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Threshers dedicate their lives to tracking down those who use magic for nefarious purposes and find ways to punish them. Most are self-appointed, driven by a desire to punish those who use the arts of sorcery to harm the lives and livelihoods of others. Magic is a crucial part of life in the Marches. Not just the landskeepers whose powerful rituals keep the fields fertile and free of vermin, the dolmans and standing stones that dot the landscape are part of the fabric of the Marches, marking the boundaries and imposing the dominion of mortal hands over the land. Those who abuse this magic for their own ends are a threat to everyone unless they can be stopped.

Many threshers know at least a little magic, the better to understand their quarry. Others make a study of the realms; one of the easiest ways for a sorcerer to twist magic to their own ends is to deal with those eternals who endlessly seek such outcomes. In contrast with the common picture of them as simple vigilantes, many threshers are experienced in dealing with Imperial law, finding it a useful ally in their battle. The ideal thresher is a student of human nature - the ability to ferret out secrets and drag them into the light is perhaps the most useful skill of all.

The one thing most threshers share is a suspicious nature. Their calling keeps them constantly poking their noses into other people's business, searching for any evidence of wrongdoing. Many like to keep tabs on everyone, seeking out gossip and rumours. Some spy and eavesdrop where they can or cultivate a network of paid informants if they can afford it. Whatever their methods, almost all of them make it their business to turn up any time trouble is afoot.

Everyone goes hungry when no-one threshes the grain.

Marcher Proverb


According to Marcher legends, the first thresher was a farmhand called One-Handed Jenny who dwelled somewhere on the Heath in Upwold. At that time the land had been fertile and bountiful for many years, but the village where Jenny lived was living under a plague. A local blacksmith had been shunned by the villagers for the peculiar company he kept - to exact his revenge the smith would send boggarts to steal milk, butter and grain from the barns at night. They held a meeting and everyone agreed they should form a mob to confront the smith, but they were too afraid and so each farmer gave a different excuse why they couldn't join the others. By the time everyone had spoken, One-handed Jenny was the only left at the meeting. Undeterred, she took up her flail, and marched off alone to the smithy. After that day there were no more problems with boggarts.

While parts of the story are probably apocryphal, the legend of One-Handed Jenny inspired the tradition of the threshers which endures to this day. Where the evidence points to the pernicious influence of corrupt magic, the threshers investigate and woe betide those who are responsible. In modern times most threshers will use violence only as a last resort, but traditionally threshers have done whatever was needed to punish those who sought to use magic to take advantage of their fellow Marchers.

When Tom Drake marched north to fight Alderei the Fair, the wicked Varushkan Boyar, he took a band of threshers with him called the Bloody Fieldhands. Drake tasked the fearless group with hunting down the sorcerers who were backing the tyrant king with instructions to end the threat they presented. Although the historical records don't confirm it, many threshers claim it was the Fieldhands who caught and executed Koshiev the White, the leader of the Ushkan magicians. Either way, few if any of the Bloody Fieldhands returned from war in Varushka, and their notorious banner, a legendary gonfalon called "Shirker" was lost.

When Urizen joined the Empire, and the Conclave was formed, it was Marchers who insisted on the creation of the laws of sorcery, determined to ensure that those who abused magic for their own ends would face summary punishment. In those times it was common for the Conclave to deputize threshers to take action against anyone found guilty of sorcery. That practice has fallen out of favour as Imperial law has become more established, but threshers remain determined to do everything necessary to ensure that those who would use magic against their fellow citizens pay for their crimes.

Imperial Law

One of the key issues that separates many threshers is how they regard Imperial law. While Marchers have little time for scofflaws, they do retain a sense of natural justice from the time before they joined the Empire. Shunning is a common practice for dealing with those who have breached the bounds of acceptable and the existence of the hue and cry reflects a belief that enforcing the rules is everyone's concern - not something you leave to the magistrates and the militia. Threshers are divided on whether they want to work within the limits set down by Imperial law or risk taking matters into their own hands.

