Roleplayer #19, April 1990

The Michaelites

Lawmen in the Lands of Ytarria

by Seán Nicolson

This article is not an excerpt from the upcoming GURPS Fantasy Second Edition. It was the independent creation of Seán Nicolson. But it's official Yrth history now, and you'll find references to the Michaelites when the book appears.

The clergy of Megalos have, since the very beginning, found the constant influx of "immigrants" from other worlds to be a threat to the authority and unity of the church. The Order of the Archangel Michael was formed in 1412 A.D. to guide a holy inquisition against non-be-ievers (and non-conforming believers) in Megalos. Led by the fanatical and brilliant arch-mage "Saint" Justinian the Redeemer, the Michaelites purged Megalos with terrifying effectiveness.

The Michaelites dealt purely with religious crimes for their first 200 years, but after that time began to lose influence. Those few heretics left in Megalos were now exceedingly well hidden, and the Michaelites could not provide enough prisoners for the Arena to maintain the order's popularity with the nobles that funded it. Even in the days of its worst excesses, the Michaelite Order prided itself on never convicting an innocent. Fortunately, circumstances led the Order in a new direction.

The murder, in 1634, of a brother of the Emperor seemed insoluble. The Grandmaster of the Michaelites, himself a member of the royal family, launched his own investigation. The experience gained in ferreting out secret covens of pagans was put to work finding the killer, and uncovered a necromantic conspiracy that threatened the Emperor himself!

Since that date the Michaelites have won the respect and support of the rich and powerful by capturing major criminals as well as heretics. Indeed, in Cardiel, they now investigate only secular crimes.

Michaelite Organization

The basic unit of the Michaelites is called a Fist of Michael in Megalos, and a Hand of Michael in Caithness and Cardiel. This is a small group of around five constables who work well as a team. The exact composition of a Hand will vary but will usually have at least one each of the following:

An ordained priest. This rule is followed without exception in Megalos. The priest is usually the leader of the group; in Megalos he is empowered to pass sentence, including death, in such (rare) cases as he judges necessary. In Caithness he gives last rites and hears confessions, functions considered very important by the people of Caithness. Hands in Cardiel often do not have priests, but may have a mullah, or both a mullah and a priest. The priest may also be a soldier or mage.

A wizard, preferably with at least Magery 1. Usually the wizard is the actual detective of the Hand, and chooses spells that help in uncovering clues (see below). In Caithness, wizards are regrettably scarce, and most Hands go without.

The rest of the group will normally be fighters of some sort, with additional skills that flesh out the group's investigative powers (Tracking, Streetwise, etc.).

Most Hands are stationed in a particular city or county for a maximum of three years and then transferred to another area. This is to prevent too much familiarity growing between the constables and the criminal classes, and thus reduce chances for corruption. A few Hands (the elite) will be sent wherever they are needed the most.

Constables are Military Rank 1, and may be promoted through the ranks of corporal (Rank 2), sergeant (Rank 3) and lieutenant (Rank 4) while still operating as investigators. They report to a captain (Rank 5) who may command only a portion of a large city or, in less populous areas, all the Michaelites in an entire Duchy. Captains also supervise Michaelite specialists, experts in analyzing certain types of evidence, who do not join Hands and rarely risk combat. Captains report to a bailiff (Rank 6). In Megalos the bailiffs report to the Michaelite Grandmaster (Rank 7, and often an Archbishop in Megalos as well, and therefore Social Status 6), in Caithness they report to the Arch-bishop for Caithness, and in Cardiel they report directly to the Crown.

On and off duty, the Michaelites wear a blue surcoat with a white shield device. In Megalos and Caithness the shield is quartered by a blue cross. Everyone recognizes this symbol of law and order.

Cooperation between Groups

Though there are no formal ties between the Michaelites in the three Christian nations, they do cooperate on those rare occasions when an investigation crosses national borders. (Assuming, of course, that the crime committed is recognized as such on both sides of the border.) A Michaelite outside his own country will normally receive room, board and advice, by the local Michaelite garrison. However, he will also be expected to let that garrison know about his every move, and not take any action that will embarrass the local branch of the order.

