Well, this is a no-contest question: It has to be the courageous and stalwart men and women of faith who were introduced in Dark Ages: Inquisitor, those hardy few who stand to defend mankind against the terrible minions of the Devil—in other words, anything that wasn’t human, or who called on powers not blessed by the Holy Catholic Church.
Disclaimer: Yes, I admit I’m biased; I worked on the book (both original sourcebook and the Companion). Sarah and I also slipped Inquisitor subplots and characters into two of the Dark Ages (Vampire) Clan novels: Ravnos and Toreador.We really, really liked these characters….
It’s harkening back to the original kind of Vampire story—where the vampire is the monster preying up on innocent people, and some brave soul figures it out (even if no one else seems to believe her). And although the vampire is so much more powerful, with horrific powers of disguise and mind-control, so much stronger and faster, than the puny humans who challenge him, still in the end Good Prevails, and the vampire is destroyed, crumbling away to ashes in the light of the new dawn.
Or, as our vampire characters would call it: A Personal Horror Story.
The Inquisition as referred to here isn’t the Inquisition you read about in history books. They are separate from the Inquisition sent into southern France in the 13th century to stamp out the Cathars, and separate from the infamous Spanish Inquisition (which was really intended to hunt down and punish Jews and Muslims who had supposedly converted to Christianity, but were really still practicing their own forbidden faiths in secret). This Inquisition was formed in the 13th century, and was a secret organization under the auspices of the Church, and aimed specifically at supernatural beings such as vampires, shapeshifters, practitioners of sorcery, demons, and other such creatures, who preyed upon people, or tempted them away from the divine authority of the church. The definitions got a little fuzzy sometimes, because – let’s face it, the poor Inquisitors never get to read the sourcebooks. So what they know about all those supernatural creatures is pretty limited, and they get a lot of things wrong—but they are going to do their best to fulfill their mission regardless.
The fun thing about them – well, lots of fun things:
They work equally well as protagonists (if your player characters are all, or almost all, members of the Inquisition), or as adversaries (if your player characters are something else). You as storyteller need to flesh them out in detail like you’d do for any other NPC, but they can represent quite a formidable threat to vampires—even in the modern day (which are covered by other sourcebooks). The reason they can be a threat is not due to their individual power—frequently, they have none to speak of. The danger comes from their organization; no Inquisitor is ever acting alone, and he (or she) potentially has the full support of the Church behind them—which can mean extensive resources, manpower, and access to information, weapons, and holy artifacts.
You can run a crossover chronicle, and use both Inquisitor characters and others such as vampires (or mages, Garou, etc.). This is tricky—because that means both sets of characters are ‘cooperating with the enemy’ in the eyes of their own kind. But great stories can be wrought from such perilous juxtapositions—there’s nothing like a voice on the other side to give you some advantages (at least in SOME situations). And there is nothing like a dark secret you absolutely have to keep hidden and a secret ally you need to protect from your own kind to spur characters into all kinds of situations.
Some things to think about with Inquisitors (and this goes for mortal characters in general, too, and can be adapted to any time period):
You have to make them human, well-rounded characters. Don’t think solely in terms of religious zealots — they’re not. They’re not one-sided characters, any more than a Cainite or Garou character should be. So you need to look at them as whole people, including both the things that make them RIGHT for the job they’re doing… and the things that, if they were known, would disqualify them utterly, and yet, they strive to do it anyway.
You need to get inside their mindset, on a personal level. You need to understand WHY they have dedicated their lives to this mission, and (if they’re in holy orders) to the church. Not all who are fervently religious are actually in holy orders – and some who are in holy orders are not particularly religious, but may have originally made their vows for other reasons entirely (and not all of them had a choice). You need to work out for each Inquisitor just how deep their faith runs, and how they see themselves, their duties, their superiors, and their adversaries.
Remember that while SOME Inquisitors do doggedly insist that ANY Vampire or magic-worker or shape-shifter or human who associates with them is Eeevil, many of them really know better. Most of them have good reason to doubt sometimes, to wonder if they ARE making the right choices, or pursuing the right bad guys. Some may focus on one particular kind of supernatural (usually the one they’ve had the worst experiences with) as THE worst evil out there, and may not be as zealous pursuing clues that do not lead them to their preferred targets. Others have secret connections or acquired knowledge – or things to hide – that might make them appear less than pure in the truth, should their superiors know everything about them.
The Inquisition is made up of mortal human beings who feel called to do a great mission from God, but that does not make them monsters, or automatically without sympathy for others, even those they hunt, or each other. So you need to really look at the human angle of it all. That’s where the story is, and the drama and emotional power inherent in the setting and these characters’ lives.