How to conquer a fief

The magi in my saga are currently trying to seize control of a small fief. In itself, that isn't terribly difficult. We are interested in suggestions, however, in how to do that without getting Marched or provoking an armed response from the local nobility.

Some brief history: The year is 1212. Our covenant is located on a vineyard in Languedoc (fairly close to Albi, in fact). The vineyard nominally owed fealty to a wealthy knight, though this knight has recently died in battle. The magi's laboratories are located in a cave beneath the villa where most of the covenfolk lived. Prior to the beginning of the Albigensian crusade in 1209, the vineyard was quite prosperous (minor wealth boon), but it is currently inactive.

At the start of the crusade, the magi decided that they were unwilling to abandon the covenant but couldn't really defend (or hide) it, either. So, they sent away all the covenfolk (save for a handful of loyal retainers) and hid themselves in the cave in the hope that they could hide until the crusade was over.

Unfortunately, the Albigensian crusade lasted a long time, and a highly prosperous vineyard proved a tempting target to the crusaders. The vineyard (and the villa) have been occupied by a few crusading knights who don't look to be going anywhere any time soon. Attempts to outwait the knights proved futile, because there's only so long you can hide out underground eating CrHe(An) magical rabbit pellets. So, the magi found an alternative escape route from the cave. Unfortunately, the alternative escape route was through a dangerous regio, and the magi were forced to leave their retainers (including an apprentice and a familiar) behind.

Now, we want our covenant back, so our problem is this: We have to somehow get rid of (or suborn) the knights occupying the vineyard, reassert control of said vineyard, and then secure the covenant against crusader reprisal. Our initial thought was that we should simply take some of our (considerable) wealth, hire an army of our own, evict the occupying knights, and then quickly build whatever defenses we might need to hold the covenant in our own right. The problem, of course, is that the occupying knights probably have the backing of someone who has the backing of ... (etc.) ... someone who has the backing of the leaders of the crusade and/or the King of France. That's a war we can't win.

Currently, most of the fighting is occurring many miles south of the covenant. If possible, we'd like to keep it that way. (Historically, the crusaders pretty quickly secured northern Languedoc and merely had to put down the occasional revolt or insurrection around Albi itself.)

*Tremere magus. An Herbam specialist with a Gentle Gift. He knows The Bountiful Feast and is the reason the vineyard had been so prosperous.
*Bonisagus magus. A Creo specialist with a Blatant Gift. He has a focus in Healing but is more skilled in CrIg than the he admits.
*Jerome, the son of the vineyard's previous (mundane) overlord. While not a knight, Jerome is of the knightly class and has recently come of age. During the war, the magi hid him in a nearby monastery at the request of his father, who was killed during the crusade. Jerome might make a decent tame nobleman.
*Silver. The magi have a lot of it, and CrTe can make more, if necessary. Money is no object to the covenant. (In our Tribunal, creating silver ex nihilo is not yet illegal, but we rather expect that to change at the next Tribunal.)
*There are no fortifications in the vineyard, so the knights don't really have the capacity to hold off a siege.

*A lance of mounted warriors is occupying the covenant. Moving against them too obviously would (probably) invite serious reprisal from their lord.
*We don't worship every iota of the Code, but we'd like not to be Marched at the next Tribunal.
*We're not sympathetic to the crusaders, but we'd also just as soon not do anything too evil in taking back our covenant. Ultimately, both magi are relatively pious (for magi, at least), and neither wants to go to Hell.

Wild Cards:
*The monastery up the road. Our previous mundane overlord founded it to keep tabs on us, and our relationship with it has always been a little complex. Some of the monks remain skeptical to hostile to the two reputed "heathen sorcerers," but the vineyard has been pretty generous in its charity to both the monastery and the peasantry. Moreover, at least two of the monks are firm allies of the magi due to our assistance in clearing up a little diabolist problem. The monastery is probably an ally, but using it increases the risk that the Inquisition will come calling.
*House Tremere. As a Tremere, our He specialist is a bit of a drop-out, so it would be fairly difficult for him to secure aid from his House. Currently, he and the House leave each other alone, but the drastic changes in his circumstances might lead the local exarch to reevaluate things.

Any suggestions?

1 Like

Get yourself some bandits...

This will draw out the knights (unless they are not good Christian knights)...

There will be plenty of opportunities to 'cull' the herd.. :blush:

See if you can find something for these lazy knights to go do...kill a dragon (oooo, thats hazzardous :open_mouth: ), or something like that.

If there is a moat, have your Herbam fella make the moat smell as bad as possible...really bad.

