Last week while my wife is away at a conference, I spent my evenings catching up on the BBC’s The Musketeers. My wife isn’t really a fan so when we got sidetracked halfway through the season, I figured it would be awhile before I got back to it.
Watching episode 5, the Return, I thought this would make a fantastic adventure for Witch Hunter, something in the mold of Countrycide (Torchwood season 1), where the mundane becomes a real threat. Here’s an official synopsis of the episode:
When Athos is kidnapped and taken back to his estate of Pinon, The Musketeers go in search of him and find themselves in the middle of a battle against a nobleman, the Baron Renard, who is shocked by Athos’ decision to reject his nobility and is determined to seize the land for himself. As The Musketeers train the people of Pinon in combat and defend them against multiple attacks, Athos is forced to confront his past when he encounters an old friend whose life was ruined by his actions years ago.
Witch Hunter lends itself to the set up perfectly. The characters have often renounced their former lives to embraced their new role as monster hunter. All you need is a player with the Noble background and you are good to go. Or perhaps an NPC witch hunter, with the cadre dispatched to find him.
The scenario offers several complications that would make it challenging for any group:
- The main villain is a landed noble, with all the protection and privileges that go along with that station.
- The villain also possesses a considerable fighting force. They may be minions, but 100 threat 2 minions are going to hurt.
- The heroes are at a real disadvantage here. If they pull rank as witch hunters, the villain can just call in the church and have them branded as heretics.
- Abandoning the peasants to their fate would certainly be worth a point or two of damnation.
- The social complications and logistics of training and commanding a ragtag force of peasant soldiers will likely test several skills the PCs have been neglecting.
This scenario plays straight at the swashbuckling or even the colonial aspects of Witch Hunter. So lets consider a few twists we might apply to really enhance the Witch Hunter flavor of the scenario.
- Play It Straight: We don’t really change anything here. The Baron and his son are both normal men (lieutenants), though arrogant, privileged and terrible examples of humanity. The role of Catherine could easily be assumed by a childhood friend, an old lover, or even a former mentor of one of the witch hunters (not necessarily the noble) who has an axe to grind. The Baron could be driven by an old grudge or rivalry. That the witch hunter has walked away from his family obligations matters not; the matter must be settled in blood!
- The Demonic Instigator: After a tragic accident befell his son, the Baron beseeched dark forces for the young man’s life. He revived, but was forever changed. Now he forces his father’s hand, consumed with avarice and greed. There is something about the Noble’s land he covets, and no reason will deter him from his prize. (Sort of a toned down version of the Solomon Kane movie.) Alternatively, the Baron or his son (or both) have fallen under the spell of a witch or warlock who seeks vengeance on the witch hunter(s).
- Sanctuary: The NPC standing in for the role of Catherine has a dark secret. The Noble’s family granted her refuge as a child. Now dark forces have sought her out and recruited the Baron to their cause. How will the witch hunters respond? Will they surrender her to her fate? Will they shelter and protect her? Perhaps the nature of the secret is such they must deal with her (or not) themselves.
- The Beast: Something has been preying on the villages of both manors. The Baron believes these criminals have found refuge within the Noble’s lands, while the villager’s place the blame squarely on the Baron. The beast hides amongst them, eager to shift the blame away from itself.
- The Dark Secret: The Noble’s manor holds a dark secret that, if discovered, could ruin the witch hunter and his family. Perhaps the Baron is aware of it and uses it as leverage against the cadre, or perhaps his fate is tied to the secret as well. Perhaps the secret is so terrible, the Noble needs to keep it from his or her Order, perhaps even the rest of the cadre. This could be tied to the character’s Catalyst, or a startling revelation made early in the scenario.
- The New World Order: The action is moved to the New World, to a colony on the fringes of civilization. Replace the Baron and his men with agents of a competing country (French, Spanish, British, or Dutch). The villagers could be colonists or natives. The witch hunters could have ties to the colony (base of operations) or answer the summons of an old ally, a contact, or another Witch Hunter.
- The Invisible World: The meddling of a heretic scholar or occultist has inadvertently opened a sustained gateway to the Invisible World. What emerges is not the lone entity the occultist sought, but a warlord and his demonic army, intent on cementing a foothold in God’s creation! These could be fae (unseelie), or something even more horrific. Either way, the numbers are too overwhelming for a small cadre of witch hunters, and by the time others might be brought to bare against them, these invaders could have slaughtered hundreds (not to mention called in support from a few Forbidden Societies, making the job even more difficult). The cadre’s best chance for success here is to rally the locals against this threat, but the risk is high. (The last two recent Mummy movies would be good inspiration for this…if you can stand to watch them.)