Hi, my names is James and welcome to Code/Switch. It’s good to be back from a much needed break, and today I want to talk business. I’m talking supply, demand, and the economics of churches in Golarion. Places of faith in Golarion are known for being stingy with their offerings of magical aid all the while peaching to heal the sick, and even though most adventurers don’t walk around with Filth Fever, many come to places of faith with Greataxe wounds.
Spellcasting is an expensive service that only gets pricier the higher level spells you’re trying to have done. I want to lay out the revenue of a church in a city with a cleric able to cast raise dead, along with their potential expenses to determine once and for all if those churches actually need all that diamond dust to keep their clerics fed.
To start, I want to define what I mean by church. A church is any religious institution with an ability to operate openly in their place of residence. Furthermore, we’re going to use some Pathfinder Kingdom Building rules to further define this church as a “Temple” in a Large Town. A Large Town has a purchase limit of 10,000gp and has the ability to reliably cast 5th level spells. Kingdom Building ascribes a monetary value to buildings called Build Points, that average 4,000gp to 1bp. A Temple building is 32bp, making the structure itself worth 128,000gp! These points are spent just to build the Temple, and its other activities that keep the Temple operating as it should be.
The value of the Temple is interesting, but generally the value of your building doesn’t pay your staff. The size of the Temple is 2 lots, and we actually have a size calculation for lots, its “longest dimension of real world building x 4 / 750” You then do that for the shorter dimension, those results together tell you the lot size. Oh, its GM choice on rounding too. To have a 2 lot building nice and easy, we just use 1/4th of 750, 187.5 (we’ll say feet because I’m American and writing this), to have a square church that occupies exactly 2 lots. This is actually similar in size to the church I went to when I was younger. It’s cool the match actually checks out because the area my church service was the population of a Large Town in Pathfinder!
Churches in Golarion act as one-stop-shops for the down and out. The staff acts as people of faith, but also as doctors, innkeepers, and even lawyers in certain churches. Based off my own churches staffing and their varied roles staff would take in a Golarion Temple, I’d guess this Temple has a head Cleric of 9th level who can cast raise dead, 1 lesser cleric able to cast 3rd level spells, 1-2 adepts able to cast 1st level spells, and 3-4 non-magical staff capable of doing administrative, medical, and janitorial duties. The 3-4 non-magical staff would probably fall under trained hirelings, and cost 3sp/day, 9s-1g 2s per day. It’s with the adepts and clerics we find an issue as Pathfinder generally hasn’t put a cost on employing NPCs with class levels. In some forum scouring I found a post that referenced the D&D 3.5 book “Dungeon Masters Guide 2”. The post cites a passage that someone with class levels earns gold equal to their level squared per day. Going off that the 1-2 adepts would cost 1g each, 1-2g per day, the lesser cleric would cost 25g per day, and the head priest would cost 81g per day. This gives our Temple a total payroll of 107g 9s to 109g 2s, which we’re going to average as 108g 5s per day.
To estimate their cost of living we’ll add common meals along with estimating the cost to house them using 5% of the common in stay price for each. This doesn’t add much, 2g 1s/day on average, added to our salaries our per day payroll for this Temple is 110g 6s/day. This is kind of pricy, and when extrapolated to a 30 day month the staffing cost of this church is 3,318g per month!
When I started thinking about this article, I thought Temples were totally ripping off adventurers. However, we can’t just take their expenses as proof everything is rigged, we have to estimate and calculate the value of their community donations, as well as estimate income which we’ll do in the next installment of Code/Switch! Join me in two weeks when we crack this case wide open! You can find me and all the other KD crew at our Discord server!