- – Creature Feature
"The crime is your foul existence, the sentence is death!"
Known as the Ordo Hereticus, the Witch Hunters are a branch of the Inquisition dedicated and specialized in hunting down and destroying witches, heretics, and mutants in the name of the Empra but will also kill just about anyone who's an enemy of the Imperium if confronted. Commonly fields Sisters of Battle or Inquisitorial Storm Troopers, though a Witch Hunter Inquisitor Lord may call on the Imperial Guard, Space Marines, Deathwatch, and even Grey Knights to assist them in battle.
The Ordo Hereticus was originally created after the Age of Apostasy to ensure that the Ecclesiarchy could never go batshit insane again and stick to the Decree Passive; since then it has expanded into the rigid enforcers of the Imperial Cult, stamping out all traces of unorthodoxy among the populace, whether they are genuinely tainted by Chaos or Genestealers or not. This power creep from the Inquisition's original goal to mainly fight Chaos itself characterizes how far removed they've become from Malcador's original vision for the eternal watchmen of mankind.
These chaps usually like to go medieval, often equipping themselves with esoteric shit like a Purgatus Crossbow, Stake Crossbow and a goddamned Power Stake. They, like all Inquisitors wear the Ignatus Pattern Armour for defense. Occasionally they may opt for something more traditional like a Hand Flamer, a Nemesis Warding Stave or a Force Rod if they are feeling pickish.
All female Sisters of Battle players rage hard when you call SoBs 'Witch Hunters' or imply that they are the same group. Matt Ward apparently agrees because as of 5E they have been separated again. Fucking Ward. They have a WFB equivalent. Also called, unsurprisingly, Witch Hunters. Both flavors get bitchin' pimp hats and the fantasy counterparts have the only reliable guns in the world.
So what is Heresy?
IF IT AIN'T INVOLVING THE EMPEROR, IT'S ALL HERESY!
This above sentence may seem an overstatement but really it is closer to the truth then you'd think. To the Witch Hunters anything that veers from the Emperor's light is to be found and purged and the purging is usually done in fire.
Unlike the Daemonhunters, Witch Hunters act as more of a police instead of a military force. While the Daemon Hunters search the stars for daemons and the chaos crazies responsible for them with the Grey Knights; Witch Hunters are instead more focused on rooting out heresy from within the Imperium's worlds, finding heretics that have infiltrated the Imperium already and purging any cults they may have formed.
Apostasy is also an extreme form of heresy and the one viewed most unfavorably by the Ordo. Thus, the name Witch Hunter. Apostates, for the purposes of 40k, are any psykers who have not submitted to Imperial authority and specifically those that avoid said authority. Although, sorcerers are just plain purged period. Sorcery in 40k does not require being a psyker and is easily influenced by Chaos and there is a Chaos God specifically with control over sorcery. Also because the Emperor forbade sorcery. These are witches in the more traditional sense by real life standards.
They are the firebrand Inquisitors which give the Inquisition its (Grim)dark reputation and all you heard about them is very true.
The Ordo Hereticus fights The Enemy Within, the Ordo Xenos fights The Enemy Without, and the Ordo Malleus fights The Enemy Beyond.
Notable Members of the Ordos Hereticus
Lord Inquisitor Fyodor Karamazov
"There is no such thing as a plea of innocence in my court, a plea of innocence is guilty of wasting my time. Guilty."
Lazy bastard. Sits on a massive, dreadnought-esque chair and merely points to where the servitor should aim his triple-linked multi-melta while his trusty aide Dominique makes snide comments. The other thing he's known for is his many flavors of orbital bombardment, all of which seem to be more accurate when blasting his own men rather than the enemy. He's a great believer in Just. As. Planned. but the Empy version. Jokingly called Lord Krazypantsoff by several immature (and hilarious) users of /tg/. Many Thorian inquisitors, and even the Ecclesiarch himself, hate this guy, thanks to an incident where he purged a priest who had just reclaimed his world for the Imperium. Yeah, that quote up above wasn't an exaggeration. Unfortunately the quote ended up being correct this time, as the priest's cult had chaos worshipers in it that would've gone unnoticed (and possibly fucked everything up again) if Karamazov wasn't such an asshole.
To be fair, the priest did break the Decree Passive and the main thing the Ordo Hereticus and Sisters of Battle were created for was to prevent and punish exactly that.
He's also bald due to an anti-aging cream gone wrong - all the workers for the company (called Dove) were subsequently purged and crucified.
As the quote states: even if you're innocent he's gonna kill you anyway. So since you're fucked no matter what, go crazy.
Set that baby on fire.
G'wan. You know you wanna.
He's named after Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and his famous book The Brothers Karamazov - which is known for its chapter The Grand Inquisitor, where the eponymous Inquisitor arrests and judges the risen Christ.
