Copyright 1995 by Rich Staats
I have to hand it to Pete on this one! The topic of ''Plot Hooks'' is a great idea!
This is the seed for a campaign I always wanted to run but have not had the chance to, yet. The
concept came to me after reading the ''Hexen Hammer'' which was the guidance from the Catholic Church
to its Inquisitors in Northern Europe. Like most, I had been conditioned to believe that the Inquisition
was vile in all its incarnations and assumed that the guidance from the See of Rome to the world must
have been equally irresponsible and evil. To my surprise, the document was very well written and even
handed! (Certainly, it was not always applied that way.) Many of the precepts of our modern judicial
system were contained in the ''Hexen Hammer'' including the concepts of what constituted fair evidence
Genre: Semi-historical, light fantasy
The Campaign takes place in North-Central Europe at the end of the 13th Century. The golden
age of the mounted warrior has fallen across Europe. The house of Hapsburg has carved out a niche
which will last another 500 years, and the Inquisition is at its height. The land has been ravaged by war
after war, and an entire generation of men has been lost to the Bohemian and Holy Roman Empire's
conflicts. Although the Bohemians have been assimilated into the Hapsburg dynasty, the warring nobles
have turned their aggressions to their old allies. Chaos, disease and famine still rule the day, but the
future does look hopeful, and the plague is still 60 years in the future. ;-)
The more specific setting is in the neighborhood of Marchsfeld in the holdings of Rikkaberg, the
craggy keep of Duke Bernardyn the Just. Duke Bernardyn took over after completing a time as the ward
of Graf Ubel, his uncle. Bernardyn's father, Aldo, was killed in the Eighth Crusade on the long road back
from Tunis in the company of Graf Ubel who still curses the Turks for poisoning the deceased Duke's
The Holy Catholic Church is the champion of good in this part of the world, and although it has
had its failings in other locals, the Church is viewed with respect and deference in Rikkaberg. The local
clergy are zealous in their service, and most would rather die than betray their vows or bring discredit
upon God's communion on Earth. The Church was a bastion of stability during the turmoil of the wars
waged across the frontier. The current Abbott is especially well respected.
There are no wizards, druids or sorcerers. There is magic in the world, but it comes in but two
varieties, the miracles of Faith and the vile machinations of Satan through his minions, warlocks and
witches. Witches are truly evil and arrange for things like famines, deformities and disease.
PCs: The player characters are displaced minor nobility (Landsnechte) with the education and
finances to adventure for the common good.
Duke Bernardyn - the good and wise ruler of the lands the PC's come from. He was
widowed with no heirs. He still grieves for the loss of his beloved wife, Yseult, and has vowed never to
remarry. If the Duke had a flaw, it was in his willingness to forgive wrongs against him and a weakness
for his family.
Kuonrada the Wise - the strong willed niece of Bernardyn appointed as protector.
She has long been a favorite of the Duke, and she rules the equivalent of a barony. The Duke sought her
council on all important issues.
Graf Ubel of Marchsfeld - evil uncle of Duke Bernardyn. Ubel has long considered
himself to be the proper ruler of Rikkaberg and its holdings, and Bernardyn's possession of it is only a
coincidence of birth. Ubel is not a direct man though and would rather plot for years and take revenge in
a complete way than tip his hand too early. Ubel is clever and heartless. In particular Ubel hates
Kuonrada who spurned his advances on her.
Abbott Ablard - the head of the local monastery. Ablard is a good and righteous man.
He has used the resources of the monastery to service the needs of the people of Rikkaberg. Ablard has
insisted on a liberal education of the young nobles. The Abbott has introduced new techniques of crop
rotation to Rikkaberg that he learned while studying in Italy. Ablard is a veteran of the Eighth Crusade,
and he shares some history with both Bernardyn and the Duke's deceased father, Aldo. Ablard dislikes
Ubel and would use any reasonable means of getting Ubel excommunicated. The Abbott has a deep seated
distrust of authority, and there are rumors he was remonstrated while in Rome for speaking out against
certain doctrines of the Church.
Bosella - vile witch
Father Raymond - Inquisitor. Pompous and very aware of his authority. Still,
Raymond is totally fair, discreet and honest. He has a weakness for poetry.
Brothers Loritz, Lutz, Hacket, Franz and Drugi - monks. Although wholly devoted to
the Church and the betterment of man on Earth, each has a comic character flaw. They are inserted at key
moments to break up tension or divert the party.
