Saturday, February 4, 2012

Saintly Saturday: The Right-believing George the Great Prince of Vladimir

When looking over some of the possible subjects for today's post, I ran across an obscure saint. Celebrated today is the Right-believing George the Great Prince of Vladimir. He was one of the rulers of the Principality of Vladimir-Suzdal at the end of its golden age, which was during the late 12th century and early 13th century. He died during the Battle of the Sit River in 1238. His body was found by Bishop Cyril and transferred to the Rostov Cathedral and finally to the Dormition Cathedral in Vladimir.

As an aside, George (also known as Yuri II Vsevolodovich) is the uncle of Alexander Nevsky. When it comes to influences on my life and on my gaming, there are actually very few films that have any sway at all; however, Sergei Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky is one of the few film experiences that I can say with certainty started me down several paths that led to the person I am today.

Ostensibly, it is an historical piece about the Battle of the Ice, where Alexander Nevsky defends Novgorod from an invasion of Teutonic Knights. In reality, it is a blatant anti-Nazi/pro-Communist propaganda piece. If one can look beyond this (and its pathetic comic-relief subplot) this is a brilliant war movie. The armor of both the Russians and the Teutons still inspire today and I personally hold up the climactic battle of the movie as one of the best ever put on film.

There are two interesting things about the Right-believing George. Firstly, he is an example of the phenomenon of the local saint. Unlike the very legal process by which someone becomes a saint within the Roman Catholic tradition, Orthodox saints are recognized in a far more organic way. One aspect of this is that popular holy men and woman in a particular region can be recognized as saints within that particular locality. The most popular of these will go on to be more widely recognized. St. Demetrius of Thessaloniki is an example of this. In the mean-time, within each local church there can be widely different lists of saints (though this is becoming less and less predominant given modern communications technology).

Secondly, the title Right-believing is a title given to sainted secular rulers. Therefore, Right-believing saints are popular leaders that defend and/or promote the Church. Some are known for building churches and/or monasteries. In the case of George Vsevolodovich, he died defending Christendom (note that in his icon he carries both a sword and a martyr’s cross).

In terms of an FRPG setting, this suggests a tremendous amount of freedom in the creation and existence of saints. Not only can each locality can have its own unique saint, but the title Right-believing suggests that even PCs can eventually attain sainthood doing what PCs do — as long as such adventures are done to protect and promote Christianity or what-ever analog the campaign world happens to have.

I am also tempted to take mechanical a spin on this local saint phenomenon. Given the uniqueness of each local saint, it could be possible to offer unique divine spells in various local churches, with flavor texts based on the life of the local saint.

For example, one of the possible ways that Hamlen might continue to influence my Lost Colonies campaign is through becoming a Right-Believing-type saint. Should a chapel ever be built in Headwaters, I would offer the following spell to any cleric that prepared their spells within its confines (due to his affection for horns and using them prior to combat):

Hamlen’s Horn

Level: 1
Duration: Instantaneous
Range: Self

When cast, this spell summons a spiritual horn that gives off a blast of sound. All opponents within a 30’ radius must immediately make a morale check. This check is in addition to any other morale checks that normally happen during combat.

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