As the above text shows, he is the butt of many If the Emperor had a Text-to-Speech Device jokes due to being one of the main characters in the series. As of now, he's also the motherfucking Starchild's vessel. (Still a little bitch though). Sadly it seems he is likely to remain so forever, given TTS' fate.
Witch Hunter Tyrus
This guy is so badass that all the motherflippin' ladies get PURGED when he enters the room. He was taken under the care of an inquisitor as a child after a Daemon Prince ripped one of his ears and eyes out for fun before razing the rest of his village. Years later, the same Daemon Prince killed his mentor in battle but Tyrus was able to banish the bastard back to the warp again. His favorite method for finding HERESY is forcing the accused to consume a jug of holy water. If they choke then they are considered heretic and crucified, shot, burned, then he lets a blind butcher loose on them, then they get shot again.
Plus he loathes psykers, even the ones in the Inquisition. So don't ask him if he wants to see your new magic card trick.
Adrastia is a lot like what you'd expect from a Witch Hunter. Suspicious, ruthless, uncompromising and utterly devoted to finding and destroying all things heretical for the Emprah. She has a haughty and cavalier attitude and frequently found herself in conflict with Sergeant Merrick who was convinced she only came to sub-sector Aurelia because she hoped to capture Kyras and net herself a promotion rather than actually giving a crap about the sub-sector's imminent annihilation. She doesn't really bother to confirm or deny his accusations instead telling him to quit bitching at her and get on with his work but when Kyras turns into a gigantic Daemon the option to capture him alive quickly disappears so who knows. Her personality is somewhat grumpy and harsh having very little time for anyone who is not a heretic or pointing her in the direction of one (then again being kind of a buzzkill is pretty normal for Inquisitors who are not Amberley Vail so we can't really fault Adrastia for that).
In Warhammer Fantasy
After Sigmar himself defeated the bone daddy Nagash, he appointed Wolfgart Von Krieger (his best friend <3) to create an organization known as the Order of the Silver Hammer, a precursor organization which would then become the Holy Order of the Templars of Sigmar under Emperor Magnus the Pious' reign.
Witch hunters are the agents of the Sigmarite church who specialize in hunting down necromancers, chaos cultists, beastmen, probably orc shaman and any other sorcerer who practices any magics proscribed by the Colleges of Magic (which ironically means the wizards have huge power over them as the wizards decide what counts as witchcraft, and they don't really need the Witch Hunters help if one of their own has fallen since each order could've just sent a Master Vigilant to hunt their fallen kin). They are just about as ruthless and bad news as their 40k version which they also share the same fashion sense by wearing pimping pilgrim hats and are equipped with the best shiny pistols available in the Empire. The witch hunter's other job besides killing the wyrds and sorcerers is to also spread propaganda among the Empire's province, and it is important since most of the citizens in the Empire lives in rural towns far from the city. Without many modern inventions like phones, internet and other fast travel vehicles meaning their ignorance is most often suspect to chaos, and the forest near their town may containing lots of evil things like heretics or monsters like beastmens hiding there. Witch Hunters or Warrior Priests that sometimes passes by would make sure they could cleanse the place off any heresy they could find, then crucify and display their dead heretic prey in the town center to serve as a grim reminder for the locals. The locals were also forced to cooperate the hunter in hunting down the heretics, and they will also be judged if one of them is found guilty for assisted the said heretics, or being one of them.
Sadly, even a secretive organization such as this that's supposed to know any deviant cult still refuses to acknowledge that the Skaven exist until the shit hit the floor. Though it could be argued that this is to ensure that there are no panic attacks among the populace, it still doesn't stop witch hunters like Victor Saltzpyre from being shunned in the order for being obsessed with some mythical ratmen creature that walks on two leg. However, the said Witch Hunter can still be promoted to be a captain, but only in desperate times.
According to Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay in the section about Rat Catcher career, Humans were aware of the Skaven and were also aware of their spying and assassination to any humans who spread rumors about the Skaven that persons' of aforementioned profession had developed a habit to not straight up admitting their existence, but calling them rats that are "too big" or "too clever" instead. The Witch Hunters other than Saltzpyre were probably in the same shoe just so they don't have to get stabbed by a Gutter Runner in their sleep. However, now that Saltzpyre has began his ratmen killing crusade, it is highly likely that his antic has endangered his entire order to be either straight up assassinated or drowned in vermintide very soon.
Notable examples include Wolfgart Von Krieger, Sigmar's own best friend (The capital of Ostland Wolfenburg is named after him), Victor Saltzpyre, the single most Witch-Huntery Witch-Hunter in the entire realm of Witch-Huntery, and Mathias Thulmann, the single deadliest individual who has the biggest balls of steel in the entire order (as well as being the most humane and competent one, which is surprising in case of the first one).
