Saturday, April 30, 2011

Saintly Saturday: St. Argyra the New Martyr

Today is one of the feast days of St. Argyra the New Martyr. She lived in Bithynia (northwest modern Turkey) during the 17th and 18th centuries. At the age of eighteen, she married a pious Christian and they moved into a predominantly Muslim neighborhood. Within days, a neighbor and son of the local magistrate declared his love for her and tried to convince her to become Muslim. When she retorted that she would rather die than marry a Muslim, she was brought to trial. Using false witnesses, who claimed that she had agreed to the proposal and then changed her mind, she was sentenced to flogging and life in prison. Witnesses (fellow prisoners) testified that she transformed her prison cell into a monastic cell through prayer and fasting. She was martyred in April 5th, 1721 (her main feast day). We celebrate April 30th because this is when her relics were discovered to be incorrupt and were moved to the Church of St. Paraskeve on this day in 1735.

The title Martyr normally refers to someone who is killed for their faith during the first three centuries of the Church (normally by the Roman Empire). With the rise of Constantine as the first Christian Emperor, the era of the Martyrs came to a close. This changed with the rise of Islam (and Communism after that). The title New Martyr refers to those killed for their faith in this new era of Martyrdom.

This may have to do with the fact that over the course of the past week there have been a bunch of posts about sandbox campaigns, but the idea of the New Martyr and the moving of relics reminds me of a very important aspect of running any kind of campaign, especially of the sandbox variety. Personally, I have found both as a player and as a referee, that if the campaign world doesn't react to the actions of the players, the campaign will fail.

These reactions need to be of all shapes and sizes and they need to be logical consequences to character action. For example, very early on in my Lost Colonies campaign, the party chased down a rumor that bandits were responsible for the lack caravans coming to Headwaters (and therefore a lack of supplies). Not only did the party take care of the "bandits" (which were really hobgoblins and carnivorous apes), but after increased trade with the bandits cleared off, they have periodically patrolled the road between Headwaters and Trisagia in order to keep it bandit-free. In turn, that began to attract people to Headwaters, especially after the party started to invest in building such things as a tavern, a cheese factory and a dwarven home. Although these things may seem mundane, the party feels as if they are a part of the community of Headwaters and are literally invested in its future. The growth of the town is a direct consequence of their actions.

Another example are things that can be remembered in time. People in Headwaters will talk about the battle against the skeleton army and the festival highlighted by the arrival of a cloud giant tower for years to come. Bringing these topics up in NPC conversations helps ground characters in their world. In a more concrete example (and one that closely adheres to today's feast), whenever (if ever) Dn. Goram returns the Two Swords to their proper place, this recovery of holy relics will become a feast within the local Church.

Of course, there ought to be negative consequences as well (and there have been plenty in my campaign), but, ultimately, I find that it is the positives that really help ground players in the campaign and create the sense of a living, breathing world.

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