is as good a name as any.

What about the current game world?

We have what we have.   I am not going to take anything away from anyone. 

Going Forward?

I want to see religious developments funding the deity’s philosophies and interests.  Use the religions section at the Pathfinder Wiki  to look at Areas of Concern, Worshippers, Domains and Sub-Domains to work out the sort of things the Church funds are good for.  There is an awful lot of scope there. However, I intend to apply those changes to any new religious developments.

Can I roll my developments back?

Yes. If you want to, we can roll any religious developments back to Great Shrine, and I will refund the extra purchase cost.

What do you mean by Entourage?

Unless specified otherwise, Entourage Member means: Entourage Assistant; Entourage Cousin; Entourage Ally; Cohort or any other follower attained by spending a feat.

Other developments that produce magic

There has also been a suggestion that I should impose the same sort of limits on developments that add to the Magic Economy, although the case for that is not so clear-cut.

The Master Crafter feat allows characters of non-caster classes to create magic items at level  5, although that requires retraining an existing feat to an item creation feat.  Demographically there are also a number of CL3 casters around  (mainly adepts of L3 of L3 and above) who are capable of creating magic items, and many of them are not tied to a religious philosophy.  This means that Exotic Craft workshops can create Minor Magic Items and shops can buy them from ‘anonymous’ NPCs (unnamed NPCs without character sheets) so no restriction at Minor Magic level.

Luxury stores and large markets import goods from many places, where there are higher level casters creating items that they need to sell.  There are also items that PC parties collect while they are adventuring and then sell for cash.   So there isn’t a reason to impose restrictions on them. 

However, Casters Tower, Great Tower, Magic Academy and University – all imply research or creation of medium and major magical items.  I am tempted to restrict those to having a CL5 character as a patron/owner for Medium Magic, and CL7 for Major Magic, creation.



Settlement types have been used to in D&D style games for as long as I can remember.  The first edition DMG had a nice table (p173) that was used for randomly determining the contents of a hex, which also include population guidelines. There has been something similar in every other rule-set that I have used – because it is such a handy tool for the world designer. 

There have been, and still are, many different RL definitions of settlement types.  They have changed historically and the change with jurisdiction, so in my definitions I have chosen something that ‘sort-of’ fits at least one RL definition, and fits in with the standard progression as seen in various game rules.  Where appropriate I match the descriptions up with examples from my House Rules and assign an average population to help with my number crunching and population calculations – although the number of people living in each type of settlement could vary significantly.  A settlement should have the people that you need it to have J

Minor Settlements

Single Dwelling

Literally just one single dwelling – it might be home to an extended family running a smallholding, a group of hunters, a hermit, a watchtower, or an oracle.   

Under my house rules, a Watchtower, Base Camp, Smallholding, Tree House, Holy Grove and Witch Hut all count as single dwellings.  Average population = 10.


When two or three dwellings comes together, they are called a thorp.  They are too small to support a church, council, market, shops or businesses and tend to revolve around rural activities such as smallholding, fishing.   They do not have a might, however, have a shared barn or other minor infrastructure.  As a community they are relatively self-sufficient, but have to take their excess good to the nearest village or town to sell.

Under my house rules thorps form naturally in the hinterlands of towns and villages.  A typical thorp might contain two smallholding families and a family of ‘river-folk’ who make a living from fish, waterfowl and reeds. Most residents are commoners and you can find low levels of many country crafts  (basket work, carpentry, trapping, hunting, bow-making etc).  Average Population = 30.


A Hamlet is step up from a Thorp.  It is large enough to support a few businesses but relies on the administrative systems of a Village, Town or City.  It might be based around a farm, a vineyard, a ranch, a mine, a country house, a monastery –  there are many possibilities.

