Here’s the thing: the Illuminati were the good guys.
During their brief existence, the historical Bavarian Illuminati championed eliminating superstition and prejudice, reducing the abuse of power by governments, and treating women as equals. If you’re opposed to those goals, then you’re a primitive screwhead and I don’t have anything to say to you. The rampant primitive screwheads of the time – including the Roman Catholic Church (which still has a lot of primitive screwheads in it) and proponents of Enlightened Despotism (all the science of the Enlightenment but none of the democracy!) – outlawed it and the society died. Late 18th century conspiracy theorists then blamed them for the French Revolution, but – again – unless you’re some kind of primitive screwhead then you should at least applaud the goals of the French Revolution even if you deplore its excesses.
So, yeah; they were the good guys.
Since the King is Dead is all about anti-monarchist conspiracies, it behooves me to create some secret societies for player characters to join. Both Honor + Intrigue and the Savage Worlds setting Rippers provide guidelines for rules for secret societies, but I don’t have those books handy so I’m just going to write up some descriptions.
Some Secret Societies of Malleus
The Bloodstained Blade
The greatest fencing masters of Malleus secretly belong to an ancient order of adepts – weapon masters who have sworn themselves to worship of the Pariah, the enemy of Sathaniel slain by St. Kerioth. These anti-Sathanists dedicate themselves to painful regimens of exercise and meditation that allow them to move faster than the eye can follow, deflect bullets, and cut the very air itself – but only as long as they remain dedicated to the Pariah’s message of peace and brotherhood.
Archetypes: duelist, fencing master, heroic highwayman, wanderer.
The O’Nails are a mad band of separatists from Clavus and Lochland (the pseudo-Scotland part of Malleus I haven’t written about yet) who support the claims of Jacob O’Nail, a pretender to the throne of Malleus who claims descent from the ancient Kimmerian royal line obliterated by Wilhelm the Everlasting. Not all Clavish or Lochlanders would claim membership in the Clan, but sympathy for their cause runs high. The Clan O’Nail is not popular amongst the other secret societies because of their adherence to fairy superstitions and monarchism, but they seem to lead charmed lives.
Archetypes: bandit, bard, bogtrotter social climber, highlander.
Formally “The Society for the Illumination of the Dark,” the Illuminated is one of the most radical and also most popular secret societies. They have members amongst the planters of the Colonies, the merchants and artisans of the cities, the gentry of the Pale, and the adventurers of Hammerstadt – which is surprising, given that they preach not only the destruction of the vampire aristocracy, but also the abolition of slavery, the equality of women, and the rejection of the Church. Membership is theoretically open to anyone who accepts their ideals, but the majority of Illuminated are gentry-class and middle-class Malleans.
Archetypes: adventurer, philosopher, poet, rabble-rouser, spy, statesman.
The Star’s Children
About two decades ago, a meteorite fell to earth outside the Mallean hamlet of Newtown Weald.* It was a seven days’ wonder and people flocked from all over the surrounding countryside to see the glowing stone. Now young men and women conceived by those who visited in that first week are displaying incredible abilities: inhuman strength and stamina, mesmerism, pyrokinesis, the second sight, telekinesis, telepathy… even flight. Feared and hated by vampires and superstitious mortals alike, these young outcasts are reaching out to each other and the siren call of the Glorious Revolt. Perhaps the victory of enlightened thought will see them accepted into society?
Archetypes: masked vigilante, mesmerist, strongman, superhero in a tricorn hat.
The Wild Hunt
The Wild Hunt is more a loose social network for the sharing of monster-killing secrets and survival tips than it is a true secret society. Members may be from as disparate backgrounds as the native Cruthin tribes of the Colonies, the lederhosen-wearing Nachtwald peasantry, or even Südlich warriors from the Undiscovered Lands; they have invented a secret sign language taught only to members to share their knowledge. Because the Wild Hunters are largely scandalous in upper-crust society, they often form partnerships with members of other secret societies to hunt their quarries; pity the fools who think these canny warriors are mere “noble savages.”
Archetypes: frontiersman, kung-fu kicking native warrior, naturalist, poacher.
Zunft von Hohenheim
Founded two centuries ago by alchemist, astrologer, and occultist Bombastus von Hohenheim,** the Zunft is one of the oldest secret societies aiding the Glorious Revolt. Changing lead to gold is merely a metaphor for something greater; the goal of alchemy is material social progress. The secret proddings of the Zunft have led to many of the seemingly banal advances in technology available in Malleus -- gas lighting, intricate clockwork, steam engines – as well as more miraculous uses like healing draughts and smoke bombs. Many in the Zunft von Hohenheim are cautious of the radical actions of the other societies, but they at least support their principles.
Archetypes: alchemist, astrologer, inventor, mad scientist, mountebank, occultist.
*The Wold Newton meteorite fell in 1795. That’s still part of the 18th century; it counts.
**Yes, I’ve just used part of Paracelsus’ birth name, but who could resist “Bombastus?” Also, Full Metal Alchemist author Arakawa Hiromu was obviously alluding to the historical alchemist when she named the Elric brothers’ dad “Hohenheim,” so it’s perfectly legit for me to use the name too.