Saturday, April 21, 2018

Saintly Saturday: St. Maximian Patriarch of Constantinople

Today is the Feast of St. Maximian, Patriarch of Constantinople. He was born in Rome of wealthy parents and used his inheritance to provide tombs for those who led holy lives. He preferred a simple, unadorned life, which actually caught the attention of Sisinius, who was Patriarch of Constantinople from A.D. 426-427. Maximian was ordained as a priest. After the heretic Nestorius was deposed as Patriarch of Constantinople in A.D. 431, St. Maximian replaced him. He then died peacefully in A.D. 434.

In a round about way, the life of St. Maximian reminds of one of the more influential books in my own personal Appendix N: The Seven Altars of Dûsarra by Lawrence Watt-Evans. In this particular tale, the protagonist is sent off to steal whatever is on the seven altars from the title of the book. Each altar was from a different temple dedicated to one of the “Lords of Dûs” — gods of darkness.

In a reverse of this structure, a campaign inspired by St. Maximian might center around the idea of seven lost temples. In the high days of Civilization, during the reign of a Maximian-like ruler or religious leader, great temples dedicated to the saints (literally “holy ones”) were built all across the Empire. When the Empire collapsed, seven of the greatest of these temples were “lost” — they now lie in lands claimed by the forces of Chaos.

The locations of some are well known (i.e. the ones corresponding to lower level adventures) while the locations of others are lost to the mists of time (and/or might have been moved by some great feat of magic which may very well have been the catalyst for the collapse of the Empire).

The campaign, then, would center around the recovery of seven relics, each associated with one of the seven temples. Fill in your favorite trope here as to why these relics need to be recovered. One that I might be tempted to use is that should all seven be joined together something extremely powerful can be made and various factions have recently come upon the blueprints to make it all possible. Thus, everyone is in a race to secure all seven relics.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Saintly Saturday: the Holy Martyrs Anthony, John and Eustathius of Lithuania

Today is the feast of the Holy Martyrs Anthony, John and Eustathius of Lithuania. During the reign of Prince Olgerd, these brothers became Orthodox Christians due to the influence of Princess Maria Yaroslavna, Oglerd’s wife. After her death, however, Olgerd turned toward paganism and persecuted the Christians. Imprisoned and tortured, they were all hung from an oak considered sacred by the pagans. Later, the Christians built a church at the site and the stump of the tree became the altar.

This all took place during what can called the Northern Crusades, a fascinating and criminally ignored history. Beginning in the 13th century, Bishop Albert of Riga founded a military order called the Livonian Brothers of the Sword (sometimes referred to as the Sword Brethren). Sanctioned by Pope Innocent III, this group of German warrior-monks were established to aid in the Christianization of the pagans in what today is Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Politically, they were there to aid Albert carve out a fiefdom granted to him by Philip of Swabia who laid claim to be Emperor of the Hohenstaufen Holy Roman Empire.

In the end, they suffered high casualties and were absorbed into the Teutonic Order as an autonomous branch called the Livonian Order. It was this order which clashed with the Alexander Nevsky-led Novgorod forces at the Battle on the Ice — so-called because in the swampy environs of the Baltics, winter was campaign season because the frozen ground was the best time to move troops. Lake Peipus was frozen over and was perfect for a calvary charge.

In terms of influential movies on me, Sergei Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky has a pull than is even stronger than Star Wars. I saw both in my youth and both have lasting visual, emotional and musical impressions that still resonate will me today. I don’t think I would have been as enthusiastic a D&D player as I still am today without Alexander Nevsky.

This time period is ripe for using as campaign fodder. Take a look at this map:

You have competing bishops, competing denominations of Christianity, you have militaristic monastic order, pagans and lurking off the map the Golden Horde ready to wreck havoc. I would love to see the chaos caused by a group of players in a political situation like this.

As an aside, for those who argue there are no historical examples of the D&D cleric, look no further than this period of history where the concept of the “battle bishop” is not very far from the truth.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Rinn's Journal Part 4

Thirdday, 7 Februa

O God, help me! Penael is dead.