Recent mandates passed by the Imperial Synod at the same summit demonstrate that this conflict remains unresolved to this day. The Marcher Assembly took a clear stance on the issue, voting with primacy to urge all threshers to put their trust in the Empire and act within the law. The Vigilance Assembly however took the polar opposite view - voting was more divided, but there was a clear majority encouraging vigilant Marchers to deal with sorcerers by any means necessary.

The Empire has heard our anger; if a sorcerer curses the Empire again then Imperial justice will be swift and final. We send Jenny Arbor with 25 doses of liao to urge threshers, landskeepers, and Marchers to deal with sorcerers lawfully and to put their faith in the Empire.

Jenny Arbor, Vigilance Assembly Assembly, Spring Equinox 384YE, (Primacy 142-0)

You don't call for the magistrate if your house is on fire. Threshers should deal with sorcerers by any means necessary. We send Gaelen Embercast with 25 doses of liao to remind everyone that the Vigilant despise that which threatens what they watch over.

Gaelen Embercast, Vigilance Assembly Assembly, Spring Equinox 384YE, (Upheld 186-84)

Many threshers agree with the approach endorsed by Jenny Arbor. They strive to operate entirely within the law, taking advantage of the avenues available to a law-abiding citizen to punish the wicked. There are several legal routes available to a thresher who is able to expose the excesses of a sorcerer to public condemnation. Many threshers work closely with the militia, and some even become members. If they can present evidence of crimes to the militia, then the magistrates can be relied on to investigate and prosecute fairly. And where that standard of evidence is not enough, they can appeal to the Conclave to declare someone a sorcerer or to the Conclave to have them excommunicated if their misdemeanours are egregious enough.

Not all threshers feel the need to constrain themselves to purely legal actions though. This doesn't automatically mean breaking the law. Extortion, threats of violence or even blackmail may be unsavoury and disreputable but they can be effective ways of extracting information or exacting retribution and they are not illegal. And sorcerers are not the only ones who can use curses - they can be an effective tool to punish the wicked, albeit one that must be used carefully to remain within the bounds of the law. According to rumours though some threshers do go further - or at least claim they will if needed take "any means necessary" to ensure that the perpetrators of the most wicked actions do not get away scot-free.

Creating a Thresher

This archetype is intended to appeal to people who enjoy poking their nose into other people's business. You might be a campaigning lawyer, a civic-minded busybody, or a grizzled detective, but whatever you're playing you'll be taking an interest in the actions of your fellow player-characters as you look to separate the wheat from the chaff. Threshers are always on the look-out for those who are abusing their powers, so playing one gives you a reason to take an interest in finding out what everyone is up to. It's not just about exposing those who have acted against the common good, you'll have to decide how far you are prepared to go to bring a sorcerer to justice.

It doesn't matter what skills you take as a thresher, but having some magic can be useful. It will be rare that you need to use a spell like Voice for the dead or one of the investigative rituals but they can provide valuable information at the right moment. Of course if you can't cast those spells or rituals, you can always cultivate allies who can. What may be more useful than your skills is having a good understanding of how magic works in Empire. Since sorcery is the abuse of magic, the more knowledge you have about how rituals and the realms work the better.

How you plan to respond and how far you're prepared to go may influence how you create your character. A thresher who plans to use testimony or even excommunication to punish the wicked will benefit from having the relevant religious skills and possibly a congregation as well. Like other investigate archetypes, a personal resource that allows you to pay people for information such as a business, or a set of skills that gives you something to reward your confidants with such as apothecary or artisan, can encourage people to keep coming to you with things they find out. And of course if you're planning to take matters into your own hands at some point, then it's always useful to be able to wield a stout cudgel effectively...

Most communities in the Marchers welcome threshers, so you should find your concept fits with all the normal options available to Marcher groups. It's still wise to check though, just in case one or more of your group is planning to play a sorcerer, or thinks they might end up taking that dark path. If everyone is happy to play with that conflict then this will make the game even more enjoyable for everyone, but some groups prefer to avoid this kind of intra-group friction.

