Throughout the history of the church as it has expanded and grown, there are incredible stories of pioneers of the faith who did incredible things and from whom I have learned many lessons. In the traditions of the church, many of those men and women have been officially recognized for their faithfulness and for the way that God has worked through them by canonize nag them and referring to them as saints. Stories abound of the powerful actions attributed to their names and of their legendary deeds and service. They certainly sound like the heroes of old to me. That isn’t to say that many of them weren’t broken people who were not the paragons of virtue that we want to see them as or that they have been reported to be. Church annals may have been kinder to them than they probably deserve and as history gets more distant that is only more likely to be the case. There are a great many of these honored elders who have gone before and have much to teach about life through their experiences.
Now I have to preface this with the fact that I am a Protestant by tradition. My perspective on the saints is one of respect and honor towards those who have gone before without assigning any deeper respect than that. I was actually raised to think that honoring the saints was a form of idolatry, but as I’ve grown older I’ve come to respect the lives they have lived and the things we can learn from them. The legends and stories that surround these honored men and women gave direction to the way they are categorized and the scope of how we learn from them. As this is not part of the tradition I grew up in, I was always fascinated by the nature of patron saints and the various elements of society and specific places that they oversaw.
For example, if you are an archer and are looking for a particular saint to reflect on or learn from, Nicholas of Myra is the guy for you. You might also know him as St. Nick (aka Santa Claus). They multitask pretty well. If you are a soldier looking to learn about various martial roles, George might be the one for you. He supposedly killed a dragon in Libya and was also the saint over many types of infectious skin conditions. Tough combo. If you are a musician looking to learn about using your gifts for good, Julian the Hospitaler oversees both minstrels in general and fiddlers to be more specific. If the sea is of interest to you and sailing is more your thing, then Brendan the Navigator can provide insight. His stories include one where he landed a boat on a little island and leads a service only to discover that he had landed on the back of a whale!
Many of the stories of these honored dead are probably great exaggeration so but the fact that they oversee particular domains and sections of life and activity lends itself to the polytheistic pantheons that often populate roleplaying games. One way of integrating this is having characters dedicated in the memory and service of these patron saints. Maybe these saints are Greek style demigods or maybe they are simply dedicated mortals who hold a sacred place now in honored death and can pass the power of their patron deity on to their devoted. Either way, the history of the saints and their various specialties can lend themselves quite easily to a game setting that is quite interesting.