In my setting , there is a faction known as the Templar that serve a larger Empire. The Templar are all magically gifted and immortal (non aging). They are covered completely in their armor and their helmets obscure their faces to the enemy.

The Templar are pretty much always the vanguard. They are the tip of the spear that breaks the enemy's back and allows the "lesser" troops to finish up. The Templar aren't just muscle though. They employ varied and advanced tactics, but have a (well earned) reputation for brutal efficiency. The Empire isn't the most stable place, so the Templar are often used to put down rebellions; basically to "prove a point".

Due to this fact, they also try to nurture this reputation in the Empire as well, so that someone doesn't meet an Imperial citizen and have say something along the lines of: "Oh, the Templar? Nah, they're pretty cool dudes. My sister married one. Really nice guy." Rather, there should be mixed stories and wild rumors like: "They once burned down a city for selling bad wine" or "One got his head cut off by a knight. He killed the knight and just sewed his head back on after the fight!"

Now, onto the real question: How can the Templar effectively spread propaganda among a populace to cause fear and superstition when it comes to fighting them?

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    $\begingroup$ Well if they just do all the stuff it will spread quite fast... $\endgroup$
    – Fl.pf.
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 10:54
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    $\begingroup$ They are magically gifted, immortal and live inside a tuna can. Do you need to spread superstitions? Like for example that they can die and are not magically gifted? I find it curious that you want to uphold a negative image rather than a positive one as an institution within the state (which is the opposite of what happened every single time in history I believe - if this isn't true please tell me). Maybe the key is not doing anything $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 10:56
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    $\begingroup$ That's what bards do :-) $\endgroup$
    – adonies
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 11:02

6 Answers 6


Agents of Influence

The Agent of Influence is someone whose task is that which you are asking for.

Remember that in a medieval setting, there is no such thing as news agencies, no Internet, no newspapers, no telegraph... nothing. The only official and established information outlets are town criers and heralds, and all the rest is rumour, hearsay, word of mouth.

So these Templars of yours employ a number of travellers that go from inn to inn, from pub to pub, to harbour taverns, brothels, and other such places where people meet and talk. All they need to do is make sure that they keep their stories fairly straight so that people can corroborate them.

— Oh come now, you are joking... they cannot be all that?!

— No really, I heard the same thing in Unspecifieditown. All the same...

So... round up all the raconteurs you can find and employ them. Give them a budget to travel, a reasonable cover story, and then you are set.

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    $\begingroup$ Don't forget priests. They're a source of trusted information, and could be used -- it's that or have them against you. $\endgroup$
    – Chris H
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 13:37
  • $\begingroup$ You don't necessarily need to have perfectly corroborating stories, since second, third, etc... hand retellings will start diverging anyway. And if people don't agree whether the Templars burned the city to the ground or lined the inhabitants up single file and executed them one by one, the important point still gets across. $\endgroup$
    – Ethan
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 13:42
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    $\begingroup$ Also, since no one knows a Templar's face, the "off duty" Templars themselves could be their own Agents of Influence. $\endgroup$
    – emery.noel
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 14:10
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    $\begingroup$ This is how medieval and renaissance propaganda was sometimes actually conducted. Two important additions: Buy the priests. Poor rural peasants who go to any kind of regular religious service, feast or festival are going to get 90% of their political news from the pulpit. Second, buy the poets. Word travels faster if it rhymes, and wandering performers get around more than anyone in a rural medieval society. $\endgroup$
    – Random
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 19:52
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    $\begingroup$ "There's no such thing as news agencies, no Internet, no telegraph..." - there's magic. Couldn't magic be used to simulate those things? I'm Peter Jeggings, and this is your Crystal Ball O'clock News. $\endgroup$
    – corsiKa
    Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 4:19

Rumors will spread naturally if they really are magically gifted and really cannot be killed; all they need to do is leave alive a few soldiers and/or spectators from each battle. It is human nature to talk of near unbelievable things they have witnessed.

That's it, just allow witnesses to survive and their reputation will be such that they may not need to fight at all: Genghis Khan had a reputation for killing every male in a town and giving their daughters and wives to his soldiers to do with as they pleased: raped, turned into servants, or both: But not if you surrendered and joined his army (on probation and without arms until you proved yourself, of course). After some number of these "kill them all and burn the town" episodes, Genghis took many fortified towns without any fight at all, he arrived to open gates with the men already standing there defenseless, with their weapons on the ground in front of them. Heck, they probably killed (or banished) their own dissenters!

Propaganda needs no special accelerant when the rumors are true.

