Tag Archives: 17th Century

High Seas Holidays

The votes are in, and my group of players have almost unanimously elected to go with a high seas adventure game with strong involvement of secret societies.  And with that, prep for our 7th Sea game can really begin in earnest.  Not that I haven’t been brainstorming and scribbling down ideas for awhile now, but this gives me a definite direction with which to steer the ship, so to speak.

With the holidays upon us, I am sneaking in whatever time I can manage to do a bit of prep for the forthcoming 7th Sea campaign.  It’s coming along nicely.  I feel I have quite a few resources collected that will make my work easier when we dive in around mid-January.  And since it’s the holidays, I want to share some of the fruits of my labor with you.

So first up, a 7th Sea Ship Name resource.  Along with a reformatted version of Finn’s Companion #3 (any of you old hands remember that one?), I’ve included a list of authentic ship names from the 17th Century British and Dutch navies, along with pirate vessels of ill repute.  So you can either grab a name from antiquity or mix and match something new for your players to grapple with.  This should be of help to anyone running a historical (or semi-historical) nautical game.  I’m going to add this resource on the Downloads page as well.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Re-examining All For One: Regime Diabolique

Summer is almost over.  My wife is back to work at a new library.  The kids go back to school in a week.  Time for another big shake up of my schedule, hopefully in a good way.  It may make blogging a bit easier.  We’ll see.

So awhile back, if you recall, I posted my thoughts on running a B/X D&D and just how easy it felt.  It still feels easy, fresh, and fun.  Enough so that Witch Hunter feels a bit clunky by comparison.  So as an exercise, I starting playing around with home-brewing a system that would give me the same easy breezy feeling but include all the stuff I want and need for heroic swashbuckling fantasy.  And that’s what I stumbled right back over All For One: Regime Diabolique, by Wiggy of Triple Ace Games.

prod_35164For those of you unfamiliar with the game, All for One (AFO, hereafter) is a roleplaying game set in early 17th Century France, where the players assume the roles of the King’s Musketeers, protecting King and Country from the threats foreign, domestic, and…supernatural!  Demons, vampires, werewolves, and all manner of other things that go bump in the night lurk in the dark shadows of Paris, and in the catacombs below.  Now if that doesn’t sound like a dead ringer candidate for game of the year for this GM, I don’t know what does?

I used AFO a few years back as the basis for another campaign for my library program.  At that time, I was pretty wrapped up in the Savage Worlds system and the Savage World of Solomon Kane, so the Ubiquity system went in the hopper and was hastily converted to SW mechanics.  This was, of course, before Triple Ace Games (TAG) did me the courtesy of releasing a SW adaption on their own.  Boy, would that have saved me some work.  That campaign has long since wrapped, but I’ve kept AFO on my Witch Hunter resource bookshelf for ideas and inspiration.  So it isn’t like I found my dog-earred copy in the garage.

Now maybe you haven’t heard, but as much as I like the new 7th Sea game, it has some aspects that present a bit of a barrier to me as a go-to game.  But what started out as an exercise in stripping a game for parts became sort of a startling rediscovery of the Ubiquity system.  Understand, I never disliked Ubiquity as a game system, it was just a non-starter for me.  The whole even/odds thing felt gimmicky, and most folks compare its play with Savage Worlds.

Flash forward a few years and I have a sudden epiphany that Ubiquity could be the bad ass d10 dice pool game 7th Sea is never going to be for me.  Even better, it’s a rosetta stone.  You can easily map that parts of 7th Sea 2nd edition you like to it, due to the Hero Point/Style Point economies both games share, and still maintain a more traditional conflict resolution mechanic.  Oh sure, it’s not a perfect fit, but it’s pretty damn close.  It seems like a pretty hard game to break, too.  And the tone and style of the game flirts with covering the same territory as witch hunter (supernatural monster hunting) while at the same time opening itself to a more sandbox approach.  In fact, its a perfect fit for those who want to run a game akin to D.B. Jackson’s Thieftaker Chronicles.

After four years of playing Witch Hunter, I’ve got the system ALMOST where it needs to be.  So I’m not about to pitch the whole thing and jump ship to Ubiquity, but DAMN if it isn’t tempting.  A lot of the lore of Witch Hunter could easily be mapped to AFO, as could the setting material for Savage World of Solomon Kane.  Personally, I like that Witch Hunter is a more global game.  Where if you want to throw together an adventure in India, or Egypt, or the Far East, you are good to go.  But there are parts of the system that just feel like dead weight compared to what Ubiquity offers.

I would make a few changes off the top, however.  These ideas may not sit well, or may seem superfluous, to hard-core Ubiquity fans.  But if I play it, they are going in.

