This is a game I created for my Western Civilization class. I consider it an open source document, so if you use it or have suggestions for its improvement, please drop me a line at: email@example.com.
The Witch Hunt
Your community is about to enter one of the most chaotic and bizarre chapters in European history. Yours is a middle-sized town, Catholic, and loyal to the king.
- A town council, made up of prestigious and important people: the Mayor, the judge, and at least one person of noble (not necessarily wealthy) heritage.
- A church group, with a full-time priest, a visiting Inquisitor, and a devoted (some may be "fanatical") group of citizens who uphold the church.
- An upper urban class of merchants and artisans, all fairly successful.
- A lower urban class of laborers and low-scale merchants.
- A class of peasant farmers, who live on the edge of town and work in the fields beyond. Some are quite wealthy, and own the land they farm.
- A bunch of outsiders and oddballs, people who technically belong to other groups but are odd in some way. There’s a good, Christian merchant whose grandparents were Jewish. There are two sisters with a nice shop who have never wanted to get married and have lots of cats. There’s the midwife, a necessary and helpful person who is nevertheless well-versed in mysterious herbs and remedies. There’s the nice, hardworking foreigner—no one’s even sure where he’s from. There’s a scholar who keeps to himself and spends all his money on weird books about science, medicine, and astronomy. They are all just different enough to look suspicious when bad things are happening.
But of course, when things are REALLY bad, no one is above suspicion. . .
Throughout today’s encounter, you will have to evaluate your own situation and the people in your group and in your community. Will you support each other? Turn against each other? Do you truly want to save the souls of your neighbors? Are you concerned about going too far, and punishing people who don’t deserve it? Do you want to take this opportunity to rid yourselves of unwanted rivals? What happens to you if you don’t go along with the crowd? If you decide to punish a witch, will you be able to stop at just one? If you go too far, will you destroy the town and the way of life you wanted to preserve in the first place?
In part one, you will spend time with your group and figure out if you are all in agreement in terms of values, safety, and reasonable behavior.
In part two, you will mingle with the other groups and get to know the other townspeople. Decide how much about yourself you want to reveal.
Part three will begin with a catastrophe: something terrible will occur, and an accusation may be made. Against whom? Well, that’s up to you. A roll of the dice will determine which team has the right to make an accusation. An accusation may be made against anyone. The point system below will help you decide on a target.
Part four may well include a trial and an execution. But maybe not. And maybe there’ll be more accusations, more interrogations, more executions. After an accusation is made, each group in turn will vote to support or reject the accusation. A majority vote puts the accused on trial. At the trial, each group in turn may present testimony for or against the accused. Testimony may also include new accusations or counter-accusations. Periodically, when a body of evidence against someone has been collected, the groups will vote in turn whether or not to convict. A majority vote decides if an accused person is guilty and will be executed. Who will survive the process? No one knows.
Witch Hunts are unpredictable that way. . .
Each team starts with 100 points.
You will lose 10 points for every member of your group who is convicted of witchcraft.
You can gain 10 points for adopting an appropriate member of another team into yours. (For example, if the merchants decide to adopt and protect the "Christian merchant of Jewish ancestry" in the "oddballs" team, that person will count for the merchants.) By "appropriate," I mean you cannot adopt just anyone—a peasant farmer cannot become a town council member. But there is quite a bit of overlap—for example, an upper class merchant can be in the town council, and most anyone can be a devoted churchgoer. Technically speaking, lower class workers and peasants might form an alliance (one group "adopting" the other) and combine points. Other adoptions and alliances are possible. See what you can work out.
You can gain 10 points for each person you accuse who is then convicted of witchcraft. Members of the Church or Town Council are worth 20 points. (The bigger they are, the harder they fall.)
You lose 10 points for every accusation you make which does NOT result in a conviction. Meaning you lose 20 points if you accuse but cannot convict a member of the Church or Town Council. (It’s quite risky to challenge powerful people.)
You may accuse a member of your own team, but you’ll then break even in terms of points. (Lose ten and gain ten if there’s a conviction; lose ten but keep the player if there is no conviction.)
You gain 5 points for each accused saved by your testimony or your refusal to convict. (Each team voting "Not guilty" gets 5 points if the accused is found innocent.) Saving someone is only worth five points because if you go out on a limb for someone that the other groups want to destroy, you make yourself look suspicious and may find yourself accused of being a fellow witch.
IF THERE IS AN IMPASSE: If the teams are evenly split on the guilt or innocence of an accused witch, several things may happen. Another round of testimony from the accused or witnesses may sway a team to change the vote. A team voting "guilty" might adopt the accused and change their vote. The Inquisitor or town council might decide to take charge and make a command decision, insisting upon release, torture or execution. There are other possibilities as well, so consider a realistic solution.
1) A town council, made up of prestigious and important people:
at least one person of noble heritage—your family has been in charge around here for centuries.
You have a lot at stake and want to stick together. You also walk a fine line: you don’t want it to look like the Church group is really running things. But, if you resist them too much, you run the risk of being accused of being "soft on witches," or "unchristian." In either case, the people will refuse to respect your authority. But if you let the accusations run wild, will you be able to control the outcome? What good is your authority if everyone is dead at the end?
2) A church group,
a full-time priest—you are the spiritual leader of this town
a visiting Inquisitor—your job sort of depends on finding and burning witches, doesn’t it?
and several devoted churchgoers--The people look to you and you worry about their salvation.
You all have a lot in common and a lot at stake. You are more likely to be making accusations than being accused. But, you must ask yourself very carefully if death and destruction are truly the work of God. At the same time, dare you risk letting Satan’s power destroy you and your loved ones?
There are political aspects as well—does the priest trust the Inquisitor not to take over? Does the Inquisitor think the priest is ignorant and unable to lead his flock? Do the church supporters trust either one of these guys to do the right thing?
3) An upper urban class of merchants and artisans, all fairly successful.
As a group, you don’t have as much power as the council or the church, but you have a lot in common and a lot at stake. You can decide for yourselves what you sell or make and how much you want to stand up for each other. You may want to consider, also, how much you depend on reliable labor and peasant farmers. Those folks are NOT entirely dispensable, are they? But, if heads must roll, you don’t want them to be yours, either.
4) A lower urban class of laborers and low-scale merchants.
You are decent, hardworking people. You aren’t criminals, and you hate being treated like trash. You may decide to protect each other, because any one of you could go at any time, and it’s not like you can move up the social ladder. But let’s face it—you probably have little in common with each other. It’s not like there’s a club for poor people.
5) A class of peasant farmers, who live on the edge of town and work in the fields beyond. Some are quite wealthy, and own the land they farm.
You tend to stick together as a group, even though some of you are poorer and working for the landowners. Let’s face it, those stuck up townies treat you like trash even though you’re the ones putting food on their tables. But, even so, if one of you has been a real pain over wages or some property dispute, the rest of the group may decide to get rid of you.
6) A bunch of outsiders and oddballs, people who technically belong to other groups but are odd in some way.
There’s a good, Christian merchant whose grandparents were Jewish.
There are two sisters with a nice shop who have never wanted to get married and have lots of cats.
There’s the midwife, a necessary and helpful person who is nevertheless well-versed in mysterious herbs and remedies.
There’s the nice, hardworking foreigner—no one’s even sure where he’s from.
There’s a scholar who keeps to himself and spends all his money on weird books about science, medicine, and astronomy.
There’s safety in numbers, but remember that the best way to protect yourself as an individual may be to side with the town against one member of your group. That way, you can show the town how loyal you are.