The Witchfinders – Character Classes

The demi-human classes have already been discussed in a previous post, so this post will deal with the remaining four classes.

The Cleric

The Cleric in this setting is typically, (and not too surprisingly) a Witchfinder, e.g. a man of the cloth who’s purpose in life is to seek out and destroy witches, warlocks, demons, vampires, etc. The Van Helsing type characters of old Hammer movies make for excellent clerics. Of course, a cleric might also be a more traditional priest or monk, if the player so desires.

The Fighter

The Fighter is pretty much what it is in other settings, e.g. someone proficient in fighting and warfare. What might be of importance in this setting is a fighter’s allegiance, that is, on who’s side is he or has he been fighting, and does he still hold some allegiances to one of the parties of the civil war.

The Magic-User

The big question mark in a campaign seemingly geared towards hunting witches to extinction would obviously be the Magic-User class. The Magic-User taps the raw forces of chaos, harnessing the building blocks of the universe. Thus, as per the LotFP rules, all Magic-Users are of Chaotic alignment. The method of harnessing, however, differs from individual Magic-User to other. There are those who seek out otherwordly beings, and perhaps even worships them. These would be the classical devil-worshiping witches and warlocks. There are those who commune with forces other than the Christian god, and find power in places, objects, and creatures both mundane and otherwordly. There are the scientists and doctors who meddle with alchemy, and sciences most people today would consider ludicrous.

Any of these types of Magic-Users risk the wrath of superstitious mobs or zealous Witchfinders, and so they are forced to practise their respective crafts in secret, behind closed doors, or far away from population centers.

Needless to say, a zealous Witchfinder, and a Magic-User who openly flaunts his talent in the same player character party is an ignited powder-keg waiting to explode, and probably best avoided altogether. The same goes for the Elf.

The Specialist

The Specialist can be pretty much anything. The class is customizable enough to emulate any kind of, well, specialist, be it a thief, a grave robber, a scout, a spy, an assassin, a scribe, an interpreter, a wilderness guide, or what have you. The Specialist is what the player makes of him.

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The Witchfinders – Setting

England, the autumn of 1645.

The country has been at civil war for the past three years. The warring parties are the Parliamentarians (Roundheads), and the Royalists (Cavaliers). The specifics of the battles and the politics involved aren’t that important, but if you want to know more, click here.

England has also been involved in Continental Europe, where war has raged for the better part of three decades. More about that here. However, since the start of the ongoing conflict between King Charles I and Parliament, England has pretty much withdrawn from the European theatres of war.

Suffice to say, most English fighting-men are likely to have had their fair share of wars, both against the French, and on domestic soil.

Religion is a big deal in this era’s England. Even though the root of the civil war is basically political (e.g. about the power of the King versus that of Parliament), one of the underlying themes was religion. The Church of England was still a relatively new institution, and many of Parliamentarians were protestant fundamentalist, who were mightily offended by the King marrying a Catholic foreigner. The rise of the puritan ethos would eventually lead to the establishment of a puritan England, and the nigh total abolishment of Catholicism.

One of the side-effects of this religious conflict was the renewal of witch-hunts across the country; Warfare, and the resulting poverty, famine, and disease were fertile ground for fundamentalist religious ideas. The Devil and his witches were easy to placate as scape-goats, as were pretty much any who were not of similar, puritan ilk (Catholics, Jews, foreigners, university students and professors, what have you). The Witchfinders of this era ranged from the pious and the devout clergy, to the more profane magistrates and judges. One also needs to bear in mind, that since the existence of Witchcraft, Devil-Worship, Demonology, etc. were a well-known fact, and not just superstition, Witchcraft was a matter of secular, not religious law. And of course (man being man), there were among the Witchfinders those, that had no interest whatsoever in saving the Souls of Men and Battling the Forces of Evil, as much as pure personal gain, money, and power. More on early modern era witch-hunts here.

It is possible to create a character, who isn’t human. However, the elves, dwarves, and halflings of this setting aren’t your usual fantasy staples. Also, they are much rarer than in most other fantasy settings. Here are some ideas about incorporating demi-humans into the setting:

  • Dwarves are a race of humans. They are degenerate hill-folk, possibly of pictish stock, who live in the northernmost parts of the country. These “dwarves” are shorter than your average anglo-saxon, but not dwarf-short. Rather they average at around 5′, have swarthy skin, heavy brows, sloping heads, thick limbs, bow-legs, and are covered in coarse, black hair. Beard is common, but not universal. These people are commonly referred to as picts, hill-folk, or hill-men.
  • Halflings are also humans, albeit not an ethnicity as much as humans suffering from one of several medical disorders, that cause dwarfism. Halflings in this setting are commonly referred to as midgets.
  • Elves are essentially humans, who have been touched by the wyrd. They might have the blood of something supernatural coursing through their veins, or they might have been raised someplace, where the chaotic energies of the wyld places have been particularly strong. People who might be called “gifted”, or who’d be described as “elfin”, “fey-like”, or “waif-like” are common examples of the elves of this setting. True elves, e.g. the faerie are much too alien to be player characters. Elves are commonly targeted for witch-hunts, so one might be advised not to flaunt their magical knacks or otherwordly nature openly, especially not in the presence of pious witch-finders.
  • I’m planning on setting the starting point of the campaign somewhere in Norfolk. It is a large, and rather sparsely populated county in the east of England, commonly considered a rural backwater populated by simple country bumpkins. Even today, there is a (possibly allegorical) saying among the medical professionals in England: Normal for Norfolk. It is a derogatory term describing someone of low intellect or mental deficiency.