  • d10 dice pools. Successes on a 6+ (instead of standard evens/odds)
  • Exploding dice!  Rolling a 10 on any die lets you reroll.
  • Rule of 10. dice pools are capped at 10. For every two dice extra, the player gets a free success.
  • Static Defense.  At the very least for NPCs, do away with defense rolls and just reduce attacks by the Average defense.
  • Brute squads/Minion Bands! Gotta have rules for mobs of bad guys.  Someone has probably done this for Ubiquity already, but I’m thinking Threat Ratings 1-5, roll 2 dice per Rank.  Defense is equal to Rank.  Defense Rolls against brute squads don’t suffer the usual -2 for multiple opponents (they are brutes!).
  • Cinematic Health: On paper, the game looks a bit more gritty than I’d like for a pulp game.  But having not played before, I’m hesitant to change that.
  • GM Procedural Rolls.  I’m gonna have a whole blog post on these, as I’m coming to realize they are the secret sauce that makes O/B/X D&D click.  Any GM roll against a player skill is done with 1d10.  A roll equal to or less than the average rating succeeds.  Yes, sorry, the high-low thing.  But these are only for the GM, so…

And that’s more or less it.  Ok, I might add some special stunts for Fencing Schools, but I suspect those are already out and in the wild.

So if you’ve been following along with this blog and thinking, yeah, swashbuckling monster hunters sounds fun!  Or if your one of the many people who cracked the new 7th Sea game and said, “what the…um…” then DEFINITELY do yourself a favor and check out this gem.  The game line is well supported and mostly complete, so no supplement train to worry about (feature or negative, your choice).  Plus, the guys at TAG are fantastic folks who threw a lot of support to me when I was using their stuff for my library program.

 

The Immortal Seven

In preparing for the Horn & Crown campaign arc, I’ve been doing research on many of the power players in King William’s Court.  And while not exclusive to them, it certainly means doing the work researching the Immortal Seven.  I’ve already picked a few of these personages to play a prominent background role in the new story arc, but I like to have a more complete picture of the time.  There is much more to these men than what is included in the profiles below, but in the interests of the campaign my notes focus on the period of 1689 and 1690, leading up to the Battle of Boyne in the Summer of 1690.

The following information has been culled from Wikipedia (naturally) and a few other sources throughout the internet.

 

THE IMMORTAL SEVEN

The Immortal Seven were the seven individuals who put their name to the formal letter of invitation sent on the 30th of June, 1688, to William of Orange requesting that he make the necessary preparations to depose James II.  Together they represented a broad selection of the highest level of English society, sufficient to convince William of Orange that he would enjoy a suitably wide degree of support from across the country.

On the afternoon of the 30th June 1688 seven men sat down to put their names to a formal letter of invitation to William of Orange.

“…the people are so generally dissatisfied with the present conduct of the government in relation to their religion, liberties and properties (all which have been greatly invaded), and they are in such expectation of their prospects being daily worse, that Your Highness may be assured there are nineteen parts of twenty of the people throughout the kingdom who are desirous of a change.”

None of the seven were so foolish as to actually sign their names to the invitation itself, but rather identified themselves by a secret code, a two digit number (that follows their names below).  The letter was duly carried to the Netherlands by Arthur Herbert, the Earl of Torrington (discreetly referred to as Mr H within the letter) and had the desired effect as William of Orange ordered the necessary military and naval preparations for his invasion of Britain.

All seven of these gentlemen received their due rewards when William of Orange and his wife Mary became settled in as William and Mary.

These seven men were thereafter known as the Immortal Seven:

