Tough Justice: Witch Trials

See how the Duck of Taunton lives within him!

Depending who you ask the last trial for Witchcraft in England were either in the 18th Century or in 1944. Still, that leaves several hundred years where it was treated as a serious offence and one punishable – for some time – by death. Of course, there’s not really any such thing as Witchcraft so, at best they were burning delusional old women and at worst an accusation of Witchcraft was used by people to dispose of rivals or prosecute vendettas. Even so, the number of deaths were nowhere near the amount that some neopagans like to quote and seem to have been much more to do with ideas stemming from Judeo-Christian beliefs rather than prechristian ones.

Tough Justice makes for a great way to roleplay this period in history and to put yourselves in the shoes of those who risked their own reputations in defending a ‘Witch’ and those who dedicated themselves to hunting down and prosecuting Witches, either for money and infamy or for some genuine desire to do The Lord’s work – though it’s hard to tell which of these options is worse.

Much of the character creation etc is the same, use your discretion to determine jobs etc which aren’t appropriate. When conducting the trial itself bear in mind that the ‘Judge’ may not actually be a judge at all but may be a priest a bishop, a local landowner or simply a mob, torches and pitchfork in hand who want to be seen to be doing things ‘properly’.

Sex: Women were vastly more likely to be accused of Witchcraft and magic than men were, but men could be accused as well. Roll 1d6, on a 1-5 the defendant is female, on a 6 the defendant is male.
Age: Older people are more likely to be accused of Witchcraft than the young, though not by a great deal. Roll 2D6 to see which age group the defendant falls into.
2: Child
3: Youth
4-5: Young Adult
6-7: Adult
8-9: Middle Aged
10-12: Old
Profession: Roll as normal. If you want to include the supernatural roll 2d6 after you’ve rolled profession and if you get a double 6 they are a genuine Witch, in addition to anything else. Roll another dice if they do come up as a Witch and if you get another 6 they’re Satan himself in disguise! Even if they’re not really a Witch they might think they are and, thus, be guilty but that’s up to the person running the game.
Name/Stats/Good At/Merit/Professional Advantage: All determined as normal.
Offence: Witchcraft is a damning accusation and the prosecution gets a whopping +4d6 CP.

The Trial
Witch Trials all hinge on hearsay, rumour and spurious nonsense. The prosecution will be attempting to sound authoritative and to scaremonger and they have a huge advantage. They can make up just about anything, plant evidence, use witnesses that hate the defendant to lie and given that you can’t really disprove magic per se it’s much more a court of public opinion and a dumb and parochial jury isn’t going to appreciate the finer points of reason, even if you are into The Renaissance or The Enlightenment.

These are trials where dirty tricks are of primary purpose and more conventional defence and prosecution isn’t so effective. Anything that the game ref decides isn’t ‘dirty tricks’ or playing to the crowd suffers a -3 CP penalty, no matter how well you do.

The Risk
Defending a Witch, and failing, will bring the defence under suspicion themselves. If they’ve done particularly badly in their defence or if the prosecution has successfully smeared them, they may well find themselves on trial for their life immediately following the first trial!

Real Magic
If the Witch is a real Witch they may use magic to try and turn things their way. The Witch can curse people with diseases, plagues, poor luck and so forth on a roll of 5-6 and can try once per phase against a different target. If it’s Satan his effects are automatic. Of course it’s also true that magic blatantly being used around a trial will also clue the prosecution and everyone else in that there really is a Witch, even if she’s not the one on trial. Any time magic is successfully used the prosecution gains 1d3 CP.