To begin, let's take name level for clerics and fighters, both 9th level. For the cleric, that's 220,000 experience; for the fighter, 250,000. According to the book, this is the level at which the character is entitled to clear out a hex, build a castle, or otherwise be considered a baron or a bishop (or equivalent title). We can assume, therefore, that any NPC in charge of one hex of civilized land (20 miles in diameter), is of name level - or at least, employs someone of name level to run the place. After all, the heir might only be 8 years old.
Baron is obviously not a very high rank for a person of landed nobility. But it is a logical starting point. The question is, if the NPC controls TWICE this much land, what level ought they to be?
Well, I'm a fan of the Fibonacci Series for such things, as I've mentioned before. Loosely, we can peg two hexes at 10th level, three hexes at 11th level, five hexes at 12th level and so on.
Thus, if you have a nation the size of Belgium, which would be about 34 hexes, your king ought to be something like 16th level.
Of course, you could also mark the difference that there's a major difference between an empty hex and a hex with an Ginormous city in it, like Brussels or Antwerp. Perhaps you could define a spatial hex as equivalent to a population of, say, 10,000 - so that a country the size of Belgium with Belgium's current population would count as 154 "hexes" ... and thus your king would have to be at least 19th level.
But then, there's always a question of the number of titles your king happens to have. After all, if he is the King of Belgium AND Grand Marshal of the French Army, that does somewhat change things. Let's suppose that for every extraordinary title, we presuppose some huge event that loaded our king with massive amounts of treasure - i.e., a new level. So let's say our King & Marshall is 20th level.
Fine. Let's take an example. Let us suppose that we have a Prince-Bishop (which was a common title once upon a time), who holds mastery over five different prince-bishoprics. He is the Prince-Bishop of Munster, the Prince-Bishop of Liege, the Prince-Bishop of Oldenburg, the Prince-Bishop of Paderborn and finally the Archbishop of Cologne. At the bare minimum, he will have a considerable population subject to his will (all those cities!); he controls five completely different fiefdoms, so we may assume at least 5 hexes under his exclusive power. Without getting too deep into the matter, we may conservatively estimate that he's at LEAST 16th level (12 for fiefdoms, +4 more for titles).
Is this the sort of thing you need to share with your players? No. This is the sort of thing that you, as Dungeon Master, use as a guideline to let you know what level your NPCs are. It is slightly better than throwing dice, the results of which you wouldn't tell the party, either.
Ages ago, I struggled with another question that came out of this - how exactly does one determine the total support that someone like our example above would have? How much would a party member have, if they eventually worked their way up to this position? How many fighters or thieves or mages could they really depend on? How do you determine who is loyal to the King, and who isn't?
Some gentle readers might remember that last year about this time I posted a description of the henchmen my offline party were carrying around with them. And as part of that post, I mentioned that the henchmen the party gained from this system of mine were FANATIC. While it is true that my parties do tend to gain a certain collection of followers and contacts and hirelings and friends, there's a difference between all those people and the henchmen I give to my parties: the henchman system is specifically designed so that the player can have another character to run, who will never, EVER, stab that character in the back. Because, basically, the DM does not run that henchman; the player does.
If the player has some task that needs doing, that isn't that important, the player can send a hireling to do it. But if the player has something that MUST be done, and done right, the player will DIY-that puppy by sending the player's own henchman to do it. The player, as it is, can be in multiple places at once - and as my graphic on the linked post above shows, the player starts to pile up quite a number of henchmen by 8th level.
An important part of the system is that the henchman gets something like half the experience of the main character. This is befuddled a bit by my experience system, in which the henchman can get more than the main character if they do a lot of fighting, but treasure is halved and so are other X.P. bonuses. So let's use half experience to determine the level of henchmen - remembering, of course, that henchmen in turn can have henchmen.
So let's start with our 16th level Archbishop and see what we get.
First and foremost, our Archbishop has 1,760,001 x.p. minimum. We can roll a random number between 1 and 220,000 to get an exact number, and we find our Archbishop has 1,791,721 x.p.
Next, our Archbishop got a new henchman at 5th, 7th, 9th, 11th, 13th, and 15th level - 6 direct henchmen in all. Some of these henchmen died, and were replaced, but since we're already adjusting downwards for experience, let's keep this as simple as possible and just leave the henchmen at half level. Our Archbishop received these henchmen when the Archbishop had (dropping all the 1s) 13000, 55000, 220000, 660000, 1100000 and 1540000 experience, respectively.
(I'm having a feeling of deja vu, that I've done this calculation on my blog before, but since I want it expressed with precisely this example, because it is relevant to the online campaign, I'll go ahead and do it again)
Some of these might be mages or fighters or monks or thieves, but let's keep this simple and just assume they are all fighters. We can put together a table, then, of the amount of experience the henchmen would have (ballpark), by subtracting the x.p. the Archbishop had when he got the henchmen from the present x.p., and dividing by 2:
But we are not done. As with the link above about henchmen, these henchmen have other henchmen; the three 11th level fighters each received a henchman at 5th, 7th, 9th and 11th levels (at 18000, 70000, 250000 and 750000 x.p.); the 10th and 9th level fighters have 3 henchmen each, and the 8th level fighter has 2. Let's work out their experience by the same method we worked out the Archbishop's (again, assuming every henchman is a fighter):
So are we done? Hell no. Every hench who has reached at least 5th has a hench, and every hench who has reached at least 7th has a hench, and so on.
In fact, the entire list is freaking scary. I had to start coloring it and giving them names to keep it straight, and as I was in the middle of it, Google died on me. Here's what I got so far:
Mind you, this is only those people that the Archbishop can absolutely count on - it doesn't include ALL the people in the five different Bishoprics. And when you consider the population for those number in the hundreds of thousands, then this doesn't seem like such a big number. There's lots of other people around who would be happy to kill the list of people above any time.
But I know, I know, I'm crazy. No one - NO ONE ANYWHERE - thinks like this, or thinks anyone should think like this.
Because everyone except for the party is zero level, right?
Speaking of zero level - I have to write a post sometime soon about how I eliminated it.