  • The Earl of Devonshire, William Cavendish (24)
    • Whig; House of Commons from 1661 to 1684
      • leader of the anti-court and anti-Catholic party
    • Age: 50
    • son of William Cavendish, 3rd Earl of Devonshire
      • inherited his father’s peerage as Earl of Devonshire
    • one of the wealthiest landowners in the country
    • After the revolution, Cavendish is a leading Whig, serving as William’s Lord Steward
  • The Lord Lumley, Richard Lumley (29)
    • Age: 40
    • The Lumleys were an ancient family from the north of England
    • son of John Lumley; grandson of Richard Lumley, 1st Viscount Lumley
    • played a prominent part in the suppression of the rebellion of the Duke of Monmouth
      • personally responsible (according to John Evelyn) for Monmouth’s arrest
    • wife: Frances Jones, daughter of Sir Henry Jones of Oxford
    • Secured Newcastle for William in December 1688
    • appointed by William in rapid succession (1689-90) as a Gentleman of the Bedchamber, a member of the Privy Council, Colonel of the 1st Troop of Horse Guards, Viscount Lumley of Lumley Castle, Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland and Lord Lieutenant of Durham
      • Lumley is created Earl of Scarbrough on 15 April 1690
  • The Earl of Danby, Thomas Osborne (27)
    • Tory
    • Age: 58
    • Impeached and disgraced member of Parliament with nearly no supporters he could rely on
      • Spent nearly five years in the Tower of London following his impeachment
      • A number of pamphlets asserting his complicity in the Popish Plot, and even accusing him of the murder of Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey, were published in 1679 and 1680
    • following his imprisonment and release, returned to the House of Lords as a leader in the Tory party
    • Driven to opposition by King James’ attacks on Protestantism
    • Thought that William would not claim the crown
      • Supported the succession of Mary
      • This met with little support
        • rejected both by William and by Mary herself
      • voted against the regency and joined with Halifax and the Commons in declaring the prince and princess joint sovereigns.
    • April 1689 created Marquess of Carmarthen
    • made lord-lieutenant of the three ridings of Yorkshire
    • greatly disliked by the Whigs
      • given the nickname the “White” marquess in allusion to his sickly appearance
    • February 1689: appointed to the post of Lord President of the Council
      • could not conceal his vexation and disappointment
      • increased by the appointment of Halifax as Lord Privy Seal (Treasurer Position that he had held before his disgrace).
        • The antagonism between the “black” and the “white” marquess revived in all its bitterness.
      • retired to the country and was seldom present at the council.
      • In June and July, motions were made in Parliament for his removal
    • In 1690: Halifax’s retires in 1690
    • Once again again acquired the post of Lord Treasurer
    • In 1690, appointed Mary’s chief advisor
  • The Earl of Shrewsbury, Charles Talbot (25)
    • Age: 30
    • crossed to Holland to join William
      • contributed towards defraying the expenses of the projected invasion
      • landed with him in England in November 1688 during the Glorious Revolution
    • appointed Secretary of State for the Southern Department
    • 1690: resigned from office when the Tories gained control of Parliament
    • There is evidence that he had made overtures to the Jacobites after his resignation
      • in correspondence with James at his court in exile at Saint Germains
      • some evidence that these relations were entered upon with William’s full connivance
      • Others claim Shrewsbury was unaware of the King’s knowledge and toleration which would explain the terrified letters he was in the habit of penning to him.
      • Regardless, although often presented with evidence against him, William affected to have no suspicion of Shrewsbury’s loyalty
  • The Bishop of London, Henry Compton (31)
    • Tory
    • Age: 58
    • important figure about London
    • a successful botanist
    • Published:
      • several theological works
      • the Life of Donna Olympia Maladichini (1667)
        • translated from Italian
        • governed the Church during the time of Pope Innocent X (1644 to 1655)
      • the Jesuits’ Intrigues (1669)
        • translated from French
      • A book on the Invisible World and the supernatural
        • published under a pseudonym
    • liberal in his views about Protestants; strong bias against Catholics
    • February 1685: Lost his seat in the council and position as Dean of the Chapel Royal on the accession of James II
    • suspended by James’s Court of High Commission in mid-1686.
      • for his firmness in refusing to suspend John Sharp
        • rector of St Giles’s-in-the-Fields
        • anti-papal preaching had rendered him obnoxious to the king
      • The suspension was lifted in September 1688, two days before the High Commission was abolished
    • embraced the cause of William and Mary,
      • performed the ceremony of their coronation
      • his old position was restored to him
      • Appointed to the Privy Council; serves as an advisor to the King and Queen of England, an office that he has had before
      • chosen as one of the commissioners for revising the liturgy

The Witch Hunter Adventures, The Legion Cycle and its predecessor, A Child’s Game, establish Henry Compton as a major figure in London and someone the cadre is likely to interact with.  This information is reprinted from those sources.

