Saturday, April 7, 2012

Saintly Saturday: St. Lazarus and St. Tikhon

I must admit that I am torn in several directions today. While many of you are enjoying Easter weekend, I am readying myself for the marathon that is the Orthodox Christian Holy Week. Blogging will be spotty this coming week, if I manage to get in front of the computer at all. Thus today is going to be a bit of a smorgasbord.

Saturday of St. Lazarus

As I noted last year, the Saturday before Palm Sunday in the Orthodox Calendar celebrates St. Lazarus, the Friend of Christ who is called back from the tomb four days dead. Though I mentioned several things from his life, one particularly interesting detail from his hagiography that I did not note last year is that he never smiled after being brought back to life. There is a clue as to why in one of the hymns sung during the week leading up to Lazarus Saturday:

Lazarus is now two days in the tomb; he sees the dead of all the ages. There he has witnessed strange horrors, a numberless throng held fast by the bonds of Hades. Thus his sisters lament bitterly as they look on his tomb. But Christ comes to bring His friend to life, that a hymn may be raised by all in unison: "Blessed are You, O Savior, have mercy on us."

In other words, what he saw was so harrowing that it marked him for life. I will grant, this is before Christ Himself went down into Hades to break open the brass gates and preach the Kingdom to the dead, but it still is a very interesting image, particularly for those whose campaign worlds do not have (yet) Christ or a Christ-analogue.

For those who have qualms about Raise Dead and its affects upon their campaign world, the story of Lazarus gives a fascinating limiting factor — those that come back aren’t quite the same. Depending on how severe these consequences, a Referee could assign physical change (loss of Con, for example) or mental change (please roll on the insanity table, please). Such consequences would make some players think twice about using Raise Dead on their favorite characters.

St. Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow and Enlightener of North America

Born in 1865, in the Russian region of Pskov, St. Tikhon was a monk who became bishop of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands at the end of the 19th century. In 1900 his see was extended to include all of North America. He did much for the Orthodox Christians across the United States, including the consecration and establishment of several Churches, including St. Nicholas Cathedral in New York and St. Nicholas Church in Brooklyn.

In 1917 he was elected as Patriarch of Moscow, just as the Bolshevik Revolution was about to sweep across Russia. St. Tikhon stood steadfast in the faith despite the utter destruction that followed in the wake of the communist revolution. He fell ill in 1924 and died today in 1925. Due to his sufferings, he is also considered a Confessor.

It seems that the saints are insistent that I continue to work on my campaign based on a fantasy version of 18th century Alaska. Last week, I differentiated different types of magic in terms of pseudo-science. I mentioned that found magic would likely be alien technology.

Colonial powers normally fight over territory not just for land, but for the riches that the land provides. Alaska is famous for both its gold and its oil; however, neither had been discovered until later into the 19th century. For the purposes of having something for Ruthenia and Albion to fight over, I think an interesting twist might be akin to a post earlier this week by Desert Scribe over at Super Galactic Dreadnaught — The Starship as Megadungeon.

As I mentioned in the comments, this is an idea that I have been trying to implement for years, having been deeply affected by Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. Therefore I have a plan: in a remote region of fantasy-Alaska, there is a valley created by the crash of a huge space ship. Much of the regional conflict is centered around control of the valley and its access. Scattered throughout the region are also various escape pods and smaller vessels also involved in the crash.

One candidate for these aliens are the Tuniit/Tunijuat or maybe they were slaves of the aliens who controlled the ship. Regardless, I plan to have a huge spaceship as the tentpole megadungeon of the campaign.

For those that worry about mapping such a dungeon, I offer a solution. Being an old Traveller Fan, one of my favorite aspects of the Traveller universe were all the various war games that helped form what became known as the Third Imperium. Among these board games is Azhanti High Lightning which is a game about combat scenarios aboard a huge space dreadnaught. The beauty of this game is that it provides fourteen full color deck plans. Even better, GDW has it available as a .pdf!

Thus, all you need to do is figure out what kind nasties a group of adventurers will encounter therein, once they sneak by whatever fortification is protecting the valley (depending, of course on whether or not they are aligned to whoever happens to control said fort at the time).


Alex Osias said...

As usual, thought provoking thoughts on religion and D&D / fantasy games. Thanks!

Desert Scribe said...

Thanks for referencing my post, Padre. I'm glad you like my idea, and I look forward to seeing your take on it.

Dave said...

I'm confused... I was given to understand that our Liturgical calendars lined up this year, and Easter was tomorrow for both of us...

FrDave said...

We did last year. This year, however, there is one week difference:

richard said...

I love the spaceship idea - reminds me of Peary's expedition to retrieve the Cape York meteorite - according to one story his infant daughter took one look at the biggest chunk and spontaneously said "anagita" which was interpreted as the inuit word "ahnighito," which became the meteorite's official name - as though it had spoken to her.

OTOH at the time Alaska was being explored, Russia had just annexed Siberia, in one of the fastest biggest land grabs of all time. I like the idea that all these things could be going on at once - a Great Game/politics of fear + ascendency, a resources rush, and wild stories of ultratetrestrial salvage. Which ones are covering up which others?

Flambeaux said...

Fr. Dave, you are in our prayers.
Having just completed the marathon that is Holy Week and the Sacred Triduum in the Latin Rite, I'll wait a few days longer before I wish you well in the joy of the season.

May your Holy Week be fruitful and blessed.