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Saturday 16 March 2024

A Hoard of Heresies

In 1307, the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, commonly known as the Knights Templar, were summarily attacked and arrested by French forces, on orders from King Philip IV of France with permission from Pope Clement V. It marked the beginning of the end of the order, which for two hundred years had dedicated itself to protecting Christians making their pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Its leaders would be tried for heresy, but before the arrest their arrest in Templar’s Parisian stronghold, the Enclos du Temple, they would issue one final set of orders: the last Templars were to take the secrets of the order to safety. They would be the last thirty to escape the fallen stronghold and theirs would be a perilous journey across Europe in search of sanctuary, harried all the way first by forces loyal to King Philip, and then the Inquisition. Their story and their efforts to find sanctuary, perhaps in the process discovering the true secrets of the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, are told in
Heirs to Heresy: The Fall of the Knights Templar, a roleplaying game published by Osprey Games.

Heirs to Heresy: Faith & Fear is the first supplement for Heirs to Heresy. That roleplaying game is essentially a toolkit to run a single type of campaign, one that tells of the Player Character Templars’ flight away from Paris to a sanctuary, whichever one that is… Heirs to Heresy: Faith & Fear is a companion volume, providing a range of support and content that adds to that toolkit, thus giving the Grand Master more options to enhance her campaign or even run a new campaign. The supplement includes the advice and warning from the core rulebook about dealing with the negative aspects of both history and the portrayal of the Knights Templar, before getting on with the new content. The first of which is three new knightly orders—the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, which was concerned with protecting and ensuring the sanctity of the holy sites; the Knights Hospitaller, which operated hospitals for the benefit of pilgrims; and the Order of Saint Lazarus, Leper Knights who aid commoners who have been harmed or hurt. Each Order has two special abilities. For example, a Knight of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre has ‘First Among Equals’ and ‘Secure the Holy Spaces’. The first of these gives the knight an advantage when dealing with other orders because the Order of the Holy Sepulchre is the oldest order, has precedence, and reports directly to the Pope, whilst the second increases their Damage Reduction when defending a sacred or consecrated sites. The inclusion of these three orders open up Player Character and NPC options, and perhaps because none of the three orders have been arrested by the French King and accused of heresy, also perhaps as a more general roleplaying game involving militant orders rather than one dealing with the last actions of the free Templars.

Heirs to Heresy: Faith & Fear does include a fourth order, the Teutonic knights. They are not, though, included as a Player Character option, but as NPC villains. Several options are suggested as to why, from Teutonic Grand Master simply coveted the Templar wealth to the Teutonic Order having been corrupted by some dark influence. However, as a possible ally, a location somewhere in the Teutonic Order’s lands might become the sanctuary that the Player Characters are trying to reach and that lends itself to a campaign with a Gothic feel located in Eastern Europe.

‘Modes of Play’ gives rules for solo play or play without a Grand Master. This includes the ‘Yes/No Oracle’, a simple means of resolving player choices, and tables of Action and Theme options to inspire and prompt the player. A set of tables, based on their Health level, whether Full, Halved, or Quartered, provides random actions in combat for NPCs, whilst another provides reactions out of combat. A further set of tables enable the Grand Master to create a conspiracy and the basis of a campaign using the content in this supplement and the core rulebook.

In Heirs to Heresy, a Player Character Knight can bring his faith and commitment to bear on a situation. To reflect this, he has Faith points to spend on various effects, including adding his Faith Attribute to a single Test, damage total, or reducing incoming damage by the same, to reroll a single Test, and if they factor into a campaign, power esoterica, Gifts, and Relics. Heirs to Heresy: Faith & Fear adds an option for using Faith called ‘Acts of Faith’. These include ‘Acts of Exorcism’, ‘Acts of Foresight’, ‘Acts of Healing’, and ‘Acts of Sacrifice’, the latter enabling the Player Character to protect a fallen ally against a grave threat. All four ‘Acts of Faith’ require the expenditure of a point of Faith and a may require a Religion skill test. The converse, ‘Acts of Fear’, including ‘Acts of Deceit’, ‘Acts of Incitement’, and ‘Acts of Violence’, require Corruption points, which are gained for committing sins, to be used. It is possible for a Player Character Knight, to be corrupt and have fallen from the Grace of God, and use these ‘Acts of Fear’. However, should such a Knight become too corrupt, there will be no way back for him to the Grace of God, and he becomes an NPC under the control of the Grand Master and likely a major threat to the Player Characters.