  •  though not a Witch Hunter, he is a friend of the Stalwarts of St. Christopher
    • the original text establishes his connection with Brotherhood of Ashen Cross, which doesn’t make a lot of sense given his prejudices and biases against Catholics.  The Stalwarts have roots in Anglicanism and makes much more sense.
  • concerned about a number of supernatural threats that seemed to be moving into the area, along with London’s new growth.
    • Particularly concerned that many of these new evils seem to be using London as a gateway to the New World.
  • Captain Edward Russell (35)
    • Whig
    • Age: 37
    • elected Whig Member of Parliament for Launceston
    • 1689: appointed Treasurer of the Navy in 1689.
    • May 1689: Promoted directly to full admiral
      • Russell took command in the Channel
      • HMS Duke
      • enforced a blockade of France
    • lived at Chippenham Park in Cambridgeshire
      • re-modelled the manor house and greatly extended Chippenham Park
      • dominates the parish to the south of the village
    • March 1690: elected Member of Parliament for Portsmouth in the general election in March 1690.
    • Spring 1690: conveyed Maria Anna of Neuburg, Charles II of Spain’s future consort, from Flushing to Coruna
    • June 1690: becomes a Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty on the Admiralty board led by the Earl of Pembroke
    • July 1690: promoted to Admiral of the Fleet following the debacle at the Battle of Beachy Head
      • Admiral the Earl of Torrinton fell out of favor
    • December 1690: became Commander-in-Chief of the Navy.
      • He was fully engaged in providing naval support for the Williamite War in Ireland until the war ended in October 1691
  • Henry Sidney (33)
    • Whig
    • Age: 49
    • Often dismissed as a mere flunkey and court favorite, nevertheless a expert Statesman,
      • an adroitness for manipulating men
    • 1679: entered Parliament
    • 1688: employed by nephew, the 2nd Earl of Sunderland, Robert Spencer to negotiate with William of Orange
    • one of the signatories to, and the actual author of, the cipher sent to the Prince calling for the Glorious Revolution.
    • created Baron Milton and Viscount Sidney by William

Horn & Crown

England: 1690

The specter of war looms over the island kingdom. William III now sits the throne, installed by a bloodless revolution of seven rebellious Protestant nobles. The King in Exile, James II, schemes in France and summons support to his banners. The kingdom is thick with traitors and conspiracies. But something far more insidious crawls beneath the surface — intrigues dark and dangerous that threaten to consume all of Europe in a supernatural battle beyond the comprehension of mankind.

Beneath the streets of London, the Court of Whispers issues a call to all signatories to the Accords in a valiant effort to stem the tide of this apocalyptic conflict. But villains and foes from hidden corners stand to thwart them at any cost.

Meanwhile, you have trailed an old adversary to the city on the Thames. He holds a piece of a puzzle that could yet shine a light in the dark days ahead…

 

Just a little teaser for the next chapter of our home game.

7th Sea Announcement

Big news!

No.  Not about the new Dungeon Master’s Guild or the OGL update from Wizards, though that is newsworthy.  We’ll get to that soon enough.

Now, on the off chance you missed the mission of this blog (fantasy, swashbuckling, and horror roleplaying) or never read my bio, its entirely possible you don’t realize that the announcement for a new edition of 7th Sea last year was HUGE for me and my gaming group.  In fact, one of my players immediately asked, “so, we’re wrapping up Witch Hunter, then?”  Not so fast, Chris.  Plenty of gas left in the tank on that one.  But if I was going to drop everything to try something new, 7th Sea would be in the top 2 position.  (Yes, if WotC announced a new edition of the Dangerous Journeys roleplaying game I would have to drop everything to try it out – assuming I didn’t drop dead from shock).

Well its been a few months of idle speculation with brief bits of news.  And now this shows up in my inbox yesterday.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Mr. John Wick:

Hey folks. This is John Wick. I just wanted to thank all of you for taking the time to sign up for this mailing list. We’ve got some exciting news to announce!

In short, 2016 is going to be the “Year of 7th Sea.” We plan on releasing not only a new core book, but new sourcebooks as well. And not just sourcebooks about the Théan nations, oh no. We’ve got huge plans for the world of 7th Sea. Just huge. And we’ll get into all of them, but before we do, let me say this again:

Thank you for letting us know that you’re looking forward to a new edition of the game.

It’s been sixteen years since I last visited the shores of Théah and a lot has changed. I’ve changed, you’ve changed… and Théah has changed. Yes, the continent has undergone some transformations in sixteen years. I suspect you’ll want to know about them. And you’ll also want to know what’s stayed the same. Let’s you and I take a trip across the continent and take a look at some old friends… and some new ones.
My Loyal Crew

First, let me talk a little bit about who’s going to be leading us on this little jaunt. There’s me, of course, but there’s also Mark Diaz Truman. He’s running all the business aspects of the project. Mark’s been in charge of the money matters at JWP since our first Kickstarter, way back in 2012. He’s organizing and designing the forthcoming 7th Sea: Second Edition Kickstarter, and when we launch, he’ll be handling any issues or questions that come up.

Second, there’s the design team: Mike Curry and Rob Justice. Mike and Rob have been friends of mine for a long time and ran the Bear Swarm Podcast for years. They both have keen minds and great insight into what makes a good RPG tick. The three of us have been working on the revised system for 7th Sea (more on that in a moment) and we’ve been talking a lot about how the world.