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    $\begingroup$ The OP states that the Templars are "immortal", not "indestructible/invincible". As such they can be killed though armour and magic would make this more difficult. Letting witnesses live is a good idea so no -1 but there is the risk that mercy would give the enemy an opening to kill a Templar and derail the myth. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 12:50
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    $\begingroup$ @LordJebusVII I take "immortal (non aging)" to be both immortal, and forever young (as opposed to looking older with every passing century). To me, the word "immortal" demands a qualifier if the entity can actually die by something as simple as being stabbed in the throat. It doesn't have to mean invulnerable, but I think no injury kills it. In a magical fantasy setting, of course; in real life no such thing is possible, not even a black hole lasts forever. $\endgroup$
    – Amadeus
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 13:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Amadeus I never took Immortal to imply immune to death by injury, though I don't believe there's any universal definition that specifies either way. To me Immortal simply always meant does not deteriorate due to time, and invulnerable is the explicit one that indicates immune to injury. Though I guess the black knight is a good middle ground that remains undefined... $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 5, 2018 at 7:08
  • $\begingroup$ @LordJebusVII: letting witnesses alive and show mercy are orthogonal concepts. Imagine to burn down a city, rally all the prisoners in one place, start a vicious roulette to select 2-3 people that could survive, slaughter everyone else and only mutilate the roulette winner. Even though someone is left alive I don't see a lot of mercy here... $\endgroup$
    – theGarz
    Commented Jul 5, 2018 at 7:12
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    $\begingroup$ @IsaacReefman im-mortal comes from roots meaning "the opposite" of "mortal", from "mortalis", "to die." An immortal by construction cannot die by any means, including injury. Any being that can be killed by physical injury is mortal, it can die. Being long lived is not immortality. See etymonline.com/word/immortal $\endgroup$
    – Amadeus
    Commented Jul 5, 2018 at 10:02

If I understand your question correctly: you're looking for a form of medieval-age propaganda to instill fear against a population. If that is true, then may I present:

Malleus Maleficarum

Hammer of Witches:, the treatise on witchcraft written by the Catholic clergyman Heinrich Kramer and published in the Speyer, Germany in 1487. Maleficarum is infamous for endorsing the wholesale extermination of alleged witches. For being published 40 years after the invention of the printing press, it was a bestseller second only to the Bible for almost 200 years.

In your case, a similar work may be distributed among clergymen and empire officials to educate them about The Templars, their achievements, and their authority.

EDIT: As Securinger noted in the comments, Maleficarum was not endorsed by the church.

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    $\begingroup$ I might point out that many sources /falsely/ imply that /Malleus Maleficarum/ was endorsed by, or popular within, the Catholic Church. In fact it was condemned as heretical by the Catholic Church and placed on the Index of Prohibited Books. As punishment for writing it, Kramer was sacked from his role as an Inquisitor and exiled from the city where he lived. He narrowly escaped prosecution for heresy due to the opinion of the local bishop that he was not a heretic, just "a senile old fool." $\endgroup$
    – Securiger
    Commented Jul 5, 2018 at 5:18
  • $\begingroup$ Should add that where "Malleus" became dangerous was the political and religious turmoil of the new protestant states, with too few educated pastors to curb superstition. $\endgroup$
    – Securiger
    Commented Jul 5, 2018 at 5:25

They could subliminally control people's thoughts of them, so that the mere mention of their name arouses a deep feeling of dread, though people aren't sure why. As an added bonus, they could make this curse spread virally, so that it spreads from person to person (with physical contact, communication, eye contact, presence in room, etc.), and make it so that the first response to any inquiry as to why a person is afraid, disturbed, or otherwise upset would be along the lines of "The Templar...". This response could be easily corrected, but the dread would persist, and people not affected (e.g. because of magic of their own) would begin to associate the phrase "the Templar" with these terrified reactions. Especially if they were foreigners and didn't know what the Templar were yet.


To compel fear, but not rebellion, you need a greater evil. It must persist or you must have a reasonable level of public trust in your story that it might come again.

Being seen as unpredictable and dangerous is very easy. A shroud of mystery isn't hard either, especially if you have the right job.

To instill fear in enemies is harder, it involves dealing with aggressive attempts to put you to the test. Better to have a constant excuse to prove yourself like a war or being held hostage.


Although it is technically not "mediaeval" so much as "early Renaissance", propaganda did actually play an important role in several early modern conflicts. Notable examples include the English Civil War and the Thirty Years' War. The medium was the rapid growth of peasant literacy combined with the printing press (initially as woodblock printing, later done more efficiently with the movable type press.)

Partisans of those conflicts spread propaganda in the form of broadsheets and pamphlets, often anonymously, to fairly uncritical audiences who could often be induced to riot by the most improbable purple prose.

A particular subset of these are "Discoveries" of witchcraft -- pamphlets and even short-form books supposedly revealing conspiracies by a huge underground network of witches. It is not only modern readers who find them to be embarrassingly lurid and totally ridiculous: many educated persons of the era realised they were nonsense, and dangerous nonsense at that, and tried to suppress them. In some cases this was successful, but in many places where central authority had broken down, "witch panics" arose and scores of innocent people were killed.

In your cause, your Templars actually do have diabolical powers, so the lurid stories in the printing press could quickly spread these.


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