Saturday, September 30, 2017

Saintly Saturday: St. Gregory the Illuminator of Armenia

Today is the Feast of St. Gregory the Illuminator of Armenia. He was born in the middle of the third century A.D. His father, Anak, was part of a plot to take Armenian throne. He killed his kinsman Kursar but the plot failed. As a consequence, he and his entire line were sentenced to death. Gregory, however, was secreted out and was raised in Cappadocia as a Christian.

He married, had two children and was widowed. Impelled to atone for the sins of his father, he decided to enter into the service of Kursar’s son, Tiridates. When it was discovered that Gregory was a Christian, he was tortured in various and heinous ways, but was steadfast through it all. At one point, he was thrown into a pit full of vipers. Thinking that was his end, his torturers left him for dead; however, the snakes did him no harm and for fourteen years he endured with the help of certain pious widows, who would lower bread into the pit.

When it was revealed to Tiridates that Gregory still lived, he was released. Through his faith and preaching, the Armenians became Christian, including Tiridates. St. Gregory was ordained bishop and reposed in peace about the year A.D. 325.

This story opens up the possibility of an interesting twist on the Abandoned Monastery Trope found in so many dungeon adventures: rather than a collection of caves or cells, the monastery would be filled with snake pits. This, of course, opens up all kinds of interesting themed ideas with creature favorites like yuan-ti and ophidians.

It also brings up the famous verse from Mark:
And these signs shall follow them that believe…They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover (16:17-18).
This suggests an interesting variation on the Cleric class for those who are raised around or are part of a snake-pit monastery. Instead of being able to Turn Undead the Cleric gains the following abilities:

  • Immunity to Poison (even magical poison)
  • Snake Companion: This companion is an intelligent and loyal creature that always has 1/2 the HD of the Cleric. The two can always understand each other (a Speak to Animals spell is necessary for anyone else to speak with the snake). The snake also has a special ability depending upon whether the snake is a constrictor or a viper. If it is a constrictor, it can Lay on Hands (Scales?) and heal up to 2hp per level of the Cleric. If it is a viper, it can cast a Neutralize Poison spell once per day; however, this spell does require 1 full turn to cast. Both of these abilities require that the snake be within 30 feet of the Cleric to use. Should the snake companion ever be killed, the Cleric immediately loses a number of hit points equal to that of the companion and it cannot be replaced until the cleric gains a level.

In all other respects, these “Snake-pit” Clerics are the same as normal Clerics.

No comments: