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.

Posted in Buildings, House Rules, World Building.


  1. Just checking – a player will only need one divine caster as their PC or NPC of high enough level to act as the sponsor for their collection of religious establishments? They won’t need to write up and run separate NPC’s for each chapel in each different settlement, etc.

  2. Only one PC or NPC priest, per faith, is required.

    If a PC wants to own a Holy House dedicated to Iomedae and a Temple dedicated to Abadar, they would need a priest of each deity.

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