We’re planning a beautiful book too… so we’ve got some great folks putting together the final layout. Our art director is Marissa Kelly, responsible for the Epyllion game about little dragons and art director for a whole bunch of other companies, including Evil Hat and Storium. Thomas Deeny—you might know him from the newFirefly RPG from MWP—will be handling the graphic design of the Kickstarter and Quick Start.

The More Things Change…

7th Sea: Second Edition is going to see some changes from the first edition. When folks ask me, “What kind of changes?” I often invoke Battletar Galactica. I was a huge fan of the original show—I was ten years old when it came out—and I’m a fan of the reboot as well. In the new BSG, we still had Adama, Apollo, Starbuck, Cylons and everything I loved about the first show. Sure, they had new faces—and in some cases, new genders—but they were still those same characters, just with an updated feel. New special effects, new writing, new cast but same show.

7th Sea: Second Edition is going to feel a lot like that. All the Nations are still there—Avalon, Castille, Vodacce, Ussura, etc.—but a few of them may have slight changes. Three of them have undergone slightly deeper changes. Eisen is going to be a whole lot scarier, for example. When you come across a small town of terrified villagers who look up to the castle on the hill where “the countess” lives… you’ll know you’re in Eisen. Ussura is getting a political facelift plus a new kind of sorcery that replaces shapeshifting. And the Vestenmennavanjar… well, let’s just say you don’t have to choose between “awesome merchant prince” and “awesome Viking raider” anymore; you can have both at the same time.

We’re also adding a new nation to the list: The Sarmatian Commonwealth. I’ve visited Poland twice—going again this year!—and every time I go, I hear the same question: “Why is there no Poland in 7th Sea?” After getting asked this question about a dozen times in an hour, I spent some time researching 17th Century Poland and my answer to that question is now, “Because I was an idiot.” I made a promise the last time I was there that if I ever re-did 7th Sea, I would include Poland. Well, I’m keeping that promise. I’m very excited for the Commonwealth and after you see what we’ve been doing with its politics, sorcery and history, I think you will be, too.

A New Engine

But the big question on most people’s minds is this one: “Are you using d20’s or Roll and Keep?” The answer is… neither.

I love R&K. I helped design it back in the day. But the fact of the matter is, rolling a handful of dice and keeping two of them… isn’t very swashbuckly. If I want to feel like Errol Flynn, if I want to feel like the Dread Pirate Roberts, if I want to feel like Captain Jack Sparrow, I want to throw a handful of dice and use all of them. And that’s the new system we’ve designed for 7th Sea: Second Edition.

We’re still using Trait + Skill (the “Traits are too important” folks are going to be very happy) and we’re still using Raises. Except now, you make Raises after the roll. Which means you get to feel like a Big Damn Hero.

We’ve still got Brute Squads and Villains, but we’ve refined how they work. In fact, a lot of the new system can fall under that category. “We’ve refined how they work.” The new 7th Sea system is fast, elegant and dynamic. It isn’t overly simple and it isn’t like one of my “Little Games.” But I feel it captures the cinematic feel we were going for with the first edition of the game, but didn’t quite reach. RPGs have changed a lot in almost 20 years, and I want 7th Sea to still stand out!

The Kickstarter

I can’t give you an exact date for the Kickstarter just yet, but I can tell you that you should keep your spyglasses on late January/early February. As in, the last week and first week. Yes, it’s that close.

As for when you’ll get a book in your grubby, swashbuckling paws… we want to release the book at Gencon. We’re working ‘round the clock to meet that goal right now. We might miss it… but I’d love to see all of you with 7th Sea: Second Edition books in August. That would put a real big smile on my face.

Expect more updates like this in the next few weeks as we put together the Kickstarter, finalize the system, and put out a Quick Start. Please let your friends know that this email list is the best way to way to get all the newest 7th Sea gossip…

2016 is the Year of 7th Sea. Oil up your swords, lift up them sails and run out the guns! It’s going to be a fantastic year.

 

 

Ok, sure, its your standard press release.  It really doesn’t say much more than, “Get your wallets ready, suckers!”  At least, that’s how my wife would read it.  My one word translation, naturally, is, “SQUEEE!!!!”

4381197_sovereign

As a bonus, I’ve clipped snippets of the new maps from Wick’s Facebook feed to post here.  Those of you familiar with the original edition can get an idea of the scale of the reboot we are dealing with here.  (And BTW, up til now John Wick’s Facebook feed has been a great source of teasers for the new edition.  Eisen Necromancy, anyone?)

map00

map01map02

BTW, the town of Five Sails is apparently straight out of the playtest game.

Thank you.  We now resume our regular programming.

Now excuse me.  I have some work to do on the Court of Whispers.

