Adventure Idea: Witch Hunters

I need help thinking out ideas for my next game session. I know at least one of my players has browsed this board, so if any of you are reading of this… get out of here, you bums!

One of my players wants to go visit a neighboring covenant to trade some books. That covenant is a group of Verditious living in Montauban in southern France. I thought it would be interesting for the PCs to show up to discover that the Verditious are in trouble with the authorities or on trial for being witches or something.

So, my first question is, who would have the authority, or the gall, to arrest three magi for being witches in 1190-something Languuedoc? Was there an Inquisition or something of the sort at the time?

Secondly, does anyone have any thoughts on things I should know about, or be prepared for in this sort of story? The big worry is the PCs get there, find out the Verdi are on trial and decide it’s not their problems, but in that case I just have to have a secondary adventure planned… in which the PCs try to break into the Verdi’s library.

Yes, though they were chasing heretics.

Have the PCs commission something from House Verditius prior to the adventure (though it may be a bit late for that if it's for the next game session).

But if the Verditius are deemed heretics/witches, I don't think the Church would let the PCs access their library freely. In fact, the books might very well go up into flames, or into the library of some church official or ...

And watch out for that "causing the wrath of the mundanes" thingy. :wink:

In the 1190s inquisition into heresies was the prerogative and duty of the local bishop. The church of Languedoc was considered in Rome and France as too lax with the Cathars, and too worldly, too.
From 1198 on pope Innocence III takes a very active interest in the individuation and persecution of the Cathars in Languedoc, sending apostolical legates to reform the local church and Cisterciensian preachers to work against heretics.
The assassination of a Cisterciensian apostolical legate, Pierre de Castelnau, in 1208 will trigger the crusade against Languedoc later.

There was no general obsession with witchcraft and witch hunting around 1190. So a bishop starting an all-out witch hunt against local Verditius in Languedoc would interpret his duties in an atypical way for the place and time.
He might have been seriously provoked by the Verditius, be personally obsessed by fear of witchcraft, or harbor secondary, political or financial motives.

Kind regards,


My impression, not contradicted by Wikipedia [witch-hunt], is that witch hunts were more a secular activity than a Church one; Church authorities were more skeptical of witchcraft and had higher standards of evidence and less use of torture, often dismissing cases. Hunts would tend to be secular, possibly initiated and pushed forward by peasanty rather than the secular court itself. Also, all this was more common later on, and largely in Protestant countries.

As mentioned, this is all distinct from Church hunting of heretics, though even that's not automatic -- the Church tried much peaceful arguing and public debates with the Cathars before calling for Crusade.

Mythic Europe can be altered to taste of course, especially one with actual witches and wizards running around. A Chuch which knows the Order is real may take witchcraft accusations rather more seriously than in real life.

When I read the "Order of the Rose", the flavour of the story was that people on average were guarding against the "devil."

The devil's pawns were thought to be witches and warlocks but that was not the devil's only way of causing problems.

It was not the trouble of magic but the trouble that the "witch" would be a consort of some devil.

The book also gives a good bit of information on a couple of the torture techniques of the period and discusses how anyone tortured long enough pretty much will say and confess to anything.

Oh, and if you want to put a twist in your story, you might have the leader of the persecution from the church be a former companion of the Veriditus covenant that maybe was refused a request/demand for a longevity ritual or some other such request.

About the practice of torture in the middle ages:

Transmitted in Roman Law as a way to enforce slaves' depositions, it loses its importance in the high middle ages in favor of the ordeal. (And messing with an ordeal is an occasion/temptation for most Hermetic magi. 8))

The prohibition of the ordeal by Innocence III in 1215, the introduction of the inquisitorial process by the same pope and the transfer of the inquisition from the local bishops to the papal inquisition performed by members of the mendicant orders in 1231 finally led in 1252 to the creation of tribunals of inquisition explicitly authorized to use torture on suspects.

But unless RARodger's Verditius are of very low social standing, we can exclude that in 1190s' Occitania they are tortured in the course of the bishop's inquisition.

Kind regards,


Ooooh, nice. Especially if he still has an invested device or two, which wouldn't be unusual for a Verditius covenant, he can use to create evidence of witchcraft :smiling_imp:

There is a lot of potential here.

Who would have the nerve/authority/gall to take on magi? Anyone who also has a personality that encourages support. That is, this guy could be a proper idiot with no idea how powerful magi are, no status or position in the community, but if he can get the entire village to say 'how high?" when he yells 'jump', then he's a problem.

However it's likely more interesting if the person is a person with a position in society. Because the senario has me asking several questions.

First, why can't the visiting covenant solve this problem by theirself?

The easy answer is the number are against them. Yes they could flee, but their covenant would likely be burned to the ground and that can't happen. So why don't they use magic on this guy and change his mind or something?