Medieval Earth had no real equivalent to the Michaelites. They are not common city guardsmen, nor are they knights. Their methods have become sophisticated enough to match wits with the clever and often sorcerous criminals of Yrth. For Caithness and Cardiel, G-men of the 1930s are good role models, toting swords and spells instead of tommy-guns. In Megalos, a cross between the Spanish Inquisition and the Nazi Gestapo is a very close analogy.

Very few local constabularies have the capability to investigate a crime that has taken place without witnesses. If the crime is a serious one and can not be solved by the local guards, is of a sensitive nature, or is spread over several local jurisdictions, the Michaelites will be called in.

Michaelites are far less corruptible than city guards-men, though by no means perfect, and will be much less likely to accept bribes or to harass those who irritate them. However, they do not think like knights; they think like policemen. They are far less concerned with personal honor than with the laws of the church and/or the state. So, for example, a Hand will not hesitate to fight unchivalrously, often teaming up against single opponents, nor will they insist on a duel over some insult. Michaelites are fanatical in Megalos and tolerant in Caithness and Cardiel, but they are always loyal to their ruler, their order, and the law, and true to their faith as they see it.

Michaelites generally fight to subdue their foes, and will definitely accept surrender. The basic idea, after all, is to take prisoners to trial. Second, they will try to get as much help as is expected to be necessary when capturing criminals. They will feel no shame at requesting assistance that turns out to be unneeded as long as the help is all within the Michaelite order. They will be reluctant to call on any other fighting order unless they are sure they can not handle the situation themselves.

Michaelite Investigations

When the Michaelites start an investigation they usually start at the scene of the crime. They will examine the area closely for fingerprints (see below) and other physical evidence. They will also cast spells to gather additional information about the crime. Evidence gathered will be given to experts to analyze. These experts may be Michaelites or outside sages called in to consult in areas where no local Michaelites have expertise.

Those accused of a crime, unless they are noble, have virtually no "rights" in Yrth, and Michaelites will feel perfectly free to detain and interrogate anyone they suspect has information, using spells to detect lies. Members of the nobility, however, always have to be treated with kid gloves. Usually a Michaelite officer will get authorization before detaining anyone with a greater Social Status then that officer's Military Rank.

All members of the Hand that are literate (always at least one) record the daily progress of the investigation so that if something happens to that Hand others can continue the case.

Mundane and Magical Techniques

Some of what we consider to be modern law enforcement techniques do not require modern technology, and "immigrants" from Earth have brought them into the operating procedure of the Michaelites. Anyone arrested in a major city for any reason will be fingerprinted, and fingerprints are searched for at crime sites. Fortunately for the criminal element, city guardsmen don't always have the means to check the names and addresses they're given to go with those fingerprints. Also, fingerprints are not sent from one city to another unless there is a specific reason to believe they will be useful. When they are, copies are usually handmade, of varying degrees of accuracy, so wandering rogues will usually get a fresh start in a new city. The Michaelites also use handwriting analysis to determine some clues to a writer's identity, and primitive autopsies to determine cause of death.

Of course, magic spells form the backbone of criminal science on Yrth. Michaelites also use magic weapons and devices, even in Megalos, as Michaelites are exempt from that nation's weapon restrictions.

