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Dark Ages: Inquisitor Review

Posted on September 20, 2004 by Flames


Available at Amazon.com

Written by Emily K. Dresner-Thornber, Myranda Kalis, Matthew McFarland, Anthony Ragan, Sarah Roark, Colin A. Suleiman, Adam Tinworth, and Janet Trautvetter, White Wolf Publishing (WW20004), November 2002, 237 pgs, US$26.95

“The Revenge of the Kine” would also be an adequate name for Dark Ages: Inquisitor, where ordinary mortals are called by God himself to serve their fellow man in the vocation of the secret Holy Inquisition. Hold onto your souls kids, we’re entering a medieval world tormented by the get of Satan — from demons to heretics to blood drinking witches, and we are all that stands between man, and his corruption by evil incarnate. We are the men in black. And white. And red. And the rest.

It was a good theory anyway. The horrors perpetrated in the name of God were little better than the Get of Satan is capable of. Torture, murder and mob violence are the staples of the Inquisition, which at its most extreme will stop at nothing to root out the minions of the Adversary. How could a good Christian stand by and let Satan’s minions run freely around God’s Earth? All sin may be absolved, and what is the odd transgression when you are in the practice of saving souls? What choice do you have when the legions of Hell are here, now and stealing the souls of Innocents? Trust in God, and in his Forgiveness.

One of my favorite aspects of this game is that when the Inquisitor’s Conviction for his cause outstrips his faith in God (i.e. Piety- the Inquisitor path) he becomes “Callous”, effectively becoming a killing machine in the name of the Holy Inquisition. The Inquisitor gives in to the dark side of his Nature- his ‘Impulse’. Gone is any empathy for wretched souls tricked or being coerced by Satan, “Kill them all for God will know his own” is the sort of cry that comes to mind when an Inquisitor turns to the dark side of the force.

In service to the Holy Roman Church there are five Holy Orders divided (similarly to high and low Clans) into Monastic and Lay orders. These five orders are under the command of Cardinal Marzone who answers to the Pope, to God and to no one else. He and those under him are charged by the Pope with the Holy task of eradicating Satan’s evil from all of Christendom, while remaining completely unknown of (at this stage) by the common populace, including most of the Church itself. These Orders include Honorable Knight-Monks, Nuns who gain visions from God, A Noble house with a nose for the stench of evil, A broad spy network, and even an Order who actually desires to use the knowledge of Hell against its minions, but often at a terrible cost.

Steeped in ignorance as to the strengths and weaknesses of demons, and being only fragile, God-fearing mortals themselves, the Inquisitors are given mighty Blessings from God which take the form of miracles, and similarly are given Curses for being greedy in seeking power too quickly, or for having imperfect faith. Blessings from God are not bought with experience, rather they are purchased with the Holy Conviction that the Fight engenders within every inquisitor that their cause is just.

Inquisitors, while on an individual basis are not even vaguely as powerful as a Vampire, Werewolf, Mage or Fey, employ the awesome strength of the Flock. This is the one power that all of the mightiest creatures in the world fear, that of those they prey upon (in one way or another) rising up collectively against them, the herd stampeding the predator, so to speak. Inquisitors may be unable to employ unholy methods to gain hellish strength, speed or even the use of hell-spawned magic, but they have the single most powerful organization at their backs, whose members follow, out of blind faith and sheer desperation to save both their lives and souls.

Having mentioned their weaknesses, some Inquisitor Blessings are truly horrific. They may create true sunlight (at a low level), and at higher levels may reflect Unholy Powers back upon the caster (including Potence!), equal the physical statistics of a foe, call down the Wrath of God, or even force ‘demons’ to join in a glorious hymn praising Almighty God, inflicting copious amounts of aggravated damage in the process. For all their anti-magic pretense they seem to be awesomely potent magic-users, to me at least. While not as versatile as a Mage, resilient as a Vampire, or combat munchkiny as a Werewolf they represent the terrifying power of the Flock, and the Flock is not happy.

Inquisitors are God’s bastions of strength among the Flock, having been blessed with several abilities that set them apart from their fellow man, as well as the denizens of Hell. As with Vampires, Inquisitors have Virtues, although these have also been further refined into “Superior Virtues”- Conscience growing into Faith, Self-Control into Wisdom and Courage into Zeal. Superior virtues grant the Inquisitor resistance to unnatural powers like thralldom, memory alteration and fear effects. God has given the Inquisitors four different types of ‘Blessings’ including Orisons, Endowments, Ritae and the Holy Art.

Orisons are the weakest of the blessings, generally performing some minor feat- e.g. turning the Inquisitors blood toxic to Vampires, enhancing ones knowledge, or reducing the need for sleep. Endowments have different facets, which are drawn upon by different Superior Virtues. Holy Ritae include everything from exorcism to creating holy armaments, while the Holy Art is similar to path magic of the Tremere, with three paths representing the three aspects of the Divine Trinity.

‘Well, what the hell do you think about it?’ you are probably asking by now. Well, I quite like Dark Ages: Inquisitor, although I am extremely annoyed that you need Dark Ages: Vampire to be able to run a game, whether you want it or not, because only it contains the core rules. A lot of the book is given to explaining how the inquisition thinks, and rightly so, it is very hard to shift from modern day thinking to such a narrow minded, contradictory and ignorant world view. It is a real culture shock shifting from a Mage or Vampire game to an Inquisitor game as the sheer ignorance of the group. Despite its power, its core concept is ‘If it ain’t us it’s the Devil’s work’ makes for a very interesting, if limiting, game. I love the fiction (there is an awful lot — more than a whole chapter) about Leopold von Murnau and the other hunters, as well as the way that the Inquisition’s view on the supernatural is explained during a story (in a very Tolkienesque manner if you ask me).

All in all, this game embodies (even if it appears otherwise) what all the WoD games historically entailed- “We may not be right, we do not have all the answers, but we are going to give life the best damned shot we can give it. We are going to act in a manner and try and protect our friends and family and ourselves, for our own purposes, enforced upon us by our own circumstances.” This way of thinking is what has led me to love White-Wolf games in the first place- the dissolution of the good vs. evil cliché, and the characters (regardless of what they happen to be) acting simply as life has shaped them to act. The concept of ‘we may not have all the answers, but we’ll give it our best shot’ is a universal one.

Reviewer: Peter Holian

Dark Ages: Inquisitor is also available in eBook format at RPGNow.com

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