Friday, April 16, 2010

Witch Hunters!

So I spent an inordinate amount of time perusing a hardcover game called Witch Hunter today over at Ye Old Game Shoppe (that's Gary's Games in Greenwood for those who haven't been reading for awhile). "Inordinate," says I, because it is the type of game I have venomously derided many times on this very know, the giant, slickly-produced, glossy hard cover tome, thicker than a college Calculus text and full of a mind-numbingly painful skill system.

In other words, the standard recognizable descendent of White Wolf Game Studio.

And not surprising, really, considering that Paradigm Concepts (the responsible company of whom I've never heard) appears to be based out of Florida, somewhat the same region as WW's Georgia location. Maybe they all game at the same local venues and cons?

Well, anyway, I didn't buy it (the game or the design), but the black-and-white artwork inside was wonderful, reminding me of something but not anything I could put my finger on...the old GW Slaves to Darkness, maybe? No...something more consistent. Even the print technique itself. Honestly, I don't know, but I flipped through the book gazing long and lovingly at some very cool artwork.

The CONCEPT of the Witch Hunter and 16th-17th century role-playing in general is a pretty cool least I'M a sucker for this particular genre. On the other hand, I also am big into witches, and a new not-so-secret game project I've been mulling over is one based solely around witches living in the know, the old crone ones, not the little minxes of Charmed or something. The conflict...between the witch and the hunter...I find it makes for some fine, cool drama.

Which is why I find the Compleat Adventurer's witch hunter entry a huge and cool boon to anyone's B/X campaign. Talk about "flavor country;" I find the text for this character class to be the most inspiring (from a "adventure/campaign inspiration" standpoint) of any of the new classes presented. For the benefits of folks that don't own the book (now out-o-print) I'll quote some of it (written by Stephan Michael Sechi):

Witch hunters are an unusual class of characters who combine tracking skill with a knowledge of mysticism and ritual magic. There are two distinct types of witch hunters: those who are lawful good and the unscrupulous type known as chaotics.

Lawful good witch hunters work primarily out of devotion to their church and deity. Like paladins, they will only have close associates with those of their own alignment. As their motives are religious (rather than financial) in nature, lawful good witch hunters will not accept work that in any way conflicts with their alignment or beliefs. They may be employed to find missing persons, retrieve lost or stolen holy items, hunt down necromancers and other spell casters of evil alignment, or to perform any sort of missions which will be of benefit to the church. Though they may charge for their services [they] will usually donate at least half of their monies to the church, keeping only what they need to live...

Chaotic witch hunters on the other hand, have no ties with any organized church or religious group. Like bounty hunters, most of these individuals will accept nearly any sort of work providing there is money to be made. While chaotic neutral witch hunters are usually no worse (or better) than the average bounty hunter, their chaotic evil counterparts are dangerous fanatics who prey upon the superstitious beliefs of commoners and nobility alike. These witch hunters will often travel to villages and towns and "volunteer" to rid the area of witches, warlocks, and other spell casters, citing the dangers which such "devil-worshippers" present to the god-fearing populace. As proof of their good intentions, they will usually accept no fee until such time as they capture, bring to trial, and convict their first "witch." As students of history will recall, most witch trials consisted solely of torture, false accusations, and the subsequent execution of the defendant. There is a 50% chance that any such trial will strip up the demand for further trials [JB: wow!] thus ensuring the witch hunter's continued employment in the area. Not surprisingly, such witch hunters are much despised by spell casters of all alignments, and are occasionally subject to vengeful counterattacks.

That's just awesome stuff.

Witch hunters in CA are limited to human race and Lawful Good, Chaotic Neutral, or Chaotic Evil alignment. Interestingly, they all have the same exact abilities regardless of how they are aligned...the real difference (and there is a REAL difference between the Lawfuls and Chaotics!) is how they put those abilities to use.

Now some may feel the "witch hunter" character wouldn't be an appropriate fit for the pseudo-medieval fantasy world of D&D (though somehow monks do fit). However, I'd actually take a page from the original Dragon Lance books on this score...the early stories of Weiss and Hickman featured several witch hunts/trials/persecutions, even of main characters (notably Raistlin and Crysania). Hell, it's D&D. There's plate armor and no gunpowder. Might as well throw witch hunters in as well!

Even the Chaotic Neutral witch hunter (which for B/X D&D I would simply consider a "Neutral") sounds like a great character, similar to many of the witch-hunters found in Japanese manga and anime (the wandering "ghost slayer" or "vampire hunter" or whatnot). Solomon Kane is also a great inspiration of course, as is Van Helsing (in all his various incarnations). Dig it. You could have a whole campaign just centered around witch hunters of various alignments, perhaps companioned with other adventurers (including spell casters) of similar alignment and temperament. Or a Chaotic Evil (straight "Chaotic" in B/X) could be hunting a lawful party due to the "witches" in their midst, or even certain "evil" magic relics in their possession.

Anyway, I like it. I especially like that Sechi's witch hunter is not immediately assumed to be some goody-goody "fighting the forces of evil" or whatnot (a la Paradigm Concepts massive RPG). Just as with the other classes in (B/X and Original) D&D, you have the full spectrum of humanity available for the class, for good or ill. That's totally hip.

Now I should probably work up the class...
: )


  1. I had some issue with this book as well, but not the same ones you did.

    I am curious to see your witch hunter class and how well it might be able to face off against my OSR witch class. ;)

  2. @ Tim: check my latest, greatest post and tell me what you think!
    : )

  3. The Witch-Hunter is perfectly medieval, although the medieval witch-hunters were mostly friars and not, obviously, Solomon Kane.

  4. @ Matt: Right on...though I'm afraid I will forever picture witch hunters with the pilgrim hat and musket (as per Solomon Kane, Games Workshop models, the Van Helsing movie, etc., etc.). Just as I'll always picture friars as Fat Friar Tuck's.

    My brain is lazy sometimes... : (