Fourthday, 8 Februa

It always surprises me at how cathartic a funeral is, especially the one we had for Panael. Rufus specifically thanked me for taking such good care of Panael’s body. Given the fate he faced had the Thanati worm taken hold, things could have been much worse. I prevented more pain. That these people have suffered so much to take comfort in death is amazing.

Now that I am past self-pity, I have begun to realize that Panael sacrificed himself that I might live and that as such, I owe him and his people my life and all that I am. Through him, Isten has finally made me comfortable about this calling for this city and these people.

We can no longer call where the hobgoblins and spiders are a “lair,” there is a far larger complex below than we ever imagined. When we followed what Cuinn called “heavy traffic,” we found a huge room with what amounts to river running through it. There was a bridge crossing the flowing water in the middle of the space and on the other side was an encampment of hobgoblins.

Morivam promised that he could incapacitate several of their number with a spell, so we decided to charge. Unfortunately, these hobgoblins were combat veterans and organized themselves quickly. Panael took a spear meant for me and as a consequence opened himself up to another. Despite Panael’s sacrifice, Morivam’s spell was too much for them and the few that remained fled.

We tried to to pursue, but the passage they retreated down proved to be a maze of natural caverns and any chase through them was deemed too dangerous. While I chopped off Panael’s head with his own sword to prevent the Thanati worm from taking hold of him, the rest of our party took stock of what the Hobgoblins had managed to smuggle beneath the city.

There were enough weapons to arm a large raid including saddles and horse tack branded with the sign of a wolf howling at the moon. There was even a long dead corpse armed with a falchion and suited in a bronze breastplate. I surmise that these items may very well have been booty from a raid either from some other group inside the city, or perhaps from before the hobgoblins slinked into Redwraith.

Given the wounds and casualties we suffered, it was decided that we retreat for now.

Fifthday, 9 Februa

The others have continued their raid into the complex. Given the loss of Panael, I could not bring myself to join them. At the moment, I am the only real protection the faithful have here in Redwraith. We decided to take the hobgoblin’s equipment and use it as an emergency stash for the church itself. Blaise and Mirela helped me to secure a large number of bricks and mortar. I have spent large amounts of my time, with intermittent help of various members of the church, to start building walls around the sunken courtyard in front of the church proper. At the very least, we will have a better defensive position and someplace to retreat to in an emergency.

I must admit, however, that I find such simple work to be restful for my spirit, if not my body.

Sixthday, 10 Februa

I am beginning to worry. No one has returned from the raid on the spiders and the hobgoblins. I did give Cuinn one my healing potions in case someone got hurt since I would not be there to minister any wounds. Still, what is taking so long?

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

SWCL Adventure Module: The Burnt Village of the Restless Dead

I have slowly been working on my own version of The Temple of Elemental Evil for use with SWCL. Rather than releasing it all at once, I have created the moniker Adventure Tools. This allows me to release each finished section as its own adventure that can be modularly added on to any campaign or any megadungeon. The first release can be found here.

This release is a bit unusual in that it is a surface encounter area that leads to a dungeon rather than a part of the dungeon itself. I will be interested to see if and how this gets used.

As is normal for me, this comes with the disclaimer that I am a hobbyist and have edited this as best as I am able, but there will be mistakes. Please consider the comment section a thread for any typos etc. that you catch. Thank you!

The module can be found here.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Christ is Risen!

Be illumined, illumined, O New Jerusalem; for the glory of the Lord has arisen over you. Dance now for joy, O Zion, and exult. And you be merry, O pure Theotokos, at the arising of the One you bore. — Ode IX of the Canon of Pascha

Monday, April 2, 2018

A Quick Update

I had a few people reach out to me to see if I am okay, especially since I was quiet on Easter.

Firstly, I am fine, just insanely busy. What time I have had for gaming has been dedicated to actual play and trying to get the second installment of Adventure Tools finished. Thus, the blog has been neglected. Hopefully this will change in the near future.

Secondly, for those who are not aware, this past Sunday was Palm Sunday for me and mine. Orthodox Christianity uses a different calendar than Western Christendom and the Sundays we celebrate what we call Pascha can very wildly. This year we are one week later. Thus, for those looking for the "Christ is Risen!" post, that will be posted this coming Sunday.

Finally, thanks for the concern. It means a lot.