    When reading these posts one needs to bear in mind, that the goal is to create a setting for Weird Fantasy Role-Playing, not 100% historical accuracy. Therefore, some simplifications have and will be done. In other words, I don’t care if the the King really got his arse handed to him at the Battle of Bollocks. The civil war, the religious strife, and all that josh is just the backdrop. What’s of greater importance is what the Players do, and how historical events, places, and persons would make the greatest contribution to telling Weird Fantasy stories set in this era.

    To my players possibly reading this blog: What kind of stuff would you like me to write about next?

    The Witchfinders – The Basics

    Here’s the basic rules and setting outline for the campaign:

  • Unless otherwise noted, the LotFP rules set applies.
  • There is going to be firearms. And chainmail armor is pretty much obsolete because of it. We’re trying out Jim’s upcoming firearms rules set.
  • Since shields have fallen out of style, carrying a light off-hand weapon gives the same bonus to AC in melee as a shield would. A light off-hand weapon might be a dagger, a maine gauche, a hatchet, a sword-breaker, a torch, a stool, a wrapped up cloak, or anything else that might fit the genre.
  • Initiative works like this: Every party involved rolls a die. Usually a die for the party, and a die for the enemy. On a tie, the players’ party are the winners. After determining which party is faster, the loser declares actions. Then the winner declares actions and acts, individual order decided by dexterity modifier. Then the loser acts, again individual order decided by dexterity modifier. Actions go off in this order: Movement, Magic, Ranged Attacks, Melee Attacks. Actions not specifically noted as being within these categories go off last. The order of action types trumps the order determined by dexterity.
  • Taking some time to clean and bandage wounds gives one hit point back instantly. This only works once per after combat phase. NOT bandaging wounds might mean the wounds continue bleeding, get infected, or some other unpleasantness.
  • Being Witchfinders does NOT mean there needs to be a cleric or clerics in the party. Neither does it mean you can go all Spanish Inquisition on Everyone You Meet. Do that, and I guarantee someone WILL slap you down. Don’t believe me? Go check out the ending of that movie where Vincent Price plays Matthew Hopkins, The Witchfinder General. Anyway, holier-than-thou clerics are boring as shit.
  • Regarding the setting: This is not Ye Merry Old England. This is 17th Century Weird Fantasy England. The Owls are not what they Seem.
  • You are NOT allowed to trump the referee with your superior knowledge of real world history.
  • You ARE allowed to do anything and go anywhere in the world. Wanna go fight a war on the continent? How about a expedition to Darkest Africa? How about the New World? You can do any of those things. Witchfinders in Civil War era England is just the starting point. Be advised, however, that you might wanna give the referee the heads up before going off the painted areas of the map, so that there will be something interesting for you to do when you get to where you were going.
  • That’s it off the top of my head. I’ll add to the list if I come up with anything else. I now have three interested players (Jim, Mattias, and Juho). I’m still waiting for a few people to reply, but looks like The Game Is a Go!

    The Witchfinders

    It is the Year of Our Lord 1645. England has been at civil war for the past three years. The land is in turmoil. Scarcely a single village has managed to remain untouched by war, famine, disease, or death, as Royalist, and Parliamentarian troops are roaming the countryside, as are bands of vigilantes called Clubmen, deserters turned to highway robbery, and refugees rendered homeless by the flames of war.

    And then there are the Witchfinders; magistrates, and clergymen devoted to the task of cleansing England of Witchcraft, Deviltry, and Demon-worship.

    Some of them are exactly that; pious men true to their calling, who fight to keep the forces of Darkness at bay. Others… not much more than charlatans motivated by personal gain. Nevertheless, they are given free reign to roam the land, whereas most common folk are bound to their homesteads by happenstance or law.

    Now the question remains: What kind of Witchfinders will you become?

    The Withcfinders is a Lamentations of the Flame Princess English
    language tabletop role-playing campaign, which aims to get started
    sometime in April. I’m looking for 3-5 players available to play on
    Sundays weekly or bi-weekly. The where is still undecided, but will be
    either in Helsinki or Espoo.

    Interested parties may apply.

    Tapiolan Pelikauppa RPG Night

    “That man is no spoon salesman, but a lowly thief! I’d advice you fine gentlemen to keep a watchful eye on your purses.”

    We’ve now played RPG’s at Tapiolan Pelikauppa bi-weekly for the past two months or so. Our game of choice has so far been Jim Raggi’s Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Attendance has been slowly on the rise, with first two people, then four, and a week ago on Monday, a total of six people showing up to play. I’m quite satisfied with the event, as it has managed to generate interest in traditional table-top role-playing amongst our customers.

