Before you start
This post is a demonstration of the system I wrote that allows you to run a cult or religion in D&D. Start with that one!
Myra is a kind-hearted 6th-level Human Cleric of Finrimbel, God of the Sun, with a problem. She just arrived in Khobai, the City of a Thousand Sins, and the people here don’t really worship Finrimbel. Apparently, daytime temperatures of +40 Celsius make a people unlikely to see ‘sunlight’ as a positive. Good thing she has a plan: She’ll convert these sinners, one way or another.
I’m using this generic character sheet as Myra’s sheet, and we’ll see how far she gets with the 200 gold she has left over from her journey here.
Keep in mind that this example focuses purely on the Religion system – in an actual campaign, such a clear, uninterrupted focus on building a cult is unlikely due to all the other goings-on in the campaign world! The timeline of events is one more likely for an entire campaign instead of the quick succession of events mentioned here.
1. Spreading The Word
Myra gets to work. She spends one day spreading flyers, spending 2 gold and attracting 4 (1d6) Interested Followers.
The next day, she spends another day putting up posters, for another 2 gold down and 3 Interested Followers.
Motivated by this moderate success, she decides to spend a day standing on one of the larger markets of Khobai, proclaiming the glory of the sun. Time to make a Persuasion Check, DC is 25-6 (her level). With a total of 8, it’s a humiliating experience – she just lost 3 Reputation.
Deciding to take a more subtle approach and start her movement from the ground up, she spends 2 days helping the poor and downtrodden, making sure to tell them about Finrimbel while she’s at it. This costs 6×2 gp, and gains her 5 (2d4) followers and 2 Reputation.
2. Reach out…
Happy with her “helping the poor” strategy, Myra spends 3 more days helping the poor. After this 18 gp investment, she’s at 6 more Interested followers and a Reputation increase of 3.
She takes 2 days off her holy mission, chasing down leads for bigger quests.
Returning to her calling all revitalized, she decides to give public speaking another go. This time, her roll of 20 beats the DC of 19. She gains a whopping 11 Interested Followers (2d6).
3. …and touch faith
There’s a murmur going on about Myra’s effort – not a loud one, but, as they say, the fire rises. She decides to focus intently on a select few in an effort to convert them. Her Reputation makes the DC of a Sermon quite a risk (25-2), and paying 20gp for a single convert is a bit pricey for her current budget.
With a roll of 13, she adds her Insight bonus (+4 Wisdom +3 proficiency) to truly understand her 2 (1d4) students in a way they never felt understood before, beating the DC of 20. This gains her 2 Believers.
With the “Once every 14 days” deadline coming up, she decides to spend 2 more days helping the poor, for 6 more Interested followers.
We first resolve all the positive benefits. Myra’s Reputation is now 4 (+2). 2 Interested Followers are now Believers. She also gains 4 new Interested Followers due to her Reputation.
She loses 1 Reputation due to the passage of time, and Reputation slowly balancing out at 0.
4. Respect Is Everything
Now realizing the power of Reputation, Myra gets to work in the next 2 days and…
- …completes a bounty on a dangerous criminal. This nets her 100 gold. The DM deems it a ‘minor good deed’, granting her 3 Reputation.
- …donates the 100 gold to Druids Without Borders, which grants her an additional 10 Reputation.
Capitalizing on this newfound fame, she organizes a Sermon on Finrimbel. Her current Reputation being 3+3+10 = 16, the DC is now a mere 9 (25-Reputation). She spends the 10gp to put the word out and secure a nice spot in a luxurious private garden. She attracts Reputation-d6 guests (44, 13d6), which simply means all of her 31 Interested Followers show up.
She once again shows her endless Insight, rolling a 5+7, beating the DC. She now rolls the same 13d6 (56) and thus converts all 31 Interested Followers into Believers.
5. Here Comes The Sun
With 33 Believers and a good Reputation, Myra decides to solidify her grasp. She organizes an intense 3 days of meditation and prayer, inviting 6 (her Level) Believers to join her.
She spends the 20 gp setting things up and decides to dazzle them with displays of Strength, Insight and Charisma.
Her feat of strength leaves the believes unimpressed. Her wisdom, however, proves insightful as always. Her persuasion makes them believe that the Sun is, indeed, all-powerful and finally she tries her strength again, this time succeeding with the rays of the Sun watching over her.
She has just gained 6 Devotees and spends the next day in a local brothel celebrating.
6. Always Be Investing
Myra knows that if she can raise more Devotees, they will start to self-propagate, which definitely serves her agenda of “overthrowing the heretics”. Secondly, if she can keep up her reputation, she will keep attracting more Interested followers without any effort.
She spends two days personally helping the poor for 12gp cost and 7 new Interested followers. She gains +2 Reputation.
She orders her Devotees to spread joy and kindness. The rules for Devotee commands aren’t set in stone and open to interpretation; in this case, the DM rules that having a bunch of Devotees spreading the love halts the decay of Reputation at the 14-day-mark.
Finally, Myra goes on a big quest in the interest of the city (it’s D&D, after all). She ascends to Level 7 and gains +4 Reputation for stopping the Serpent Lords of Nhak-Ta during her 3 day crawl through the sewers.
Emerging from the sewers, she speaks publicly once more, about how the Sun was the only way she was able to survive. She succeeds the Persuasion check with a (lowered) DC of 18, and thus gains 6 new followers.
On the last day before the 14-day mark, she takes a well-deserved rest.
Myra gains 6 gold from her Devotees. She gained 13 Interested Followers due to her own efforts, and 19 from her Reputation. From these 32, 2 Interested Followers are converted into Believers. Her Reputation does not decay thanks to her Devotees.
7. The Wheels of Faith
Time to get this religion going on its own. Myra hosts a Sermon for 10gp, which attracts 19d6 of her Interested Followers (78) – more than enough to attract all of them. She displays a simple card trick at a DC of 6 and converts 19d6 of them (81) – so all in attendance. She now has 59 Believers.
She must break the crucial 10-Devotee barrier, and invests 20 gp and 3 days. She manages the skill checks – barely – and thus converts 7 Believers into Devotees.
Myra takes some money from her personal account, as her religion’s coffers currently sit at 88 gp, and once again donates to charity. She pays this half out of her own pockets, leaving the vault at 38 gp.
8. Plot Happens
Myra gets called away from Khobai for important plot matters. Good thing she automated her religion! Her quest has her gone for 30 days. Let’s see what happens to the church in the meantime:
The next 14-day marker happens at day 42. On this day:
- The coffers gain 13 gold.
- 29 new Interested followers arrive due to Reputation.
- 5 new Believers are converted.
- 1 new Devotee is converted.
- Her Devotees prevent Reputation decay.
Another 14-day marker occurs at day 56.
9. The Future, and Beyond
Upon her return, Myra adds further Reputation due to her grand deeds, and fills the coffers with money. She focuses more on gaining Devotees, knowing that they will allow the cult running in her absence. If enemies arise, she can wield these Devotees against them.
She can keep growing the religion until at least 70 Devotees before risking a schism.