The Hellfire Club
The Hellfire Club was a name for several exclusive clubs for high society rakes established in Britain and Ireland in the 18th century, and was more formally or cautiously known as the “Order of the Friars of St. Francis of Wycombe”. These clubs were rumoured to be the meeting places of “persons of quality” who wished to take part in immoral acts, and the members were often very involved in politics. Neither the activities nor membership of the club are easy to ascertain.
The very first Hellfire Club was founded in London in 1719, by Philip, Duke of Wharton and a handful of other high society friends. The most infamous club associated with the name was established in England by Sir Francis Dashwood, and met irregularly from around 1749 to around 1760, and possibly up until 1766. In its later years, the Hellfire was closely associated with Brooks’s, established in 1764. Other clubs using the name “Hellfire Club” were set up throughout the 18th century. Most of these clubs were set up in Ireland after Wharton’s were dispelled.
While it was supposed to have dissolved after 1766, or turned into the Phoenix Society by 1786, it had actually just hid better. More branches have appeared over time until they now cover most nations seen to be important. A few clubs have been lost due to conflict, the most recent of which was Spain during their civil war.
Although the Club itself was supposed to be secret, and its orgies open only by invitation, it concealed a still more secret purpose. It was a means of gathering magical power. The idea behind it having been to create ‘Artificial Magical Beings’ or AMBs. The ones behind the group knew of magic from the Pamphlet of the Rose Cross in 1614, but were not themselves gifted. However they understood the what gaining access to this power would mean and sought to give themselves those that power. They also found it a great means to control or influence those invited in as long as society looked down on the actions performed while part of the club. Even without direct threat, a group that could provide things that were not seen as morally or legally available could be a great advantage.
While they still hold to the original goal of creating AMBs as their primary goal, their influence and power have considerable reach among the rich and powerful. They use this as both a shield and a resource to achieve their real goal.
The primary goal of the Hellfire Club is the creation of Artificial Magical Beings. The means and methods used vary to achieve this. While the original methods involved gathering power and attempting to link it to humans, none were successful. Most modern attempts have sought to use science to tame magic. Often the results have been horrible.
To them, magical and supernatural creature or people are keys to unlocking a puzzle. Because of this they have done terrible experiments on any magical or supernatural person they have discovered. This has included experimenting on those possessing magic, Fey, undead, therianthropes, and even stranger creatures. However so far all of their experiments at unlocking the potential of magic in those not natively gifted have failed.
The Hellfire Club is highly exclusive and only those invited can join. Usually these are either recruited from families who already are members. Though others are invited, usually during their college years, who have the right pedigree and aptitudes to be useful. When a member proves themselves they move from a candidate, to being a full member of the outer circle. Usually this also means that the organization has it’s hooks in them, often by satisfying their immoral or illegal cravings whether that is drugs, strange sexual practices (or partners), or even worse things like a craving to maim, kill, or torture others.
The Club itself is spread out in multiple physical locations around the world. Chapters exist in most major cities of any importance, though the original London chapter is the overall headquarters. Each Chapter has an outer circle of general members, who usually know very little about the real working of the organization. However the inner circle is different.
The inner circle is the real heart of the club and they all know the true goals of the organization. Having real talent is the only means of gaining a spot on the inner circle and often someone needs to die to free that spot up. The inner circle itself is organized by a combination of playing cards and chess pieces. Their are three colors full of ranks: white, red, and black. From there each color gets: one king, one queen, two rooks, two bishops, two knights, and eight pawns. The Kings and Queens are the ruling powers of a branch of the organization, with the ones holding that position in London typically being the Grand King and Grand Queen of the organization as a whole. However this organization leads to each branch having only sixteen inner circle members of a color and forty eight total inner circle members.
They know of many other organizations, however they work directly with very few of those. They would also sell their souls to capture large numbers of ‘people’ belonging to any magical or ‘supernatural’ organization.
Abilities and Skills
Hellfire Club members are often highly educated. Business, Economics, Science, Medicine, Engineering, and Law are all common areas of study. Since anyone they find to have magical or supernatural abilities are used as experimental subjects, none of their number are considered to be gifted. That said a few have proven to be latent talents before and that ha not normally ended well for them if they become active. Instead with access to advanced technology mechanical replacement limbs and genetic alterations are very common.
Most members of the Hellfire Club get there because of their profession and so are from the ranks of the wealthy or learned. Politicians, stock brokers, corporate executives, private business owners, doctors, lawyers, and others of power and influence are those they chose. However they also recruit a number of engineers and scientists to fulfill their goals. Also highly skilled professional mercenaries are sometimes invited in as well to provide them with services, often after working for them for a length of time and having proved themselves to the club.