Fun Fact: Archaon the Everchosen used to be a witch hunter under his birth name, Diederick Castner in the older lore. Whats more was that he might even be one of the greatest servant of Sigmar, yet he was turned to Chaos because of the cruel fate the dark gods has planned for him (especially since Be'lakor made it extra sure by pulling some time reality fuckery scheme).
As a wonderful irony, the Witch Hunter's Handbook actually implies decent reasons for hunting things like fortunetellers and healers. Basically, both are charlatans whose guidance causes more harm than good. Like claiming putting a certain flower in a hat will cure insanity and drunkenness. Hint: it doesn't. Logically, people who believe this and try it and release the "cured" nutters just cause madmen to cause more harm before they can be captured again. Holding the "healer" who caused the mess responsible for it is totally justified. The same for fortunetellers who feed crap to wishful thinkers and end up damaging or ruining lives because of it or just scamming people (which happens a lot from the meddling of real-life fortunetellers "give me your life's savings and I'll 'purify it' for you and your problems will go away") The callous mass-burnings and such are implied to be genuinely necessary due to Chaos corruption or the like and the witch hunters allow the public to think the hunters go around murdering innocents and accept the hatred for it to keep them blissfully ignorant of the true threats constantly assailing the Empire in secret. Until a hunter ends up insane due to all the horrible things he's had to do crushing him with guilt and the mind-breaking things he's seen and fought finally becoming too much. Then it often becomes his turn at the stake.
Also noteworthy is that the introduction to the handbook explains that the author is probably insane and so the methods of hunting are not to be taken at face value or as solid fact. So how much of what is in the book is how the witch hunters actually operate and how much of it is the ramblings of a paranoid madman obsessed with the belief that everyone is a heretic even if they're innocent is up to the real-life reader to determine. Probably everything given how incredibly "you're guilty especially if you're innocent" the book tends to be.
Be warned, the only official model you can buy these guys in is Failcast, and his model is both incredibly prone to bubbles (Oh Boy) and includes a sword which is always bent beyond usability in the casting process. (Double oh Boy)
Witch Hunters are part of the default warband choices in Mordheim, which really only makes sense considering that we're talking about a city being smashed by a comet made up of crystallized Chaos magic hitting it like the fist of an angry god. Their primary enemy is, of course, the Cult of the Possessed, but they also have a major hateboner going for the Sisters of Sigmar, apparently over some bullshit sectarian difference that mostly seems to boil down to the Sisters claiming that women have the right to be priests of Sigmar too.
Uniquely amongst the default warbands, there is a very strong and lore-justified divide between the Hero and Henchmen selections. Heroes represent the actual Witch Hunters, with players being able to take up to 3 "regular" Witch Hunters and a single Sigmar Warrior-Priest alongside the mandatory Witch Hunter Captain to lead them - both versions of Witch Hunter gain Hatred against any model with the ability to cast spells, whilst the Warrior-Priest is a "pseudo-caster" hero, similar to its role in Warhammer Fantasy. The Henchmen represent the various fanatics and losers who gravitate to the Witch Hunters and serve as their expendable thugs, with the warband being able to take any number of Zealots (generic warriors), up to 5 Flagellants (religious nutters so crazy they have the Frenzy rule), and up to 5 wardogs.
Witch Hunter heroes will generally be both really skilled combatants and quite book smart, as Witch Hunter Captains, Witch Hunters and Warrior-Priests are all able to take skills from the Combat and Academics tables. Both the WH Captain and the vanilla WH can also take Shooting and Speed, whilst the WHC and the Warrior-Priest can both take Strength skills.
Age of Sigmar
Funny enough this job survived the end times since witch hunters do appear in Age of Sigmar, I guess with Archaon running amuck everywhere, and Chaos spreading into all of the realms, Sigmar need someone to "kindly" remind people why he is the better option. It is also implied that free elves and free dwarves can also be witch hunters.
The Witch Hunters of AoS fall under the wider umbrella of the Order of Azyr, Sigmar's version of the Inquisition. This organization not only includes Witch Hunters, but a wide variety of agents and officials comprised of nearly all the races and factions in the Order Grand Alliance. While not quite as grim dark as their 40k or Fantasy counterparts, they do continue their predecessors' ruthless streak with their frequent use of extra judicial punishment.
And, they're back in the new Warhammer Quest, though the character is TECHNICALLY just a vampire hunter. The Aesthetic is just perfect with that ridiculous stake rifle he is carrying plus the giant sword on his back, as well as him wearing his iconic hat.
The Witch Hunters got even more love in the final book of the Broken Realms Saga, Kragnos, with the introduction of the Van Densts. This father-daughter duo specialize not only in murdering the various heretics, mutants and undead, but also are quite proficient at banishing rogue endless spells. The father Galen excels up close with his classic sword and pistol combo, while his daughter Doralia serves as a sniper with a massive stake crossbow.