Spells used by Michaelite mages are up to the player or the GM, but several spells are particularly useful. All Spells of Communication and Empathy are handy; two in particular being Truthsayer, a standard part of interrogation, and Soul Rider, equivalent to "planting a bug" on a suspect or undercover agent. Knowledge spells are also useful, notably Seeker, History, and Divination. (Note that it takes a fiendishly clever GM to keep ahead of the players in a mystery-style adventure unless there are some restrictions on Divination's use.) Animal Spells are useful in rural and wilderness areas, less so in the city. Also useful are seek spells, vision spells, See Invisible, and Dispel Illusion. Summon Spirit can be used to get evidence from murder victims, possibly at a bonus to the spell chance since the victim is usually eager to help. However, this spell is tightly controlled by the Church, and the caster must get a letter of authorization signed and sealed by the highest ranking local Church official. Even in Cardiel, this authorization is required from whichever church the victim belonged to. (The church controls or outright forbids Michaelite use of many spells, e.g., Summon Demon. The GM and players should use their judgment.)

The Megalan Michaelites

The Michaelites were founded in Megalos to suppress heresy, and to a large extent still do so. A member of the Spanish Inquisition would find himself right at home among the Michaelites of Megalos (officially called The Holy Inquisition of the Archangel Michael). In Megalos the Michaelites are not merely the police; they are often the judges as well.

The Michaelite calling is a favorite one for young men of good family – especially those who don't want to travel. Many heirs or second sons become Michaelites, working in their native demesnes, and give up the surcoat should they inherit. The order is not open to women in Megalos.

A Michaelite trial in Megalos can't be described as fair, but it is honest. A trial has three judges, one Michaelite and the others either officials of other religious orders or secular officials, depending on whether or not the crime is religious in nature. Usually the bulk of the trial consists of the accused answering questions under truth spells. These questions will mostly be asked by a Michaelite prosecutor "for the record" since the same questions will already have been asked under the same spells in interrogation. (If the accused proves, under interrogation, to be innocent of the crime, he will usually be asked, "Have you ever committed any acts illegal under Megalos law?") Not every Megalan pickpocketing trial or petty civil suit employs truth spells. But if the Michaelites find a case worth investigating, they usually find it worthwhile to prosecute and cast the spells needed in court.

If the accused is convicted of a secular crime, he is sentenced to whatever is appropriate. If convicted of heresy, he will first be encouraged to repent (normally by magical brainwashing). If that fails (e.g., if truth spells show he isn't really repentant) he is burned at the stake or sent to the arena without further trial.

The Grandmaster of The Holy Inquisition of the Archangel Michael is often one of the archbishops of Megalos. The Michaelites have destroyed many conspiracies against various emperors and are rumored to have allowed a few to create new dynasties, including the present one, so they are usually well supported by the emperor.

The Caithness Michaelites

The Michaelites are weakest in Caithness, where they are simply called The Order of the Archangel Michael. They have few wizards and those they do have are handicapped by the low mana level of the area. Thus, most investigations must be conducted with good old-fashioned detective work, a field woefully neglected in Yrth. In addition, the Michaelites are overshadowed to some extent by the more romantic Order of the Stone. Few of the ambitious youth of Caithness will apply for membership in the Michaelites if they qualify for the Order of the Stone. Most Michaelite recruits are from the lower classes, who have little chance of becoming knights unless they first serve the kingdom notably for several years in an organization like the Michaelites. The Caithness Michaelites admit both sexes; however, by custom if not by open policy, they recruit humans only.

Their "common taint" makes the Michaelites less respected by the more conservative nobles in Caithness, and less influential in the cosmopolitan centers. Fortunately, in Caithness, the most successful nobles are often the most open-minded, and the Michaelites get enough financial support to survive. Also, with so many Michaelites recruited from the lower classes, they have an understanding of and sympathy with the common people that allows them to gather far more information from the streets and farms than their colleagues in Megalos and Cardiel. The Caithness Michaelites are recognized by their brethren as the best detectives of Yrth.

The Cardiel Michaelites

In Cardiel, the Michaelites are not a religious order at all, though the church still has a strong influence on its members. When Megalos conquered Al-Kard, the Michaelites flocked to the new nation to convert the natives. But the Inquisition, brutally effective against small, isolated groups of heretics in Christian Megalos, merely enraged the entirely Moslem population of Cardiel, creating martyrs and setting off rebellions in what had been fully pacified towns. The governor of Cardiel reined in the Michaelites, raising their leaders' ire.