Story hook and background:
The PCs have sworn allegiance to Duke Bernardyn. Duke Bernardyn was called away in 1292 by
his uncle, Graf Ubel of Marchsfeld, to Cyprus to recover a family artifact pulled from Jerusalem just prior
to the battle in 1187. In Duke Bernardyn's absence, his strong willed niece, Kuonrada the Wise, was
installed as protector of the Duke's estates.
In 1297, Graf Ubel returned from the Holy Lands claiming that the Duke had been hideously
butchered by the Saracens. Graf Ubel produced a document with the Ducal seal giving him complete control
of Duke Bernardyn's holdings.
Kuonrada called the PCs in, and while they were at the fortress, Rikkaberg, Kuonrada had a
vision of the Duke being betrayed by Graf Ubel and somehow imprisoned. Kuonrada asks the PCs to help
her rescue the Duke and restore order.
Within the week, Graf Ubel had seized control of Rikkaberg and denounced Kuonrada as a witch.
When Kuonrada's chambers were searched, several Satanic implements were discovered. Kuonrada has
maintained that she is completely innocent. Graf Ubel has requested that the Inquisitor at Ulm send an
agent to deal with Kuonrada's witchery. Even as the adventure begins, Father Raymond is making his
way across the paths leading to Rikkaberg.
Abbott Ablard has offered to accept Kuonrada's confession in lieu of a confession with the
Inquisitor. In exchange, Abbott Ablard will take Kuonrada in as a nun to prevent the use of any untoward
''methods" the Inquisition might employ. (Abbott Ablard has confided to the PCs that he believes
Kuonrada completely innocent, but he distrusts any organization such as the Inquisition to uncover the
Campaign Elements for the GM:
The Duke is still alive, but he is held by Turkish allies of Ubel in Macedonia. (These are the
same allies who poisoned Aldo.) A manuscript containing a map showing this place is in the monastery.
Ubel arranged for the Duke's abduction, and Ubel planted the Satanic items in Kuonrada's
Father Raymond will find Kuonrada innocent if left to his own devices. No one will claim to
have seen Kuonrada practice any witchcraft, and even if Ubel makes such a claim, Father Raymond will
reject his testimony based on Ubel being a biased witness. (Ubel has everything to gain from such a
Kuonrada if left alone will banish Graf Ubel.
Ubel actually serves Bosella who holds a good portion of the realm under her horrid sway. (This
should not arise immediately however. Bosella makes for a good shadowy figure who remains always just
out of the party's grasp.)
Loritz, Lutz, Hacket, Franz and Drugi can be used liberally to give hints or drop clues and red
herrings. The more accidental and bumbling this seems the better. As young nobles, the PCs were likely
schooled at least for a period of time at the monastery. So, it is a natural base of operations for the party.
Father Raymond will cross the party's path again and again. Eventually, the party will come to
see Raymond as a trusted ally.
Father Raymond will be called upon to challenge Bosella. He is really outclassed by Bosella and
will require the party's help again and again before the group is finally victorious. (If Graf Ubel was not
killed earlier in the campaign, it might prove as an interesting plot twist for him to come to the party's aid
when they most need it. Kind of like Darth Vader killing the Emperor in Star Wars.)
Items to emphasize and have fun with as a GM:
The natural tendency these days is to mistrust the Catholic Church of the middle ages. Playing it
as primarily a good organization will tend to catch some off balance. Have some fun with this. Play into
the player's beliefs and then turn the tables with plot twists and red herrings. Adding things like
wandering holy men and lay healers would be a nice touch as well.
People are even more adamant about their disdain for the Inquisition. It will be easy to portray
Father Raymond in such a way that the party's initial reaction is to dislike him. Father Raymond has the
potential to be a long term ally and absolutely critical to the final stages of the campaign; so, the GM must
find a way of getting the PCs to see his good side too.
The party will have seen very little evidence of magic, and when Father Raymond tells them that
Bosella is really a witch, it should be presented in such a way that the PCs are able to laugh it off, i.e. this
guy seems earnest enough, but he really believes it! Ha-ha! Then, slowly introduce Bosella's vile magic.
At first, all of the effects of her spellcraft should be able to be explained in terms of natural phenomenon
or coincidence. As time goes on though, the evidence should become overwhelming.
Remember that Bosella is not a Wiccan or Samantha from ''Bewitched." Bosella is a bone fide
worshipper of the devil and practices vile arts for self aggrandizement. Blinding an orphan and throwing
the tart into the water would be a minor amusement for Bosella.
Have fun blowing the stereotypes and really role-playing the encounters!
Return to Main Page