The most important thing you'll need to think about are what you consider the tell-tale signs that someone is a sorcerer, and how far you're prepared to go to deal with one. There is a legal definition of a sorcerer, it's a declaration that can be passed by the Imperial Conclave, but the word has a wider meaning in the Marches to describe anyone that folk feel is abusing magic to the detriment of their neighbours. You'll need to think about what your character thinks a sorcerer is.

You'll also need to decide if your character is a law-abiding thresher who uses the law to punish their enemies, or a vigilante who is prepared to risk running afoul of the law if that is what is needed to punish a sorcerer. The latter route can seem appealing, but it's worth bearing in mind that Empire has a very active legal system, so legal avenues of punishment can be more effective and crucially provide a lot more game. They also mean you're far less likely to find it's your own head on the axe-mans block. Whatever you decide you'll need to think about what relationship you want to have with the Imperial magistrates and their militia - they might be your most effective ally if you can convince them to help you or your greatest threat if you can't.

Playing a Thresher

The essence of playing a thresher is about poking your nose into the business of others, with a view to punishing those you decide are acting against the common good. On the face of it you're reacting to the actions of others, but to get to that point you'll need to be very busy at events finding out what others are up to. One of the key reasons to play a thresher is if you think you'll enjoy devoting your time at events to trying to gather as much information as possible, whether that's spying and eavesdropping, collecting gossip, or just building a network of informants. You'll spend vastly more time hunting sorcerers than you ever will catching one!

If you're planning to use the various legal methods to punish wrongdoers then you'll need to invest time and effort in developing those relationships. If you want to raise a Declaration of Sorcery then you need an ally or two who has the power to do that. The best way to do that is to get the ear of a grandmaster or similar. And it's important to realise that the Conclave is a political body, not a judicial one. It's unlikely to matter how good your evidence is, compared to making your case and convincing enough people to vote to support your declaration. The more allies you can develop in Conclave, the easier that becomes.

The Conclave is not the only Imperial body that can be used to punish a sorcerer. A thresher who can convince the Imperial Synod to take action can be very effective. Getting someone excommunicated is incredibly difficult and requires a huge amount of work, but you can use the Synod to arrange an inquisition and to have them condemned if you can get enough support. Getting to know the militia and the magistrates may also pay dividends. You could consider joining the militia if you think that will help your goals, but even if you don't it could be incredibly useful if you are on good terms with them. This is where devoting your time to looking into every act of malfeasance may pay off - you might not be interested in someone who is handling stolen goods or selling bite, but you never know where that might lead and if you can parley that information with the militia to improve your standing with them then you may still benefit.

It's a good idea not to limit your investigations to just the Marchers. There aren't that many crimes in Empire - being prepared to go anywhere and poke your nose into what people are up to in every nation will give you the best chance of catching a sorcerer. Varushka might seem like a hotbed of sorcerers, but there are many powerful magicians among the high-minded Urizeni or the glory-hunting Dawnish. Every nation has folks in it who might be looking to use magic to advance their own goals over the interests of others - so why stop at just one?

Likewise, you don't need to limit yourself to just investigating magicians! Some of the more pernicious eternals are always looking to suborn the citizens of the Empire, or encourage them to wickedness. You don't have to be a magician to do a deal with one of those powerful creatures in return for their air. Some of the most egregious acts of sorcery in the Empire in recent times have been undertaken with the encouragement or support of eternals. You can also take an expansive view of alchemy and artisanry. Selling bite, poisons or a Scorpion's Sting might not be as dramatic as casting a curse to drain the wealth of a territory, but its up to you if you consider that sorcery or not.

Finally, don't be afraid to go after those who are well-connected! It's easy to bring punishment down on some lone wizard who has foolishly dealt with Agramant, but you'll have a much more dramatic, more challenging game if you go after someone who has a high-profile. If you can catch an archmage or a grandmaster who is up to no good, you'll find their deep well of existing allies make it hard to bring them down, but that will make trying to do it all the more dramatic for everyone and all the more satisfying if you succeed.