Divine Rank Mechanics
A being with divine rank must cultivate its assets to climb above rank 0. Gods must cultivate some combination of holy sites, a priesthood, mortal worshipers, veneration rites, servitors (fey, celestial, infernal, animae), and direct trades of essence called divine compensation. Each contributes to a god’s pool of divine essence, which determines its “home” rank. The effective rank a god enjoys in a particular region depends on how widely its tales and influence circulate in that region. While servitors and divine compensation count toward a god’s rank in any region, the other pillars of their power must be cultivated locally. Thus, some gods are nigh-omnipotent in their homelands but mere quasi-deities elsewhere.
Holy sites are of principal importance to deities, for here they have invested some of their essence in the material world. These sites may be temples full of clerics and worshiping throngs, but they can just as easily be quiet places of reflection. Once a site is invested with a portion of divine essence, the investing god may treat the site as if it had a priest present there at all times, allowing it to remote-sense with ease, and possibly manifest salient divine abilities. The more it invests in the site, the more freely mana will flow from the site, making it more attractive to the god’s followers (and enemies). To establish a holy site or increase the potency of an existing site, the god must mark the site with a manifestation of personal divine power, and sacrifice one hundred points of essence for a year. This investment is considered divine compensation (see below). Holy sites have an effective range of one map region.
A priesthood is essential to almost every god’s power. The priesthood collects or creates a coherent narrative to capture mortal imagination, and it acts on the god’s behalf to work wonders upon the world. The priesthood usually has a strong core of clerics, but different organizations favor an assortment of paladins, adepts, experts, and other classes. The priesthood needn’t even be divine casters — as long as an anointed priest is performing a god’s official rites on its holy ground, the god may choose to cast spells through its priests. All of a god’s champions and divine spellcasters are counted among the priesthood, and lend their full measure to their patron’s strength. Other anointed priests lend less strength, but are important nonetheless. Anointing a priest requires an expenditure of 10 essence, which the god does not recover for a month. This expenditure is considered divine compensation (see below). A priesthood’s area of effect is one mile per priest’s character level (for a single priest), or one map region.
Mortal worshipers are those who offer up prayers to the god, who consider the god an important figure in their lives. These “warm bodies” help bolster the god’s power, but mostly they serve to spread word of its myths and deeds, which paves the road for the cult’s expansion. Worshipers need not be exclusively committed to a god; indeed, most mortals offer daily prayers to several gods. Mortal worshipers have an effective range of the community of worshipers (rounded up to the nearest hex).
Veneration rites are specific rituals constructed by a god or its priesthood, to channel energy back to the god in a more direct and substantial sense than mere worship. Weekly sermons or group prayers at the temple, baptism, marriage ceremonies, consecrations, and the like, as well as more public spectacles and festivals, provide settings where groups of mortals channel energy into the rite, and thus into the god to whom the rite is dedicated. Large state-sponsored feast days, with lavish parades, princely costumes, and exotic incense and burnt offerings can bolster a god’s standing mightily. But even rites that only involve individual participants, if practiced widely and frequently, can add up quickly. The number of souls participating in a veneration rite, and the amount of gold pieces expended in these rites, and the frequency of these rites, all contribute to the overall power of the veneration. Veneration rites have no effective range; their effects are not dependent on location. (Some of the mechanics are covered in more detail on the Cosmic Keys page.)
Servitors are outsiders who owe fealty to the divine being. They may be fey (who claim the god as their anchor), celestial, infernal, or even animae. Servitors in many ways function as another priesthood. Whereas the mortal priesthood is meant to orchestrate mortal veneration and worship, servitors attend to the god’s needs throughout the planes. Servitors, as outsiders, tend to be closer to their god’s view and understanding of the cosmos than a mortal priest could ever hope to be, and may have a better understanding of their patron’s motivations and politics. They tend to be spread thinly, however, and their limited connection to the material plane makes them ill-suited to cultivating worship among mortals. Gods typically use their servitors to conduct business, convey messages, and protect bastions of the faith. Anointing a servitor requires an investment of 10 essence per HD, which the god does not recover for a month. This expenditure is considered divine compensation (see below). For purposes of calcualting divine power, servitors have no effective range.
Divine compensation is the means through which a number of beings with little or no presence on the material plane continue to play prominent roles among the gods. Other gods, either through one-time or ongoing arrangements, donate divine energy to other gods in exchange for services, or as a “tax” to provide services for the celestial commonweal. Also, sometimes the deeds of a god or its agents in the cosmos may persuade other gods to pay compensation, or spontaneously generate divine essence. The most regular sources of divine compensation, however, are the investment of holy sites and the anointing of priests and servitors. These investitures affect a god’s essence pool for a year or a month, respectively. Other forms of divine compensation generally last “until further notice.”