Well first maybe he's protected my magic resistance, be is the Virtue or a variant such the divine or maybe infernal. Maybe the leader is secretly a hedgie who wants to steal not only the books of the covenant, but the entire covenant. If he can take out the owners, then as the leader of this local inquisition he could take access to all the 'products of the devil' and 'study them to know their evil ways'.

So maybe a problem of numbers and possible magic resistance keep the magi from stopping the guy. But maybe it's more personal. I always enjoy a personal angle because it makes a situation much more difficult that blasting the guy away. Maybe, the leader is illegitmate son of the leader of the covenant and the covenants leader will not allow magi to harm the man or even work magi on him. Maybe the covenant has performed diabolicism in the past. They have recanted their evil ways, but as a group they feel guilt and merit the punishment for crimes not yet discovered.

Now why get involved?

Well my campaign is fill with proper bastards. If someone was tossing words around like 'burn the witch', they wouldn't get invovled. Actually this is a great point because if the crowds are looking for blood this may force the magi to use subtled magics rather than blasting powers, which will turn on them as the crowd out number them.

But the proper bastards I play with might try to steal the library as thier peers rot in jail. While not a 'good guy' adventure it is an adventure and to the taste of my 'bad guy' players.

But in a troupe that is more good guy than bad guy, there are all sorts of reasons to get involved. First, always always consider lineage. Nothing is tighter than a family bond. Perhaps one of the magi shares the same Pater as a character, they are in effect a 'brother' or 'sister'. Perhaps one of the magi is a Pater, or a former apprentice depending on age. Maybe it's an actual blood related family member.

Beyond this maybe they own the troupe vis or a project. Or maybe the troupe realizes that if they save these misfits they will have a covenant in thier debt, which can be exploited later. This is the only way I could likely get my proper bastards to 'the right thing'. The opportunity to exploit them later!

So what could a wizard do to piss off the comunity in which he lives?

Specifically, three Verditious living in Montauban. I'm trying to come up with reasons why the community would be eager to see them burn.

Any thoughts?

The reason does not have to "fully" make sense.

For example as a true event that occured. One community executed a cow for being in league with the devil. The proof was the milk had soured and the cow kicked over a lamp which burned down the barn.

A seemingly natural event like a lightning bolt hitting a church and causing it to burn could cause people in this time to accuse people of being in league with the devil.

Another possible case could be that is well known now that every year the new milk will not clot properly ( making it impossible for a week to enjoy foamy laite ) for one week. This could easily get a person a claim of devil work.

Various natural disasters could lead to plagues of rats and this could lead to all sorts of accusations.

Just plain rumours can be enough to cause people to suspect problems ( like the witch turned me into a newt but I got better or the Stephen King story Needful Things ).

A diabolist or marched wizard framing them for something they've done?
The obscure machinations of House Tytalus, testing the PC's or the Verdiitious for future suitable as pawns/challenges?
Rival Verditious magi seeking to remove them from the house?
The verdi are pawns in the schemes of various, powerful beings, and another such see them as obstacles?
One of the Verdi did something accidental which caused the trouble?
The magi on trial have pissed the local fae off, who are now actively antagonizing everyone therebouts, blaming the local covenant for thier presence?

I could think of some more, but I'ts a bit late for me...


If the Verditius with some clever business idea just became a pain in the neck of the major merchants and nobles of Montauban, these might arrange for convenient accusations of heresy - not just witchcraft. If these worthies get the bishop on their side, the Verditius can be declared heretics in very short time.

In 1172 the people of Viterbo accused their northern neighbours and competitors, the citizens of Férento, of heresy because they represented Christ on the cross open eyed instead of with closed eyes, then without further ado laid siege to Férento and destroyed the town. And if you now look around for 12th and early 13th century representations of the crucified Christ, you will find many with open eyes, and very few with closed ones. :wink:

Kind regards,


An interesting point of the charge of heresy was it gave the church the legal right to seize all lands and money of the accused.

This is why the templars were charged by the church with heresy because it gave the pope the ability to seize all of their wealth.

It was the King of France, Philippe le Bel, who charged the Templars with heresy and devil worship. He tried to get his hands on the wealth of the Templars soon after he pressed the charges, but likely was disappointed by what he found and got - as Cyprus was not within in grasp. But at the same time he also got rid of a power entrenched in France which he could not control.
Pope Clement V knew early of the accusations of Philippe, did not believe them, but was inexorably drawn into the mess when Philippe made them public, got the first confessions from Templars under torture, and requested that the Pope do his duty and start the inquisition into their heresies - all the time creating new faits accomplis by seizing further Templars and their possessions.
Clement V got back some of the initiative, and especially the control of the timing of the processes, by indeed activating the ecclesiastical courts of inquisition and issueing the bullae Pastoralis praeeminentiae and later Facians misericordiam. But that move not only caused the King to speed up his own processes even more while he still could, but also officialized the accusations against the Templars and caused their - generally half-hearted - persecution also in most other countries.

Kind regards,