Archetype of the Week: The Holy Man

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The holy man is a character who serves God. Most fictional holy men serve the Christian God, but there are occasional examples of holy men serving other deities, especially in fantasy stories. It should be noted that the holy man’s status as a servant of God is not usually verifiable; he is self-appointed, granted his holy status by a human organization, or claims that God talks to him. As a result, is often difficult to distinguish between a true servant of God and a delusional psychopath.

Likely Stories
Since most cultures have some form of religion, holy men can appear in just about any story, but they are more common in some genres than others. Historical tales, especially those set in times and places where the church wields considerable earthly power, are full of priests, friars, crusaders, and inquisitors. Exorcists and monster hunting men of the cloth are common in horror fiction. Although holy types were rare in early 20th Century fantasy fiction (except in the form of evil priest antagonists), their inclusion in Dungeons & Dragons has made them a staple of game-inspired fantasy novels. The preacher (who is often alcoholic, insane, or a former gunslinger) is a stock holy man in Westerns.

The Name Game
Holy men who are part of a religious organization will usually have a title or rank to reflect their affiliation and position, and some take on holy names (often of Biblical or historical significance) when they join their order or achieve a particular rank. The Irish priest is such a common stereotype in movies and television that even holy types who aren’t complete caricatures often have Irish Names. Italian heritage is also extremely common, especially for exorcists and other monster hunters.

The Numbers
Since the holy man is defined by his strong belief in an unprovable entity, he needs a strong Nerve Number in order to keep his faith intact. Nerve can also be useful for converting heathens, advising the faithful, and battling demonic entities. A holy man who is fond of theological debates, church history, and holy law will need a high Brain Number. Holy warriors, missionaries, and other holy men who are regularly forced to do battle or survive in harsh environments will need a high Body Number.

Suggested Jobs: Abbot, Abortion Clinic Bomber, Activist, Angel, Apostle, Bishop, Cleric, Crusader, Deacon, Exorcist, Friar, Holy Warrior, Imam, Inquisitor, Knight, Messiah, Monk, Monster Hunter, Mujahid, Mullah, Missionary, Nun, Paladin, Pardoner, Parson, Pope, Preacher, Priest, Prophet, Rabbi, Revolutionary, Saint, Serial Killer, Shepherd, Street Preacher, Super-Hero, Templar, Terrorist, Vicar, Vigilante, Warrior Priest, Witchfinder

Suggested Gimmicks:
Clue Magnet, Divine Inspiration, God’s Little Buddy, Everybody’s Buddy, Faith Healing, Friends in High Places, Holy Powers, Human Lie Detector, Infallible, Iron Will, Mean Mmmm Mmmm Servant of God, Miracles, Moral Authority, On A Mission From God, Polymath, Purity, Second Sight, Shield of Faith, Sword of the Spirit, Vampire

Suggested Weaknesses:
Alcoholic, Anger Management Issue, Code of Honor, Demon Magnet, Enemies, Envy, Excommunicated, Glutton, Greedy, Hears Voices, Lust, Makes People Nervous, Martyr Complex, Masochist, Pride, Sexual Deviant, Sloth, Vampire, Vow of Silence, Wanted Man

Suggested Skills:
Alchemy, Animal Handling, Brawling, Brewing, Church Law, Demolitions, Eavesdropping, Exorcism, Finance, Fishing, Fund Raising, Gardening, Healing, Horseback Riding, Inspirational Speaking, Investigation, Latin, Literate, Occult Knowledge, Organ Playing, Quick Draw, Ruler-Fu, Sermons, Scripture, Shooting, Singing, Smite, Speaking In Tongues, Swordsmanship, Torture, Wilderness Survival

Alec Baldwin, Paul Bettany, Tom Bosley, Clancy Brown, James Brown, Gabriel Byrne, George Carlin, Billy Connelly, Sean Connery, Russell Crowe, Johnny Depp, Clint Eastwood, Oded Fehr, Sean Patrick Flanery, Kathleen Freeman, Ron Glass, Andie McDowell, Milla Jovovich, Steve Martin, Timothy Olyphant, Norman Reedus, Alan Rickman, Chris Rock, Jerry Stiller, Max Von Sydow, Tom Waits

Tag Line:
“God tells me he can get me out of this mess, but he’s pretty sure you’re fooked.”–Stephen, Braveheart

Tools of the Trade: The holy man’s equipment depends on his denomination and mission. Some holy men just need their faith while others need access to holy books, candles, incense, rosaries, limited edition lithographs of the saints, and other elaborate props in order to perform their holy duties. Certain holy men are required to wear a uniform or badge of office, like a nun’s habit or a priest’s collar. Holy warriors will of course need weapons and armor in order to smite infidels without getting smitten themselves.

Where You’ll Find Him:
Some holy men lock themselves away from the world in order to commune with God. Others can be found doing God’s work in the far reaches of the world, the bad side of town, and the battlefield. Therefore, a holy man’s regular haunts will depend on his job.

Social Circle:
Holy men who cloister themselves away will associate almost exclusively with other holy men. Holy warriors will spend most of their time with their unit or cell. Those who work with the community will usually have a much larger social circle whose members can range from the down-and-out to the rich and famous, depending on the holy man’s focus.

Sample Character
Oswald Leopold II a.k.a. Battle Pope
Brain: 11
Nerve: 15
Job: Pope (10)
Gimmick: Halo of Power (16)
Weakness: Lust (16)
Skills: Enhanced Strength +3; Martial Arts +3; Drinking +2
WWPHITM? Micky Roarke
Dumb Fact: Trained in martial arts by Bruce Lee.
Tag Line: “Bring on the whores!”
HP: 20
YY: 4

Inspirational Materials
Books & Comics
Astro City by Kurt Busiek (The Confessor)
The Canterbury Tales
by Geoffrey Chaucer (numerous characters)
Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophesies of Agnus Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (Newton Pulsifer)
The Huntress sometimes fits the holy warrior aspect of this archetype.
The Illuminatus! Trilogy (Padre Pederastia) by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
Preacher (Jesse Custer) by Garth Ennis
The Three Musketeers (Aramis) by Alexandre Dumas
World War Z (Sister Montoya) by Max Brooks

Movies & TV
Blazing Saddles (Reverend Johnson)
The Blues Brothers
The Boondock Saints
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (The Knights of Byzantium)
Carnivale (Brother Justin Crowe)
Deadwood (Henry Weston Smith)
Dogma (Cardinal Glick)
Domino (Wanderer)
The Exorcist (Fathers Merrin and Karras)
Father Dowling Mysteries
Firefly/Serenity (Shepherd Book)
From Dusk Til Dawn (Jacob Fuller)
Hudson Hawk (Anna Baragli)
M*A*S*H (Father Francis Mulcahy)
Pale Rider (Preacher/The Man With No Name)
The Quick and the Dead (Cort)
Stigmata (Father Kiernan)

Current Events, History, Mythology, Folklore
Osama bin Laden
Jack T. Chick
Jerry Falwell
Louis Farrakhan
Matthew Hopkins
Pope Innocent II
Johnny and Luther Htoo
Joan of Arc
John The Baptist
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Jaques de Molay
Fred Phelps
Oral Roberts
Pat Robertson
Jimmy Swaggert
Robert Tilton
Tomas de Torquemada
Friar Tuck

Dungeons & Dragons (Clerics & Paladins)
In Nomine
Vampire: The Masquerade (Sullivan Dane)
Waxman’s Warriors (Rabbi Waxman)