Shut down the supplies coming into the castle...quietly of course (see bandits above), or not.

Spells to make the roof leak, walls to crack, and generally be miserable..

Cast some spells to make their arms rust/degrade fairly quickly...
They will be forced to replace expense.

If they have any outside support, see if you can undermine that...if you can do that, it will help the above tactics work...make them NOT want to be there.
Make them want to leave....when they are ready, offer them a pittiance for the lands..they might take the money and run...

My suggestion:

As your magi see, the party of your 'occupying knights' is likely to win the crusade.

So you should get rid of the 'occupying knights' by using your magic to make them appear as turncoats and - if possible - heretics to their lieges. At the same time build up Jerome as a good Catholic and staunch pursuer of Cathars, but with local connections useful for the the feudal hierarchy in statu nascendi, and have him toady up to them.

Once the standing of the 'occupying knights' with their lieges is destroyed, engineer some apparent final heinous act of theirs, and have Jerome with a few soldiers - and your support - take care of them.

Kind regards,


I like that, but you could go for more subtlety. Poor crops. Anxious staff (ReMe to make them lazy or make mistakes more often). Increase weed growth. The smelly moat sounds good, but create a dead cow so they don't get too suspiious.

Spread rumors of better spoils elsewhere (true or not).

Perhaps some deft political handling (local politics) could end re-instating the rightful heir. Or, better yet, have him arrive from 'far away' and offer to RETAIN the knights as in, I have XX pounds of silver and will pay for new equipement if you continue this crusade in the blah-blah region (where the fighting is strongest).

Purchase a twonhouse in a nearby city, staff it with pretty wenches and offer to replace horses and equipment.

Retain the knights and send them as the owners levy in another crusade or hire them off to the next pilgrimage caravan. Perhaps even sponsor a certain group of monks to make the pilgrmage. While everyone is away, hire/retain another larger unit before they return.

A couple of these might cheat the line a bit on the Code, but you could probably get away with it.

Just my two pennies...


Why not recruit these knights?
Find some impoverished nobleman and offer to dower his daughters.
Let these knights know , or have overtures made to them about these (now) wealthy noblewomen.
This may require some regular yearly payments if you dont want to place too much cash upfront.
Use intermediaries if necessary , so that your Magi are not directly interfering with mundanes.

Lay down a tidy little "prophecy" that if you fief is bothered, there will be divine/supernatural/Inernal whatever retribution. If any of the local nobels get upity, have your herbam specialist blight his crops.

I really like your plot ncl!

I wanna second the many ideas on wearing them down by longer term means as destroying crops, making serfs and servants go troublesome, decaying equipment and making the water stale. Using whatever means your magi have. And then offering the weary knights an easy way out - e.g. using the heir apparent and/or the silver. It might not have to be to hire the knights go somewhere specific - it might be as simple as the heir arriving, telling that this place has value to him and he wants to compensate them with silver for giving him his native lands. Be sure to breif the young man to present himself as rather naïve and the silver he's willing to pay overprized (compared to the value the knights thinks the troublesome land has). This should make the knights think that they are the sly ones who gets the better end of the bargain - and making people think they are clever is alway a splendid way to outwit them, their own pompousness working to your benefit...

But also go easy on the big stuff like prophesies, curses and ill rumors - they might backfire horribly on the covenant that expects to live here...


Perhaps your magi should invent an way to lend the crusaders a fair bit of money, lets say make their warhorses and arms get damages or destroyed. Then led them some money and as payment get a piece of land to manage until the debt is settled. In Swedish this was called a “pantlän” and meant that a noble would be given a piece of land from the king as rent form a loan. Pro with this plan is that it doesn’t damage your lands that much. Perhaps you could turn to the king of France who could be interested in lending a fair bit of money and then in return demand the rights to your pet noble ancestral lands.

Quite similar to all the rest of the suggestions but slightly different.

Happy hunting


I agree with Mad Max, get them in debt and offer to pay it off. An option for that is to make sure the local government believes they need to pay more taxes. Send someone to edit the tax records, as long as the knights aren't particularly liked then their claims to have paid fully won't be believed. They would get in even more trouble proclaiming the truth proudly.

There are so many uses you could put a mentem specialist to here to sabotage the knights, put them in debt and disfavour. Smear the reputations locally and at county level. As you don't have a mentem expert on your asset list, then hire one. Spread word in the order that you need a mage for a job and are willing to pay good vis.

You can also go the other way with the debt, and create a TON of silver and inflate his economy till his treasury is worth nothing. Also, if you have a Terram specialists, you could turn all metal in his castle into lead, ruining his arms, armour, most of his tool, and all of his monies. But that can get a bit extreme.

