Is Your Church Ripping You Off?

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Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu BackerACKS Heroic Fantasy Handbook Backer
Joined: 2013-01-04 12:56
Is Your Church Ripping You Off?

Suppose I'm a priestess. I'm not, but bear with me: Suppose I'm a priestess of Mityara who's reached ninth level, gained the honourable title of 'Matriarch,' claimed a few hexes of territory, built a cloister, and started collecting taxes. Suppose that every month, I dutifully count out one-tenth of my combined income from taxes, land revenue, and services, pack it into chests and bags, and pay it as a tithe. Where does this money go? As far as I can tell, it just vanishes into thin air.

It doesn't go to training new priestesses; I've been doing that myself as per the rules on page 37 of the Player's Companion, and have never recieved any payment for it.

It doesn't go to building new cloisters; When pressed, the matriarch of my former cloister referred me back to page 37 again, and said she paid for my cloister out of her own pocket.

It doesn't seem to go into sacrifices to Mityara - or at least, no-one seems to be recieving reserve XP for making sacrifices to Her.

It doesn't seem to go into charitable works, either; I've seen no evidence that any particular realm is gathering vast amounts of congregants by throwing tithe money around - though I admit I've never been to visit holy Aura in person, so maybe it's being spent there?

I just can't imagine what all that money is for. Almost every domain in the empire is paying a full tenth of its income in tithes to some faith or other; Surely it's not just being lumped into piles and ignored! As a priestess, who am I paying my tithe to, and what are they doing with the money?


(Also, is there any way to become the person who recieves all those tithes? I keep thinking of all the longevity potions good works I could spend that gold on...)

Aryxymaraki's picture
Patreon SupporterDomains At War BackerSinister Stone of Sakkara BackerLairs And Encounters BackerBarbarian Conquerors of Kanahu ContributorACKS Heroic Fantasy Handbook Contributor
Joined: 2014-01-04 02:20

The tithe is paid by domain rulers to the official church of the realm. My assumption was that a PC divine spellcaster who is the spiritual adviser to a domain ruler (as per ACKS Core page 124-125) is collecting those tithes for their church.

I also assume that that church is spending the money however they want to. When it's an NPC church that is the official church of the realm, it's not really that important to track how much GP they're spending on congregants, charitable works, structures, and so on; though you absolutely could do that, tracking that kind of thing for every organization in every domain is a level of detail that surpasses even what the average ACKS GM is willing to do :p

(PS - I am not an Autarch and this is just my interpretation.)

The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

It is being paid to the organized religious institutions of the realm. They, in turn, use it to pay wages to their employees, to give alms to the poor, to build works, and/or to enrich themselves.

If you consult the Maximum NPC Population by Realm Type table in ACKS, you will see that there are a lot more leveled characters available than there are domains to rule. (Remember that NPC domain rulers might be just 3rd-level minor barons). So what do the other leveled characters do?  Many of them presumably work in the service of another. Since 20% of leveled characters are divine casters, that is a lot of folks to be employed.

Consult the Starting Cities table, # of Clerics column, and you can see the number of clerics is identical to the number of thieves. That means that we could consult the Starting City Criminal Guilds table, and can use that to model the likely number of members of an ecclesiastic organization for a given population. The amount the total membership exceeding the leveled characters will be 0th level characters. Monthly revenue will be equal to the tithe for the peasant and urban families in the settlement's domain.

Let's take a domain of 750 peasant families and 75 urban families, generating (12x750) + (7.5x75) 9562gp per month with a tithe of 952gp per month. 

Looking at Demographics of Level Characters, and knowing we have (750 + 75) x (5) = 4125 people, of whom 20% of the leveled characters will be clerics, we will have a maximum (4125 x .2 / 20) 41 1st level clerics, (4125 x .2 / 50) 16 2nd level clerics, (4125 x .2 / 150) 5 3rd level clerics, (4125 x .2 / 375) 2 4th level cleric, and (4125 x .2 / 1000) 1 5th level cleric. That's a total of 65 clerics.

Wages for the characters would be 25gp x 41, or 1,025gp; 50gp x 16, or 800gp; 100gp x 5, or 500gp; 200gp x 2 or 400gp; and 400gp x 1, or 400gp; for a total of 3,125gp.

Looking at the Starting City Criminal Guilds table, we can see there's likely a total of 16 total religious members in the town.  16 / 65 = 0.25. So the ruler's church, that he pays tithes to, is directly employing about 25% of the clerics. That's a cost of 3,125 x .025 = 781gp. That leaves another (952 - 781gp) 171gp for buildings, alms, good works, or whatever else the church would like to spend money on.

Other sources of revenue for other clerics might be adventuring, landholding, business dealings, festivals (e.g. some cults might "put on" big festivals where they earn money; this is accounted for as festival/liturgy expense), and so on.



Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu BackerACKS Heroic Fantasy Handbook Backer
Joined: 2013-01-04 12:56

Thanks for the information, Alex. (I'd been assuming that NPC priests were largely self-supporting, since I head that player characters wanting to make money from selling spell could simply assume that all their spell slots were sold at the market rate each day... I guess I must have misunderstood something. I'll hunt down the forum post I got the idea from and re-read it.)

In the campaign I'm running, I've assumed that churches are decentralised and disorganised messes of independantly-run temples with no central command structure, rather than monolithic realm-spanning organisations. (This was so that different priests of the same god could more easily get into blood feuds and such.) Fortunately, I think I'll be able to keep my disorganised religions by telling my players that the "tithe" represents a ruler's spending on faith-related concerns and donations within their own domain. Of course, that'll open up the door to players choosing what they spend their "tithe" money on... But that seems like the good kind of side effect, so I'm pretty happy with it.