Saturday, October 29, 2011

Saintly Saturday: St. Serapion of Zarzma

Today is the feast of St. Serapion of Zarzma, a 10th century saint who is primarily remembered by the Georgian Orthodox Church. He grew up as part of a wealthy family (his father was a Klarjeti aristocrat); however, this did not matter when both of his parents died when he was young. He and his brother were taken in by St. Michael of Parekhi, known as a wonderworker and a teacher of orphans.

St. Serapion became a priest, and, after St. Michael was instructed in a vision to send them, built a monastery with his brother in the village of Zarzma.

Though the life of St. Serapion is fairly simple — he spent his life building and maintaining a monastery — I find inspiration in where he built the monastery.

  • Firstly, there is this really cool map (which I found here):

  • Secondly, the regional name (Klarjeti) and the name of the village and monastery (Zarzma) just sound like they belong in a FRPG campaign world.
  • Finally, take a look at the Georgian (Mkhedruli) alphabet:

Personally, I am a big fan of puzzles, especially codes. When I find that any of my players share the same interest, I will sprinkle my dungeons with treasure maps, riddles and inscriptions written in ancient versions of known languages. Thus, I can write out whatever I want in plain English, substitute each letter with a cool looking symbol/rune/foreign character and then inform the players that they recognize one simple word (like 'the'). They then get to decode the message for themselves. Once a language code is broken, they get to go back to their original find and piece together any new messages they find. This is a great (and fun) way to simulate reading ancient texts. The Georgian (Mkhedruli) alphabet is a perfect candidate for such a use.

I'll end with a couple of questions:

  • Which language would you use the Georgian (Mkhedruli) alphabet to simulate?
  • Are there any other alphabets that you use to simulate FRPG languages in your campaign?


Anthony said...

Dave, you've just set a major geek-nerve of mine twitching. I love languages and alphabets. :)

The first possibility that comes to mind looking at the Georgian alphabet is Elvish, given its cursive, elegant look. I might also use it as a cursive Dwarf alphabet, too, something they use when writing for everyday work or on less permanent substances, such as paper. Traditional runes would be saved for "monumental" works meant to last ages. (Although I might use it for humans of a distant land, or even travelers from another dimension, since it's so alien looking.)

I've used the Greek and Armenian alphabets, as well as Hindi. I've also used archaic-looking typefaces together with "Chaucerian-sounding" language to simulate pages written centuries before the setting's era.

I love using props like this in my games. :)

Jeremy Duncan said...

I remember reading an essay years ago where the author went off on some spectacularly insane tangents tying together the Georgian alphabet (in which he had a diagram comparing each letter with a torture device) Medea (her homeland, Colchis, being modern-day Georgia), and Stalin. Like Churchward's Mu, Fraser's Golden Bough, or Graves' The White Goddess, it's the sort of brilliant bizarro crank-theorizing that makes for terrible science, history, and anthropology, but absolute gaming gold.

Russ said...

The Georgian language is written in a beautiful script. I think it's a credit to it/them/humanity (in an admittedly weird, gamer way) that we would associate it with elves- creatures who are almost entirely identified with grace, beauty, mystery, and magic. (Not to gush, I really hate elf-ophilia in gaming, but I think I'm correct in my associations.) But this isn't elvish, it's human. And that's cool.

It reminds of back when I was a churchy person and going to a Russian church. I told the priest one day that the church was very "D&D". He wasn't amused and in his next homily said that we shouldn't love the Church for its exotica. I don't remember why he said we should love the Church, but then I've been told by more then one priest/deacon/pious person that I don't get it, so that would about right. :D

Anonymous said...

I am reminded of the runes dribbled through the Forgotten Realms Adventures book. Mostly Harpers runes, I think.