Under my house rules a hamlet counts as a secondary settlement and can be found in the hinterlands of primary settlements, although there are strict limits on the number of hamlets each settlement can support.  Hamlets are nearly always planned developments that needs investment, and they increase the number of Thorps and single dwellings a hex can support. Average Population = 200, however only about half of these people live in the hamlet, the rest live  in single dwellings and thorps close to it.

Rural Settlements


A village is the main rural settlement – it is just about large enough to support a few businesses and the administrative system for the area.  However, it could be managed by a Village Elder, the Lord of the Manor or by a Bailiff (as part of a larger estate).

Under my house rules, a Village is the first of the primary settlements and ‘controls’ the whole of its hex and oversees any other settlements (Single dwelling, Thorp, Hamlet) in it.  There are restrictions to the number and type of developments available in a village, which makes it a part of the rural economy.  A series of hexes with villages would make a good ‘holding’ for rangers or (perhaps) followers of a farming / rural deity. 

Alternately, a village could also be upgraded (with the right investments) to a town (and then a city or metropolis) and form the hub of a more traditional ‘holding’.

Average Population = 300,  however only about half of these people live in the village,  the rest live  in Single Dwellings and Thorps close to it. (The village’s Hinterland).

Urban Settlements

Town / City / Metropolis

The only real difference between a town, city and metropolis is size – they all have the same sort of thing – only the scale increases.  Urban areas generally serve as a trade nexus, are the home of serious crafts-folk, professionals and the wealthy.  Small towns may have master-crafting weapon-smith, while larger towns and cities might produce progressively more powerful magical items.  The same is true of professionals – you are unlikely to find a lawyer in a village, but many towns will have some sort of legal professional – although the best will congregate in cities or a metropolis.  It is the same with magical service, religious buildings and just about everything else.

Small Town: Average Population = 1,000, however only about half of these people live in the town,  the rest live  in Single Dwellings and Thorps close to it.  (The town’s Hinterland).

Large Town: Average Population = 2,500, however only about half of these people live in the town,  the rest live in Single Dwellings, Thorps and Spontaneous Hamlets close to it.  (The town’s Hinterland).

Small City: Average Population = 7,500, however only about half of these people live in the city,  the rest live in Single Dwellings, Thorps and Spontaneous Hamlets close to it.  (The City’s Hinterland).

Large City: Average Population = 17,500, however only about half of these people live in the city,  the rest live in Single Dwellings, Thorps, Spontaneous Hamlets close to it.  (The City’s Hinterland).

Metropolis: Minimum Population = 25,000, however only about half of these people live in the city,  the rest live in Single Dwellings, Thorps, Spontaneous Hamlets close to it.  (The Metropolis’s  Hinterland).

Spontaneous Settlements

You may have spotted Spontaneous Hamlets in some of the descriptions earlier – but they are toy to help give the hinterland some flavour, rather than a serious investment.  Sometimes a hamlet comes into being without really being owned by anyone or having any great effect on the economy.  You find them in areas where there are a lot of small holdings or thorps – and the people club together to make community benefits.  No one owns enough of the building to be classed as the owner, nor does anyone make enough money for it to be classed as an economic benefit, and as a type of self-help, it doesn’t win any loyalty or stability benefits – it just makes the local commoners lives a bit easier.

Some RL examples might be a village hall, a Community Shop or Bar  (there are examples in the UK at present), a Communal Barn  (I am sure I have read about these in the US) and Communal Brewery (I know of these making wine in Italy).  In all cases the developments themselves are owner jointly by locals, there is minimal profit which is used to maintain the building or is shared out between the local ‘owners’.  However, each of these Communal Developments takes up as much space as their commercial equivalent, and the same rules apply –  no more than three developments and no more than size 4.  There are some examples below –  all of them  barter or exchange goods with the locals.  Visitors, of course, have to pay in good hard cash.

A tavern and shop might be a good combination for areas where many thorps are close together.  The tavern provides a community centre/hub, while the shop sells those everyday things that cost less than 5gp.

A fruit producing region might have a communal brewery and a community tavern to sell the country wines they make.

