Saturday, November 19, 2011

Saintly Saturday: St. Obadiah the Prophet

Today is the feast day of the Prophet Obadiah, who gives us one of the shortest books in all of Scripture (it is only 21 verses). As such, there is very little textual evidence to nail down which of the dozen or so men named Obadiah in Scripture he might be. The most popular attribution, though, is the Obadiah mentioned in the eighteenth chapter of 1 Kings (or 3 Kings if you prefer the LXX reckoning).

He was Master of the Palace in the court of Ahab. Though the king had turned away from God, Obadiah secretly remained faithful. During the persecution of the prophets by Ahab's queen, Jezebel, Obadiah hid one hundred of them away in a cave (fifty at a time) to shelter, protect and feed them. It was Obadiah that announced the presence of Elijah to Ahab in prelude to one of my favorite stories from the OT: Elijah vs. the priests of Baal on Mt. Carmel.

For those who claim to prefer the pulpiness of S&S, I only ask that you re-read (read for the first time?) 1 Kings 18. Though it is a different genre than the writings of REH, HPL, CAS etc., it does call to mind the conflict between the followers of Mitra and the devotees of Set one might find in a tale about everyone's favorite Cimmerian.

It doesn't take a lot of imagination to extrapolate this story into the basis for a campaign. There is a city-state with an evil king and his even more sinister queen. The nasty blood cult of Baal holds sway over most of the population. The followers of Elohim work in secret to protect their own. There are lost, antediluvian civilizations to discover and explore in addition to the tombs of such known civilizations as the Egyptians, the Babylonians and the Assyrians (all of which scream dungeon!). To boot, all three of the core classes from OD&D can be represented.

The aspect I like best of this set-up is the fact that Prophets make very good Clerics. Not only does the armored holy warrior jive well with the likes of Obadiah ( who opens his prophecy with a call to arms: "Up! Let us march against this people. Into battle!"), but the spell list conforms very well with the types of miracles one finds in the OT. Even Raise Dead can be said to have used by Elijah's successor Elisha with the son of the Shunnemite woman.

In other words, Obadiah doesn't just introduce Elijah to Ahab, but introduces us to a way to play a D&D campaign that cleaves closely to both Scripture and the S&S roots of the game.


Russ said...

Fr. David, Have you heard of Mobely's The Empty Men: The Heroic Tradition of Ancient Israel? I haven't read enough of it to say much, but it did put me a little in mind of what you're talking about, except with less righteousness and more violent desperation. Of course, the two may not be mutually exclusive.

FrDave said...

No, I have not heard of it, but I am intrigued. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.