Nice. the only thing is the cow is visible. The knights would just say to a servant... "Go bury that thing".

The STINKY moat would cause the whole castle to be revolting. If someone gets the bright idea to bury the moat....
(Magi working)
the water constantly bubbles out, and the STENCH is now worse... :laughing:
Watch the knights have it dug up (making them look stupid to their retainers) again, but golly, it still stinks aweful...maybe worse now...they might bury it again ( :laughing: :laughing: :laughing: )
Repeat, Rinse.

This way here, you can increase the damage being done (slowly) and they think its THEIR fault.

Berengar's idea expands Very nicely on my first mentions...
Take everything here and dish it ALL out...make their life seem worse than spending eternity in Hell...


Problem with that approach is that mysterious problems without cause getting worse might give rumours of magic and haunting, which while they drive off the mundanes means you have trouble restaffing when you take control.

Best haunting approach is to summon some actual ghosts, wait for the knights to leave and then publicly have the ghosts banished. That way a clear problem is defined and it has been solved. No mysteries to worry the mundanes.

I'm going to add only three bits.

Concerning destroying the crops. This is a great way to win. However, when you take over the property, you now be in the possession of a place that has no crops.

If the intent is to take control of the property, one should consider what condition they want the property they take control of. Are they happy with a hole in the ground, or do they want something they can use? These factors complicate the process and should be considered.

What I would do is try to take over the land through bartering with the other local lords via your mundane agents. If you become the rightful owners of the property in the eyes of your neighbors, then the issues of Hermetic Law can be avoided. Get some companions involved. Perhaps its time for, "The Companion who would be Puppet King."

Thank you all for replying. There have been a number of good ideas that have been tossed around.

A couple of clarifications:
Regarding Jerome - Announcing him as the "rightful heir" probably isn't possible, because he is isn't (except, perhaps, morally). While his father may have been perfectly orthodox, the pope declared his lands (and those of all the other Languedoc nobles) forfeit, and he died fighting the crusade. If Jerome shows up and claims to be the "rightful heir," his life expectancy drops dramatically. The tentative plan is to pose him as an adventurer (a younger son looking for land) from Provence - largely the same accent/culture as the County of Toulouse (same ruler, even) but not the target of the crusade.

As for befouling the moat - I rather like that idea, since it's the kind of thing that would render the vineyard entirely uninhabitable and which the magi could fix pretty easily (CrAq). Unfortunately, there is no moat and no castle. The only stone building on the vineyard is an old villa built above the cave where the magi live. It's big enough to house a couple of knights and their retainers in some style, but it's not fortified by any means. The vineyard's water source is the River Aveyron, which is probably beyond the magi's ability.

The idea of a political solution in which we convince the liege of the occupying knights that disguised-Jerome (aka "The Companion Who Would Be Puppet King") would make a good alternative to the guys occupying our vineyard sounds like a safe long-term option. We could probably get Jerome into the liege's good graces with a forged letter of introduction and some covert magical assistance to Jerome when he goes off to fight the liege's enemies. What I'm still not sure how to do is (A) convince the liege to evict his current vassals-holding-the-vineyard in favor of Jerome, and (B) what to do with those knights once they've been evicted.

Again, thanks to everyone who has offered suggestions.

Ruining their reputation should be within the reach of any magus, with creative use of Imaginem.

is the drinking water from the river or a well? Could always "taint" the well so when ever they drink they get the runs, if they use the river you could do the same to the buckets as they are being hauled to the villa. Start small and let the "taint" grow so they think there may be plague (sure to send them running)

(A) Try to implicate them with heretics.
Herbam magic can make Cathar signs carved into their doors, furniture etc. appear at most unfavorable times, like when the local priest or bishop visits them.
Bundles of cotton cloth can - if unbundled - reveal some slip of paper with conspiratorial contents.
Light signals from the vineyard might appear when there is rumors of rebel activity in the area.
And so on. Make sure to leave most of the figuring out to the locals.

(B) This is business of the liege and the church, not yours. Keep out of it. They will leave the area on their own, if they still can.

Kind regards,


I’m the other player in this game (which is being conducted via wiki, feel free to check out for more information).

I like this option a lot (and even have an idea or two about how to do it). But how viable do people think framing them as Cathars themselves would actually be? Would people actually fall for it? I mean, they are already firmly on the side of the Crusaders. (Hmm… perhaps we could have Jerome show up as an adventurer, kill everyone and “prove” they were Cathars after the fact.)


They have a herbam specialist, they will always have crops.