A craft workshop might make a good community centre in a hilly area.  Equipped with a number of looms and a couple of spinning wheels – the women meet here daily to produce woollen cloth. 

A communal barn might mean that merchants pay a better price for the goods – because they can collect more at a time and don’t have to call at each smallholding.

A communally owned Trade Post could encourage merchants to visit as well as offering, goods for sale and exchange.

While visitors pay in good hard cash, locals and regulars can barter or exchange goods with the locals – and any of these developments can double as a community centre, ‘host barn’ dances or even serves as a school/nursery for the local children.

But Why?

From a World Builder’s perspective – it happens.  People will do things to make their lives easier – and it is much more realistic than just having a hundred faceless thorps spread about the hinterland. It adds some flavour to the environment.

From a DM’s perspective – I want somewhere for when I have adventures set in the hinterlands.  If I have a thief on the run and hiding out – I have somewhere to put them.  If I have a werewolf stalking the hinterlands, I have somewhere for PCs to go and ask. Basically, I can create a small ad-hoc settlement, whenever I need one – without affecting the local town.

From an RP perspective – it enables a different type of ‘Good Deed’ for Characters rather than just making a cash donation to a ‘good cause’.  However, helping a community  develop something for themselves could be seen from a number of perspectives.  A follower of Abadar might see it as a way of promoting trade, business and self-reliance, rather than a good deed.  A follower of Erastil might see it as both a good deed and a way of promoting Old Deadeye’s philosophies.  A Chaotic  might just see it as a good deed – or even a random deed.  It also enables a different type of NPC reward –  over the years I have seen any number of PCs reward NPC’s who helped them with a handful of coins or even a reasonable value gem.  Now they can send some of their folk around to help with the construction of a community barn …

A Mansion in the City

This morning I went down a rabbit-hole. I should have been doing on-line training, but while I was getting set-up for the day, I came across a plan of a large town house. Originally, I had intended it as a home for an aristocrat from a merchant house – but today I re-envisioned it as a mansion in the city.

This is, perhaps what a PC buys when they have ‘made it’ and want to live in town, or where a minor aristocrat might live, and it makes a good Role Playing hook for players as they progress. Suddenly they have servants to look after them, keeping the place clean, cooking meals etc. If you use my Campaign Rules, this counts as a mansion and has space for live-in members of the PCs entourage.

Outside you might find a small garden, and perhaps a small mews stable for the owners horse – although it probably isn’t large enough for a carriage. Outdoor staff may live in an attic room above the stable.

The semi-basement is where the domestic staff live and work. There is a servants’ hall, rooms for a housekeeper, cook, housemaids and other domestic servants. The kitchen and laundry provide food, clean clothing and hot water for the house, while the back staircase means they can be delivered discreetly to the floors above. The semi-basement is partly below ground and is accessed by steps that lead down from street level. All the rooms have small, high windows and are a bit dingy.

Broad steps lead up from street level to the mansion’s reception hall. Guests are met at the door by a servant and shown into a small Receiving Room to await the owner’s pleasure. Favoured guests will be invited into the spacious sitting room and, perhaps, into the library or dining room. Double doors from the sitting room open onto wide steps that lead into the small garden. Servants deliver meals, snacks or report for duty, discreetly, via the back staircase. The reception hall has a staircase that leads up to the middle floor.

The stairs lead to a good sized landing with a door off to the master suite, which consists of a private sitting room, bedroom, bathing room and a walk in closet. The bathing room won’t have hot running hater, but there are enough servants to keep the bath filled. Other doors lead to smaller rooms for guests or family members, and there is a small enclosed staircase that leads up to the attic floor.

The attic floor can be configured in a number of ways. In this example there is a nursery, which provides accommodations for any children as well as their Nanny or Tutor. Four smaller rooms could serve as accommodation for grown children, favoured employees or entourage members. Or even be used as a junk room.