    It has also been useful in promoting the idea that role-playing isn’t something obscure, only suitable for social recluses. Sure, table-top role-playing is a marginal hobby if you compare it to miniatures wargaming, console gaming, or even board gaming, but it is by no means dead. People still play RPG’s, and getting involved with role-playing isn’t really that hard. All you need to do is show up, roll up a character, and start playing!

    We’re playing again the day after tomorrow, and as no other game masters have volunteered their services, we’re continuing with Jim at the helm. Not that I’m complaining, as I think Jim is one of the most creative and imaginative game masters around, not to mention him being not just your average run of the mill game master, but also the Insane Mastermind behind LotFP: Weird Fantasy Role-Playing, which I consider the best old school game out there, bar none. Don’t get me wrong, I also love Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry, and OSRIC, but Jim’s game really stands out as the only simulacrum game with a definite (and very powerful) voice of its own. LotFP isn’t just a re-imagining of the Mentzer Basic version of D&D; Its heavy metal weird fantasy cranked to eleven!

    As much as I love LotFP, I think its time to add something a bit different to the mix, so starting next week, I’m starting an in-store campaign of my own. It is going to be Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play 2nd Edition, run in Finnish. I’m planning on running games bi-weekly, so from now on every other week will be LotFP, and every other will be WFRP. We’ll continue with this rotation (of course barring other store events, which might take precedence), until we come up with something different. So… if you’re into fantasy role-playing, live in, or in the the vicinity of Espoo in Finland, and have Monday evenings off, there will be a game for you to join, whether you’re fluent in English, or would rather game in Finnish.

    “Feeling the assailment of a black panic, he tottered in darkness and sought to secure his footing on the dangerous incline. But, ere he could relume the blown-out torch, he saw that the night around him was not complete, but was tempered by a wan, golden glimmering from the depths below. Forgetting his alarm in a new wonder, he descended toward the mysterious light.” (from Xeethra by Clark Ashton Smith)

    Weird Fantasy at Tapiolan Pelikauppa, part 3

    Today was our third session of Lamentations of the Flame Princess at Tapiolan Pelikauppa, refereed by Jim Raggi. We had six people show up to play, the most so far. The adventure started out quite inconspicuously with a rainy night at a backwoods inn full of spoon salesmen and Morris dancers. Things went from almost normal to weird quite fast after that, as the innkeeper turned out to be two identical innkeepers, the second innkeeper got his brain bashed out by the first innkeeper, and the Morris dancers’ and spoon salesmens’ horses doubled overnight. Deviltry was definitely afoot!

    When the player characters returned with the village priest in tow, all that was left were dead men and butchered horses. The surviving innkeeper, and the extra horses were all missing. Following the trail north, we soon came upon murdered farmers, then a wrecked carriage, and finally, a duel. A troupe of questing knights had been set upon by unknown assailants, and now all that was left was the last of the knights, and his duplicate, both of who claimed to be the original. The elf cast Sleep, putting the knight down for the count, at which point the doppleganger hissed, and attacked the player characters. In the midst of the melee it assumed the form of PC specialist, after which one of the specialists was run through with a scimitar, and the other bound and gagged, just to be on the safe side.

    Retreating to a nearby orphanage, a closer study of two of the corpses was conducted. My character performed autopsies, and after a night of cutting and measuring body parts, I had discovered a ruby-like gem inside the heart of one of the corpses. Meanwhile the party cleric had managed to find a method of routing out the rest of the doppelgangers, which didn’t require the cutting out of hearts. The last of the doppelgangers was masquerading as one of the orphans. With the assistance of the nuns of the orphanage, we captured the doppelganger in a casket, and proceeded to boil it to death. Problem solved. Well, almost, anyway, as there was still the matter of at least one more doppelganger loose in the village, probably in the guise of the inn’s serving wench. At about this time we had to call it a night.

    In all, a rather entertaining little horror story reminiscent of John Carpenter’s The Thing. We plan on continuing play next Monday. Lets see how many of the players return for another go.

    More Weird Fantasy at Tapiolan Pelikauppa

    Today was our second in-store role-playing game session, this one also refereed by Jim Raggi, and word of mouth had evidently gotten around, as we had three new people show up in addition to the two guys who were there last time. The module Jim ran was one of the three in No Dignity in Death: The Three Brides. Jim’s musings on the topic can be read here.

    This time around we had enough players from the get-go, so the game got underway sans store employees. The characters rolled up were a fighter, a dwarf, a cleric, and two elves. After closing up shop, I joined them with my slightly villainous, and completely unscrupulous Magic-User from last session, Professor Tesla Moriarty of the University of Grallides.

    What I found was an adventuring party who’d managed to go adventuring without any proper equipment at all. You know; lanterns, torches, rope, that sort of things. Not surprisingly, the game session left the party in shambles, with three dead, and the rest running for dear life. Nevertheless, a good time was had by all, and I’m sure these guys will learn the ropes once they get some more experience with this type of gaming. I’m actually not that surprised at their lack of preparedness, as most modern role-playing games tend to treat equipment which isn’t in the category weapon, armor, or magic item as character decoration, with a game effect of slim to none.

    Next session in two weeks!