When Cardiel seceded from Megalos, the Michaelites remained loyal; many died fighting against the rebellion, and most of the rest returned home. A few, with ties to Cardiel too strong to abandon, stayed. Those swore fealty to the prince of Cardiel and were allowed to reform the Michaelites as a secular order, called Michael's Guard since both Christianity and Islam recognize the Archangel Michael. Today individual Hands of Michael may include priests, or mullahs, or both, but the Church does not control the Michaelites. The order is open to both sexes; it is the only "respectable" organization that will train a Moslem woman in arms.

Creating a Michaelite Character

In any nation, the Michaelites are an elite force. Only the newest recruits will be built on less than 100 points.

A player may desire high rank when creating a character, or may accept a promotion during play. In either case, that player must spend the extra points for the higher Military Rank. Many Michaelites are also ordained priests and should therefore take the Clerical Investment advantage.

For those from Caithness or Cardiel, Fanaticism is optional and Religious Intolerance is not recommended. Michaelites from Megalos must take both. The disadvantages below should not be counted toward the 3-disadvantage, 40-point limit. Another common disadvantage for Michaelite PCs is Honesty.


Legal Enforcement Powers, 10 points (national jurisdiction, not restricted by civil rights); Patron: The Michaelites, 20 points (very powerful, appears on a 9 or less); Reputation, 0 points: Lawman (+2 from the law-abiding, -4 from underworld; recognized by surcoat unless disguised); Military Rank 1, 5 points (or higher if rank is greater than Constable).


Duty to the Michaelites and the Law, -15 points (Demanded on 15 or less); Vow: Will not exploit Michaelite status for personal profit, -10 points; Fanaticism (optional in Caithness, forbidden in Cardiel); Religious Intolerance (except in Cardiel)

Minimum Required Skills

Area Knowledge (nation)-12; Brawling-12; Broadsword and Shortsword; one at 14, one at 13; Catholic Theology-14 (except in Cardiel); Criminology-14; Law-15; Shield-12; Streetwise-14 (Caithness only).

Michaelite Jobs

Rank (skill req'): paySuccess rollCritical failure
Constable: $30IQ+13d/4d, C
Corporal: $50IQ3d/4d, C, demoted
Sergeant (Combat skill levels totaling 60): $80IQ-1(as above)
Lieutenant (as above, plus Criminology 16+: $120IQ-2(as above)

All job rolls are against IQ. Special: On any "ordinary" failed job roll, the Michaelite must make a roll vs. his best weapon skill. A failure on this second roll indicates 1d injury; a critical failure has the result given on the table. This indicates that a lapse in judgment got the Michaelite into a scrape that he had to fight his way out of!

A Michaelite does not roll to find these jobs; the character must start play as a Michaelite, or win the post through roleplaying. The pay for these jobs may seem low, but Michaelites have no living expenses. While there are higher ranks for Michaelites, they are desk jobs, not likely to be played by PCs, and so not included here.

The Michaelite Campaign

There are certainly many challenges in a Michaelite campaign. PCs will be up against the smartest and meanest members of the criminal classes in Yrth. The Michaelites are a powerful patron, providing room, board, and equipment almost anywhere the characters go, as well as a small salary. They may also provide powerful magic items on a temporary, as-needed, basis. Local guards may be available as a backup, or they may not; professional jealousy is an unpredictable thing.

A lack of freedom may be a problem in this campaign – constables don't get much say in where they're assigned, or for how long. Of course, from a GM's point of view, this might be an advantage. Michaelites must turn over all goods captured from criminals in an investigation, and all money and valuables will go to victims of the crime, or to the treasuries of the Order and the State. Occasionally, at the discretion of their superiors (the GM) the PCs may be allowed to keep some minor but useful confiscated magic items if no legitimate owner can be found. And Michaelites are expected to set an example on and off duty. Woe to the brother caught breaking the law!

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