Saturday, February 19, 2011

Saintly Saturday: St. Philothei of Athens UPDATED

Updated: I fixed the map so that you can click on it and get a bigger version.

One of the saints celebrated today is St. Philothei of Athens. As a young teenager, she was forced against her will into a loveless and abusive marriage of political and economic convenience. After her husband and then her parents died, she was visited by the Apostle Andrew. Interpreting this vision as an order from God to build a convent dedicated to St. Peter's brother, she used her inheritance to make the vision a reality. She became a nun at the convent, though she was known to occasionally live as a hermit in a nearby cave. She became well known for her mercy and sympathy.

Her end came when, under the Ottomans, some Turkish rulers of Greece decided that the nuns at St. Philothei's convent were to become members of their harem. They refused and were martyred. Her relics, save for her missing skull, are still in Athens today.

I realize that the abandoned monastery as an entrance to a megadungeon has become a bit of a cliched trope of the OSR, but the life of St. Philothei just screams "Back Story!" for exactly this convention. Thus, I have been inspired to create The Convent of St. Andreas.

Built by the wealthy widow of an abusive marriage, St. Domnitza, the convent now stands abandoned at the edge of the wilderness where once civilization thrived. This location was chosen because of a vision she received from St. Andreas, for whom the convent is named. It is built in the form of the Istenite Wolf Hook, which has subsequently become an architectural norm for Istenite monasteries and convents. It sits atop the eastern side of a shallow mesa. The western edge is dotted with caves once used by nuns who chose to be hermits. The top of the mesa is covered in fertile soil that once was a lush garden tended by the nuns.

The monastery was abandoned after civilization lost its hold of the immediate territory in a war against Ulcib Bonebreaker, who briefly united several orc tribes under his banner (or, whatever is the most logical monster group that would have defeated civilization in the area the convent is placed). Most of the nuns, including St. Domnitza, were burned to death when the orc's attempts to capture them for breeding purposes failed.

For many years, the orcs used the monastery as a fortress and expanded both the catacombs and wine cellar below, until they dug too far and encountered something that brought an end to Ulcib Bonebreaker's rule.

Since then, adventurers have been exploring the area and have come back with treasure both monetary and religious. One such find were the relics of St. Domnitza herself; however, her skull is still missing.

There are two ways into the convent. There is the main entrance and a secret entrance into the wine cellar that was designed to be a means of escape in times of trouble. Unfortunately for the nuns, the orcs had discovered this secondary entrance during their attack. There are also several ways into the dungeon beneath:
  • The wine cellar
  • The catacombs
  • The well
  • The garbage pit (Room 1.15)
  • The hermit caves

Rumor Table (which may or may not be true)

  1. St. Andreas chose the site because it used to be a pagan place of worship and sacrifice.
  2. Ulcib Bonebreaker was able to unite the tribes because he wielded a powerful sword known only as "Slayer."
  3. St. Domnitza came from a very wealthy family and her husband was even richer. She only used a fraction of her fortune to build and maintain the convent.
  4. The burning ghosts of the nuns can be seen wondering both the convent and the dungeon beneath.
  5. The skull of St. Domnitza is a powerful relic that keeps some great evil beneath the convent at bay.
  6. Ulcib Bonebreaker awoke a sleeping dragon beneath the convent and met his doom.
  7. Ulcib Bonebreaker was never defeated by the armies of civilization. He just disappeared.
  8. An ancient city of some vile evil race sits somewhere beneath the convent.
  9. Though the orcs tried to destroy the statue of St. Andreas in the convent, it would always repair itself no matter what they did to it.
  10. The orcs were driven from the convent when the nuns came back as angry undead.
  11. Surviving members of St. Domnitza's family are willing to pay a very high price for family heirlooms recovered from the convent.
  12. The convent is currently being used by a group of (insert favorite low level monster here).


Ground Level

1.1 Entry Hall
1.2 Courtyard — Open air with well and Statue of St. Andreas
1.3 Chapel
1.4 Baptistry
1.5 Reliquary
1.6 Entrance to Catacombs
1.7 Registry
1.8 Stairs up
1.9 Copy Room
1.10 Library
1.11 Main Hall
1.12 Abbess' Office
1.13 Dining Hall
1.14 Kitchen
1.15 Garbage Room (connected to toilet above in 2.4)
1.16 Guard Room
1.17 Monastic Cell
1.18 Solitary Monastic Cell
1.19 Toilet
1.20 Stairs Down to Wine Cellar

Upper Level

2.1 Stairs Down
2.2 Balcony
2.3 Guest Room
2.4 Toilet


  1. NOthing wrong with cliched tropes. I love the map and backstory!

  2. Fr. Dave: Great stuff! Any way we could get a larger version of the map?

  3. @Paladin
    Thanks for the kind words.

    Thanks for pointing out the map issue. I don't know why a larger version didn't upload...but it is fixed now.

  4. Impressive, as always.

    BTW, my last Barnes & Noble foray yielded The Book of Saints (

    For settings with a quasi-Christian flavour, the material is greatly inspirational--plenty of ideas for NPCs, back stories, magic items, ruins, orders, fighting orders, relics, shield devices, etc.

    Keep up the great posts!