A Day of Feasting

I had planned on posting this at a bit more relevant date, but small children with bronchitis derailed that dream.  But I think it’s too cool not to discuss.

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the cool things about running a real world inspired setting (in our case, late-17th century Europe) is that you occasionally stumble over some really cool things that can inspire fantastic adventure ideas.

One of the PCs in my witch hunter game is a Jesuit priest from an estranged order in Spain.  So one of the first things I did, in addition to assembling a working calendar including lunar cycles and events (werewolves, yo!) was to include as many obscure Catholic holidays as I could.  All the more obscure because I’m not Catholic.  So as the cadre traveled from Frankfurt to Polch for their latest adventure, they stumbled right across November 30th: St. Andrew’s Day.

Have you ever heard of St. Andrew’s Day?  Of course you have.  It’s just me, living in my bubble.  But indulge me please, because if I had spent five minutes reading the wiki entry instead of just dotting the date down on a calendar and moving on to bigger and better things, I would have proved my worth as a GM.

Saint Andrew is the patron saint of Cyprus, Scotland, Greece, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (that’s a mouthful!), San Andres Island, Colombia and Saint Andrew, Barbados.  November 30th is a feasting day (or night, in Germany) dedicated to him.

Now, the very fact that a decent chunk of Eastern Europe loves St. Andrew should send up all sorts of red flags.  But me?  Bubble.  So let’s journey through the glory that is the modern day Cliff-Notes of Everything, shall we?  Let’s just skip over the drunken Scots and get right to those red blooded Romanians, yes?

One of the elements that came from the Roman and Thracian celebrations concerned wolves. During this night, wolves are allowed to eat all the animals they want. It is said that they can speak, too, but anyone that hears them will soon die.

Ok, if you can’t spin a one night game session out of that, you might as well just give it up, right?  But it doesn’t stop there.

The best known tradition connected to this night concerns matrimony and premonitory dreams. Single girls must put under their pillow a branch of sweet basil. If someone takes the plants in their dreams, that means the girl will marry soon.

So basically its an Incubus’ holiday.  In fact, the whole night before St. Andrew’s Day throughout a sizable chunk of Europe is all about dreaming up husbands and matchmaking.  Back to Romania…

it is customary for young women to put 41 grains of wheat beneath their pillow before they go to sleep, and if they dream that someone is coming to steal their grains that means that they are going to get married next year. Also in some other parts of the country the young women light a candle from the Easter and bring it, at midnight, to a fountain. They ask St. Andrew to let them glimpse their future husband.

So there you have it.  Talking wolves that denote terrible omens (the Romanian version of England’s Black Dog) and dream magic.  What more could you ask for in a day?  The Witch Hunters think they are in the clear because they survived Halloween?  Are those poor sorry fools in for a surprise.

If nothing else, St. Andrew’s Day gives you the opportunity to build a Thanksgiving themed adventure for your European-centric characters, albeit with wolves instead of turkeys, but is that really a negative?  Let’s brainstorm a few adventure hooks:

  • Manwolves retain their human intelligence and capabilities on St. Andrew’s Eve.  Many meet in cabals on that night to discuss terms of territory.
  • Incarnate werewolves are especially vulnerable on St. Andrew’s Eve.  If the night falls on the full moon, they may not use their Infectious Personality Power.  If killed under these circumstances, they are permanently destroyed.  This is well known to the Crusaders Inviolate as well as the Unseen Hunt.  Unfortunately, it’s also well known to the Incarnates, who make a special point to go to ground during the last week of November.
  • On any encounter with wolves on St. Andrew’s Eve, roll a d10 for each Witch Hunter.  On a 1 or 2, the wolf speaks to the character.  This speech is only heard by the character in question, and forecasts his doom in the next coming year.  The character receives the Cursed Flaw and may not be rid of it until a year has passed.  The player should be encouraged to avoid wolves on that night thereafter.
  • A noble family is cursed and haunted by an incubus.  Each St. Andrew’s Eve, it returns to the family estate, stalking the grounds in the form of a monstrous wolf.  It invades the sleep of a daughter and feeds upon her essence, leaving the girl to wane and die in the coming months.  So far, the family has lost three daughters of five.  The lord has outlawed celebrations of St. Andrew in his lands, hoping that by somehow that will break the curse.  The incubus is but a tool, however, as the curse was laid by a powerful witch who lives in the forests nearby.  Her son was cut down by the lord and his men while on a hunting party some three years ago.  So now, she takes one of his children each year.  The incubus delivers a fragment of the dying daughter’s essence to the witch each year, which she is working into a rite that will usher in an even darker fate to the lord and his family once the fifth daughter is dead.  Twist: the fourth and fifth daughters are twins who have come of age this year.  Either one or both could be targeted by the demon.
  • As the witch hunters pass through a town, a young woman recognizes one of them from her prophetic dream.  She and her friends are excited, for they believe that the vision granted by St. Andrew is coming true.  If the witch hunter spurns her advances, she is heartbroken.  One of her friends advises her to pay a visit to an isolated pagan priestess, who secretly has ties to the Sisterhood of the Dark Coven or is an old adversary of one of the witch hunters with a score to settle.  She gives the girl a love potion…

I’m sure you can come up with more.  That’s what the comments section is for.

