Saint Sebastian spooks the plague away

Saint Sebastian spooks the plague away
Saint Sebastian spooks demons away
Saint Sebastian spooks the dead away
City by city and house by house
Onto our torments its arrows souse

In the past years, going to a client site, I often walked in front of the Saint Sebastian temple in Milan. Part Catholic church, part civic temple; it was built as a votive offering toward Saint Sebastian Martyr, after a plague in the 16th century. Designed as a circular civic building in a very small plot of land, is styled after pagan temples like the Pantheon in Rome. This of course pissed off the Archbishop; the temple is still owned by the City of Milan rather than by the Church, and if you are there you should visit it because it’s dope. Saint Sebastian managed to survive martyrdom by archery: the Golden Legend of Jacopo da Varagine describes him as peppered by arrows “like a hedgehog”, and because of the relative nudity of the to-be-saint, this was quite a common subject in art.

The Order of Saint Sebastian has been part of my games for a couple of years, since before the pandemic, and now that I’m playing a follower of Saint Sebastian (Doctor Luke has just set foot in Ravenloft and totally hates it!) I’m in the headspace for writing some more material about it. This is what the real temple looks like, the interior all dark grey and gold.

Saint Sebastian (the fantasy one) was a traveling medic, faith healer, and exorcist. He became famous not only because he kept on stubbornly bringing relief to the cities most hit by plagues, demons, and undead hordes, but also because being remarkably popular after bringing relief to cities would cause much chagrin of local potentates, big and small alike. Often, after the emergency, the city population would spontaneously erect small civic temples to commemorate his help, normally as small chonky towers with no windows in the lower floors; Saint Sebastian likes small round temples and thought they could be useful also as traditional fortification to defend the population in times of crisis. Over the door, always, a bas-relief of a sheaf of six arrows, to symbolize the Arrows of Saint Sebastian, the magic practices he developed. Sebastian himself was keen on the metaphor of healing and deliverance being as effective in struggles as offense: he was not otherwise especially keen on archery.

Its life was so inspiring that he attracted a crowd: rather than going around with him, they scattered, bringing relief to more and more places. After his death, and over several years, his followers formed small academies in his temples, to teach both medicine and the Arrows of Saint Sebastian. As time went by, some academies have been built as seals over evil crypts and other greater evils that the Order has not managed to dispatch: while some ails can’t be healed, their harm can at least be contained.

You can use the Arrows in your game in the following ways:

  • as level-less spells, a-la Wonder & Wickedness/Marvels & Malisons
  • as replacements for Turn Undead
  • as Mageblade blademagic

The Six Arrows of Saint Sebastian

Arrow against Torment: the Caster asperses blessed water on small location, like a hut or a room, to deliver it from demons and the baleful dead. All demons and undead in the area, if their current HP are less than 1d6 HP per Caster level, are compelled to leave the area. The effect lasts until sunset.

Arrow against Misfortune: the Caster, once per day, can reroll any roll affecting them. For example a failed save, a hitroll or damage roll either toward or against them, a skill check, etc. In Mageblade this is a Perk.

Arrow against Pain: over the course of ten minutes, as the Caster tends the wounds of a small group of people (1 person per Caster level), they all are cured 1d6 HP, plus they all enjoy the effect of a successful Medicine check (if you do not have skills, heals 4 additional HP).

Arrow against Illness: over the course of ten minutes, as the Caster administers mundane treatment and a very limited amount of poultices and other remedies to a small group of people (1 person per Caster level), they are cured from a disease afflicting them.

Arrow Against Demons: striking terror on abject failures of creation, the vengeful strikes of the Caster terrorize devils, demons, and other fiends alike. Until the next sunset, when the Caster strikes a demon, devil, or fiend in melee, all such creatures nearby will be terrorized. This terror both gives them disadvantage in all hostile actions and gives the victims of their spells advantage to their saves until the next round of the Caster.

Arrow Against the Dead: the Caster strikes utterly demolish the living dead. The Caster melee damage against undead is doubled until the next sunset.

One thought on “Saint Sebastian spooks the plague away

  1. That’s my middle name, patron saint, and patron of my dad’s town in Spain!

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