Religion serves as a major source of authority figures. Fiction can build on this by attributing to The Church an absurd amount of power (mundane and supernatural) and organization, or go the other direction and portray its members as harmless old men sipping tea.
Position in the setting
The Church of Fiction as a whole may fall pretty much anywhere on the morality scale:
- Saintly Church: All Lawful Good.
- Corrupt Church: Not so much evil as incompetent and consumed by internal power struggles.
- Scam Religion: Most of its members are good people but its leaders and founder(s) are evil manipulators.
- Path of Inspiration: Benign on the surface but thoroughly evil to the core.
- Religion of Evil: Openly propagates evil.
Types 2 through 5 are often part of an Ancient Conspiracy or ten (types 1 and 2, on the other hand, are often an Ancient Tradition). Off this scale lies the Blue and Orange Morality-type Scary Amoral Religion.
As the Church of Fiction grows older, schisms in it are likely to emerge, usually over wordings in the canon doctrine and creed. For some reason, such schisms always occur similarly to the East-West split of the Christian Church: the church enjoys a One True Faith status, then regional differences emerge and escalate; the respective factions' leaders claim The Pope's title and excommunicate each other; the bigger faction calls for a Crusade, which fails; in the end, both are forced to coexist peacefully again, now very Separate but Identical.
Religion and Magic
The relationship between the Church of Fiction and magic practitioners is often rocky, at best, and ranges from an averse realization that Religion Is Magic to an absolute Ban on Magic followed by The Purge. In a mixed form, the Church will be the Anti-Magical Faction opposed to the Magical Society and train Mage Killers, just in case.
The Church is commonly among the most rigidly hierarchical organizations of the setting, and its members will be often defined by their rank and position within it.
The Holy City
Despite ostensibly worshiping a Crystal Dragon Jesus, not only is the Church of Fiction always Catholic Christian, but it's also Roman Catholic. As such, expect there to be a Holy City, which serves as the seat of The Pope (or a High Priest by any other name), his Praetorian Guard, and his closest advisers (often called "cardinals"), who range from The Omniscient Council of Vagueness to Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering.
The Church of Fiction usually has a knightly order or three to keep a steady supply of Church Militants (who aren't regular Badass Preachers). Depending on the morality and outward enlightenment of the Church, their existence and real purpose will be well-known or top-secret. Regardless of their mission, they always have a tendency to go Knight Templar about it. Popular jobs for militant orders include:
- Demon Slaying (when Hollywood Exorcism just isn't enough)
- Vampire slaying
- Wizard slaying (see above)
- Crusading against heretics, cults, and competing churches
- Generally killing things with fire
A special mention goes to the Inquisition (which nobody, ever expects to see). Its role varies from being a full-blown Militant Order, e.g. a Church Police, to serving as The Pope's personal Internal Affairs and intelligence agency.
Another source of ass-kickers for the Lord are the monasteries. Male-only ones exist solely to produce Bare-fisted Warrior Monks because All Monks Know Kung Fu without exception. They may occasionally be drunkards... but only of the Drunken Master variety. Female monasteries (often called "convents") are a bit more varied, populated by funny, badass, spooky, or naughty nuns. Sometimes all at once.
Churches and Cathedrals
The most commonly seen aspect of the Church of Fiction are the local houses of God, properly known as "churches" (with a lower-case "c"). Particularly big specimen will be called "Cathedrals" and inevitably contain an Ominous Pipe Organ; these are usually located in major cities and serve as seats of power of the bishops. All churches will feature Gothic architecture, which some people find particularly creepy, and Ominous Latin Chanting will play in the background at all times. It should come to no surprise that they are also a popular meeting spot for local badasses to duke it out.
The person in charge of a church will be the Preacher Man (preacher women are rare). Regardless of the alignment of his Church at large, he may be a Good Shepherd or a Sinister Minister (particularly evil ones will be pedophiles), though major differences in morality will always cause a turbulent relationship with his superiors. No matter their morality, priests tend to be sexy, badass, or both, often invoking an improper amount of attention from the opposite sex. Alternatively, he will be The Vicar. Often Irish.
Good-aligned churches will always give shelter to those Seeking Sanctuary.
Outcasts and Others
Members of the Church (usually renegade priests, see above) who get cast out of the hierarchy will be branded heretics. Often, they would go on to start their own Cults and find themselves under scrutiny of the Inquisition and the Militant Orders.
Last but not least, we have the missionaries, priests or monks who venture far beyond the Church's area of influence in hopes of converting the heathens.
Anime and Manga
- The Ecclesiarchy in Warhammer 40,000.