‘Strongholds and Sieges’ adds rules for building bases, such as castles and fortifications, and then laying siege to them. These include natural caverns, towers, and new fortifications, and a stronghold has actions of its own that the players can trigger. This can be to Fortify, Repair, or Upgrade the structure, Hire an employee (such as a Blacksmith, Builder, or Priest), Rest, or spend time in Introspection. Rest grants temporary Stamina points and Introspection points to spend on advancing Faith. Strongholds have Traits of their own, such as Famous, Gnostic Monastery (which grants an esoteric benefit), Living(!), and even Religious Sanctuary. The Siege rules are an addition to the Mass Battle system and are fairly quick and dirty, the aim being to reduce the Army Strength of one side to zero. Both Attacker and Defender have a limited number of options—Assault, Resupply, Sabotage, or Starve Out for the Attacker and Fortify, Repair, Sally Forth, and Smuggle in Supplies for the Defender, but can undertake four actions per day. There is room too for Player Character actions and roleplaying too, but the rules are quick and simple.

At the core of Heirs to Heresy are the relics, one of which the Player Characters are attempting to get from Paris to sanctuary. The choice can determine certain aspects of the campaign, such as how Faith interacts with the Player Characters. The four here are the Ark of the Covenant, the Head of Saint John Baptist, the Turn Shroud, and the Spear of Longinus. For example, the Ark of the Covenant will slay the unfaithful, grant insight and Faith for a battle, and if unlocked, that is, a Player Character attunes to it, it grants further Faith. Of course, it is relatively large and so not easy to transport. Each one of these four is major Christian relic and will really affect the nature of a campaign.

As well as the relic they are charged with protecting, the Player Characters may have access to another resources, that of the Templar spy networks to be found in the cities and towns across Europe. Most obviously, they could be used to provide safehouses as the Player Characters flee from Paris, but they can also provide supplies and information, and perhaps they can actually be made greater use of if the Player Characters establish a stronghold and want monitor or weaken the forces hunting for them. There are tables too for creating NPCs and their personalities, for exploration and the weather, and a host of new enemies, mobs both supernatural and mundane, and supernatural foes such as the Basilisk, Maddening Mist, and Warlocks or Witches.

The supplement also comes with four adventures of varying length and complexity. ‘The Wolfcairn’ finds the Player Characters camping somewhere deep in the forest when they begin to be stalked by a massive wolf that is more than it seems; in ‘The Basilisk’s Den’ they visit a tavern of that name looking for a connection to the local Templar spy network and run against all manner of NPCs with their own interests; in ‘Last Stand’, the Inquisition has caught up with the Player Characters who will have to hold them off, perhaps giving one of their number to make a desperate final defence of the others; and lastly, the ‘Cursed Brothers’ interlude gives the Player Characters a chance for respite at a Templar castle, but their fellow brothers turn out to be as bad as King Philip IV of France claimed the order to be. All four scenarios are easy to run and include pointers on their set-up descriptions of locations and NPCs, and both consequences and possible complications. They are all relatively easy to drop into a campaign. Lastly, the supplement includes another three pre-generated Player Characters, one for each of the new orders given at the start of the book.

Physically, Heirs to Heresy is cleanly and simply presented. The book is easy to read and the artwork is excellent.

Heirs to Heresy: Faith & Fear is not absolutely necessary to play a campaign of Heirs to Heresy. What it does do though, is provide a range of options and rules that can be used to expand the Grand Master’s campaign. The new scenarios are the easiest to use, each one readily dropped into a campaign, whilst the rules for spy networks, sieges, and ‘Acts of Faith’ require more effort and perhaps certain situations to arise to be fully useful. Overall, Heirs to Heresy: Faith & Fear widens the number of options that the Grand Master can choose from when planning her campaign and when making it more exciting in play, so making it useful for any Heirs to Heresy: The Fall of the Knights Templar campaign.


  1. At last, some support for an Osprey game. Based on your review I'm off to buy it.

  2. Thank you for reading the review and I am glad that you found it useful. (Technically, the Jackals RPG has two supplements, more than any other Osprey Games RPG.)