Brainstorm with me: Aedes Dei: The Castles of God
I've been reading some good books on Scottish dark age history lately. You can think of the Scottish dark ages as a time of competing kindreds or clans ruling in different areas - Gaels in the west, Picts (non-romanized Britons) in the northeast, Britons (romanized) in the centre, and Northumbrian Angles in the southeast. But operating more or less across the whole territory is another kind of organization - the church, which has descended from Rome and spread through the whole land, acting as a unifiying force. Iona is the most important religious centre, on its little island in the west. Lindisfarne rivals in in the east. Portmahomack ("Haven of my beloved Colmac" in the north. These religious centres heavily influenced regional politics, and maybe even steered them, and it seems the strongest Northumbrian dynasty and the strongest Pictish dynasty were both fostered by Iona.
But what if things had evolved differently? What if there was no distinction between religious power and secular power? What if the monasteries didnt just influence power, but were the centres of power? The Abbot would become defacto king. Would monks then be warriors? Who else might be important? I am assuming various religious houses would rival one another - over political matters, but also matters of the heart and of the soul.
Let's divorce this from history and imagine a setting, perhaps one like Earthsea with multiple islands, where the Monasteries ruled. These would be ready-made organizations (such as one finds in Outremer and other Flying Mice games). Who would the players be? Does this suggest troupe-stype play like Ars Magica, or can people play fixed roles. What kinds of things are these monastic kings interested in fighting over? What are the points of rivalry with other monasteries? What about leadership and succession? What role do the laity perform? Who are the player characters?
Any thoughts would be much appreciated.