 

 

 

Faith and Witch Hunting

Over on the Paradigm forums, heathd666 posed an inquiry from one of his players:

One of my players asked me if they could not play such a “holy” person for the game. I scanned through the book but didn’t find a answer for her. On a side note she usually plays the slutty thief/assassin type of character from our group. So my question is does someone choose to be a witch hunter or is it where “God” or the deity in question chooses you to be a witch hunter whether you want to be one or not. I kind of think of it like Sanya from Jim Butcher’s “Dresden Files” novels. He carries one of the swords from god and has the powers of them but he is a Atheist.

The power of Christ compels you!

I suspect this is not an uncommon issue with Witch Hunter.  It sure was one of mine when I first read the original edition back in 2008.  The concept of God is so baked into the mix, so inexplicably tied into the characters, that even to someone who is a non-practicing Christian like myself, it can feel a bit heavy handed.  Every single one of the Orders of Solomon has some basis in religion (Christianity or Native American spiritualism).  I’m sure the emphasis on faith in the game has cost it a couple of players.  After all, some gamers (myself included) can be twitchy when it comes to religion.

What’s a person who doesn’t want to spend a fun evening spouting bible verses while they roll dice to smite the wicked to do?

Then the second edition came along and I gave the orders a much closer look.

Now, first things first, let’s take into consideration what the role of Faith was in the 17th Century.  Unlike our modern era, it would have been really hard to be an atheist or an agnostic during that period.  For one thing, the Church held a LOT of power.  It was the center of the community in rural, pastoral communities, especially in the colonies.  But if we are honest, there were probably a lot of folks who slipped through the cracks and were pretty hostile to religion then too.  They just didn’t write history books or get mentioned in seminary schools.  Others (like the nobility) had the luxury of only paying lip service to Church and faith.  And it’s not like the Church of Rome was above reproach during this period.

According to the in-game fiction, witch hunters receive special powers from a higher power. These aren’t just granted to you because of your birth, or your faith.  They are awakened within after your (background) character survives a brush with the supernatural (catalyst).  It’s kind of Buffy-esque.  One slayer dies, another’s power awakens and a Watcher seeks her out.  In the World of Witch Hunter, when a werewolf eats everyone in your family but somehow you escape, the experience might awaken supernatural powers in you.  The Orders of Solomon find a lot of these awakened souls, but many slip through the cracks and go rogue, or join tiny cells of other awakened individuals.  The Orders of Solomon are simply the big umbrella organizations operating throughout Europe, the New World, or even the East.  It’s not as though an angel of God visits you and says, “Congratulations!  Tell him what he’s won!”  You’re still traumatized by your catalyst.  All of a sudden, you can do things others cannot.  Now here comes some guy in a fancy suit who tells you this is a gift from God and introduces you to your own catalyst surviving support group.  Who WOULDN’T want to believe that?  And, in the case of the Crusaders Inviolate, the poor fellow who starts asking too many questions is probably going to be ruled a liability and kicked off the island in a bloody and discreet fashion.

While the core rulebook focuses mostly on Europe and the Colonies of the New World, it makes one thing very clear: Witch Hunters exits in all faiths, Christian and otherwise.  The Ghost People and Dreamwalkers are Native American orders that have no relation to the European orders and are certainly not Christian.  Yet they possess all the powers and benefits of witch hunters.  This is expanded on in other sourcebooks.  We have orders of Witch Hunters among the Jews (Seekers of Emet) and Islam (the Falcons of God — and you can bet Sunni Islam probably hosts two or three orders alone!).  Most witch hunters are pragmatic enough to believe there is some symmetry to faith, that the Great Spirit of the Native Americans is just another reflection of the Christian or Islamic God.

But you can always count on the Aztecs to screw everything up.

[Semi-Spoiler Alert!!!]

