Saturday, December 29, 2012

Saintly Saturday: St. Marcellus the Abbot

Today is the feast of St. Marcellus the Abbot. Born in Syria, he was brought up in a rich family that provided for an excellent education. This led him to seek the monastic life. Around A.D. 460 he succeeded St. Alexander as the abbot of the Monastery of the Unsleeping Ones in the city of Constantinople. It was so called because St. Alexander had created a prayer rule where the monks took St. Paul’s exhortation to pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17) literally. They worked in shifts and when services were not being held, the Psaltery was chanted so that prayer never ceased while the monastery operated.

In terms of inspiration for an RPG, need I say it again?

The Monastery of the Unsleeping Ones

If that does not inspire a desire to go and try your hand at a megadungeon, I don’t know what will. For those of you who are uncomfortable with using a name of an actual monastery that produced saints, know that history has not only seen invaders close down the monastery, but there are plenty of examples throughout history of various governments aggressively destroying monasteries (King Henry VIII, for example).

When it comes to conflicts between church and state, monasteries have historically been hot beds of opposition. It is therefore a natural inclination of the tyrant to wipeout this opposition.

Thus, the back story of the monastery need only answer two questions and still pay homage to the original:

  1. In a world of monsters and sin personified, what were the monks protecting the world from with their constant prayer? Is there a gate kept closed by the monks? Is some cthuloid horror bound somewhere beneath? What other monsters were kept dormant? Were the monks the equivalent of a Sussuruss that kept an army of undead asleep (and therefore add another meaning to the name Unsleeping Ones)?
  2. What prompted the closure of the monastery? Did a king come into conflict with the monks over doctrine? Was there an invading army that had no idea what lay within? Did some evil specifically seek out what the monks were guarding against?

Answer these, and all one needs is a good map and a willing group of adventurers...


  1. See? This is why I said Saintly Saturday is a great feature: inspiration. Before I'd gotten halfway through the opening, I was wondering if their constant prayers were keeping something horrible imprisoned? The possibilities are legion.

  2. I've been reading your blog for some time and was wondering if you could help me with a project I'm working on. I'm doing doctoral work in semiotics and am having difficulty finding a seminar I could take on icons in Orthodoxy. Would you know where I could find one? Thanks.

  3. Yeah, same here. That was a really creepy Saintly Saturday!

  4. There's also a second tack to take with this: an area deep within the lower levels that has been kept purified by the unceasing vigilance of its guardian monks, providing a safe haven for adventurers to rest in perform missions and services for during deeper explorations.

    Perhaps an untimely and pernicious disease has stricken too many of the monks silent and the areas they use to supply themselves with food have been overrun, necessitating the pcs to run foodstuffs to the monks and/or help with reclaiming the lost areas.