My mention of the Bennenites–staff-wielding warrior-priests from my old Sovereign Kingdoms fantasy campaign–in an article about Staff Mastery Feats has apparently raised some interest in the worldbuilding about the order. (More than in the feats they inspired, in any case 🙂 ).
Most of my notes about that more-than-20-year-old-game are scrawled in pencil in a few different notebooks and one big red 3-ring binder. Having moved 11 times in that two decades they aren’t all in one place, and many are in boxes in storage (though I have laid eyes on most of them on the past 18 months). But I have dug some up, and can
In the Sovereign Kingdoms the major religion was the Apostolic Church, which worshiped a supreme deity who had 4 specially blessed demigods who oversaw interactions with mortals. Three of those rebelled (essentially taking the role of three differently-themed antichrist/lucifer figures), and the fourth, YSRIES, began teaching various mortals directly. Those mortals who followed his teachings to a state of high enlightenment were granted tiny motes of his divine power, becoming saints.
Sainthood was essentially treated as a mega-paladin template in that campaign, making every paladin essentially a potential saint in training. Paladins were considered to have been given a mote of divine power they were trusted to use appropriately, with only those dedicated to the concepts of benevolence and morality even giver that power. There are paladins of other faiths (though they were rarer, and included the singular Green Knight of the druidic faith, the Proctors of the Gnostic faith, and the Salt Warriors of the eastern Apostolic Church).
The power of a paladin was sometimes granted temporarily for a good, faithful follower in particularly desperate straits (as happened to a PC at least once during the campaign). However, the ability to draw on the mote of divinity required a level of dedication and purity. If a mortal failed to live up to that standard, the connection literally became metaphysically impossible. It was not that divine powers withdrew their assistance, but that mortals too far out of balance with the essence of the divinity couldn’t access it.
(As an aside, while the power of a paladin came from outside themselves, actually drawing on the power of a mote of divinity was a skill that could apply to different power sources. If a paladin fell far enough from grace, one of the three fallen demigods could grant a fiendish power source which, if accepted, turned the bearer into an anti-paladin. Anti-paladins tended to have powers diametrically opposed to paladins because they were using the same training manuals to manipulate the aligned planar energy within them.)
Within the Apostolic Church, saints were arranged in three tiers of reverence–the Apostles (taught directly by YSRIES), the ArchSaints (taught by one or more of the Apostles, usually after YSRIES left the mortal plane), and the Canon Saints (recognized as saints by the authority of the Ecclesiarch of the Apostolic Church).
Saint Bennen was the first of the Canon Saints, a farmer-turned-mercenary-turned-priest who had decided to dedicate his life to the protection of the oppressed. Most famously, during a war against devilish cultists, Bennen-as-mercenary refused to leave a town of innocents when local defenders pulled out, as the defenders believing any fight to save it doomed to total defeat. Because the retreat had to be performed swiftly, the sick, wounded, young, and old were all left behind. When Bennen refused to leave, his commander stripped him of his spear, sword, and dagger. Thus when Bennen stood at the edge of town to defend it from oncoming attackers, he did so armed with only a staff.
The half-fiend commander of the attacking forces was so amused, it decided to destroy Bennen personally before overrunning the town, so as to sow fear, misery, and despair among the townsfolk. However, as the fight began, Bennen was granted the power of paladinhood, and was joined by a Bagwyn* companion as a steed. Bennen defeated the half-fiend, the devilish cult army fled in fear, and the town was saved. Due to a wound sufferend in the battle, Bennen forevermore moved with a severe limp. In thanks for the divine aid, Bennen turned to religious studies, and became a priest, and in time a Arch-Prelate (the third-highest rank within the Apostolic Church).
*A bagwyn is a heraldic creature of mythology with the body of an antelope, mighty backwards-curling horns, and the fetlocks and tail of a horse. In the Sovereign Kingdoms, bagwyns were basically unicornlike creatures that served any good-aligned mystic forces, while unicorns were specifically angelic.
I haven’t yet found the list of who Bennen was the patron saint of, but if memory serves it included farmers, mercenaries, defenders, wood-gatherers, woodwrights, the ill, the infirm, the lame, bagwyns, and lost causes. While most Apostolic Orders were extremely suspicious of druids, Bennenites often formed aliances with them, and when a Green Knight arose, Bennenite priests would see to their training.
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