In the Aztec Empire sourcebook it is revealed that even the Aztecs have orders of witch hunters among them, and that the Spanish witch hunters have no idea how that’s possible given the gods the Aztecs worship.  But considering there might be witch hunters among the Hindu and Buddhist faiths, this makes total sense.  So obviously the relationship between witch hunters and faith is a lot more complicated.  Perhaps, depending on your perspective (here’s a gimmick for your Lightbringer character), there IS NO relationship between faith and witch hunterdom.  Perhaps the power exists in all mankind, dormant and forgotten.  Cue the Order of Judas!

No, seriously. Have you heard the Good Word?

So with that established, let’s look at a couple of Orders that offer plenty of wiggle room for those players who might feel dirty when they start talking about God, or those who just like to do things differently.  Each of these are pulled right from the religion descriptions of each order.

The Crusaders Inviolate are devout; however, their understanding of the word of God is unique to the brotherhood. It approximates Catholicism, but includes aspects of animism, pagan religions, and other more exotic rites. The Crusaders Inviolate would simply refer to themselves as soldiers of God.

Subtext: No one else observes Christianity the way the Crusaders do.  They may as well be a sect onto themselves.  Any right-minded Christian would accuse the typical Crusader of any number of sins against God (heresy, idolatry, you name it).  In other words, your character is devout, but to what?  Remember, the Crusaders are descended from Knights Templar and for whom Freemasonry is a front.  A creative player (or GM) can half all manner of fun defining what Crusaders actually believe.

The Lightbringers are distinctly humanist. Religion can be a substantial part of that belief system, but only if it embraces human potential and free will. Most Lightbringers, for in- stance, embrace Christianity for its philosophy of the elevation of man. Lightbringers disdain any theology or sect, however, like the Puritans’ that proposes predestination or original sin.

Subtext: The Lightbringers are Christians the way we often interpret the United States founding fathers these days: as deists.  That is, their brand of Christianity is a weird mix of philosophy, legal thinking, and erudite thought.  Your average modern born again Christian would be aghast.

The Stalkers of the Unseen Hunt tend not to put complete trust in such religious trappings. Perhaps this is because the priests of their homelands, worshippers of pagan gods and nature spirits, failed to protect them so long ago. To them, the wilds are battlegrounds, places to which they venture out of necessity. Nature itself, if it has any sort of divinity, is no more caring than the Christian god who has failed the Stalkers time and again.

Subtext: Well actually, you really can’t get any more overt than that.  The Stalkers don’t care.  You say their powers are given to them by a higher power?  “Sure,” they say, “but what higher power?  Your’s?”  You can easily envision a stalker brandishing a weapon and saying in her best action hero voice: “This is my faith.”  The Stalkers are always going to be the ones who question the blind faith of others.  “If God is love, why is there suffering?  If he made man in his image, why are we such a murderous lot?  Satan, eh?  Well he can kiss my ass, too.”  Of course, you can also have a completely faithful Puritan style Stalker standing next to her arguing the opposite.

Also noteworthy, the introduction to the Stalkers includes: “All that matters to its members, regardless of the faiths they pray to, is the hunt.” [Emphasis Mine]

The Order of Rose and Cross tend to be Christian, except for those few members who are American Indian (see above). The philosophy set down by ancient texts in which the use of magic and ascendancy of reason is married to the Christian Faith is also followed; though this aspect of the Order is kept quiet for fear that the Church may view it as signs of corruption and heresy.

Subtext: I’m careful about what I say about my faith because I don’t want the Inquisition on my back.

So there you go.  Four different orders that could easily accommodate a non-religious (or pagan) witch hunter.

But wait!  Faced with the absolute proof of the existence of Adversary, why would any witch hunter not fall in line behind a belief in a higher power, God or otherwise?  Well, most do.  But that doesn’t always have to be the case.  Let’s turn to those pesky Winchester brothers of Supernatural, a show I think should be a substantial influence on any witch hunter campaign.  When faced with absolute proof of the existence of a benevolent God (they hang with an angel of the Lord for crying out loud), those two knuckleheads come to the conclusion that God is an omnipotent jerk.  That’s pretty much how things operate through a lot of the Dresden Files series (at least up until Skin Game – that’s as far as I’ve read so far), which is another good source of inspiration.  I think this point of view can work very well in the world of Witch Hunter.  After all, an omnipotent, all powerful God relies on human emissaries to do his dirty work for him, and people still die horrible miserable deaths even without the help of the Adversary.  It’s easy to see how any witch hunter could be jaded and lose faith.

It’s easy matter to accommodate a “faith-less” or agnostic witch hunter in almost any core Orders of Solomon.  There are exceptions, though. The Ashen Cross is tied into Catholicism. The Sunwise Circle is likewise tied into the Russian Orthodoxy, but are open to working with those of other faiths.

So as you can see, players have a lot of latitude where it comes to their characters and matters of faith.