Peter Niers was a 16th Century German bandit, serial killer and purported black magician, convicted and executed in 1581 for the murders of 544 people, including 24 unborn children, cut from their mothers for use in his magical practice.
Allegedly Niers' career lasted some fifteen years - some of it as a bandit leader - and involved a significant amount of moving around within Germany in search of fresh prey and to avoid detection. He and a number of his accomplices were arrested in 1577 and Niers was tortured to extract details of his crimes, but at some point he escaped from custody and returned to his previous escapades until his arrest and execution in 1581.
Niers was said to be employed by The Devil - even to the extent of receiving a monthly salary - and to be able to change his appearance and even to become invisible and change shape, fuelling his abilities by consuming the hearts of unborn babies and using other parts of their bodies in a "medicine bag" which was the focus of his power. He is also said to have used fat extracted from the dead babies to create magical candles which would allow him to burgle houses at night without waking the inhabitants - from the description this sounds a lot like one interpretation of the Hand of Glory.
Whether he could actually disguise himself with magic, or whether he used more mundane methods, is open to question - he was said to be a man of fairly unremarkable appearance (which is always a help when disguising oneself), although fairly old looking, with two crooked fingers and a scar on his face … which may or may not have been present before his arrest in 1577. He was also said to commonly go about armed with two pistols and a great two handed sword.
His end finally came about when he left his medicine bag behind at an inn whilst he went to the local bathhouse. There he was recognised by a fellow bather and the alarm raised - a search of his inn revealed the bag and its grisly contents and soon afterwards he was arrested and brought to trial. This time he did not escape - and indeed seems to have freely confessed his crimes. Sentenced to death his execution took three days - the first two being consumed in torture with fire and iron and the last by breaking on the wheel, after which, still alive, he was finally killed by being quartered.
- Christman Genipperteinga - an even scarier German bandit with similar legends surrounding him.
- Peter Niers at the Other Wiki.
Game and Story Use
- Another nasty NPC for your campaign - probably not that big a deal in some fRPGs, but in a low magic historical campaign a shape shifting, invisible opponent who is also quite well tooled up for combat is likely to be a pain in the ass.
- Especially with a gang of bandits to back him up.
- Raiding for pregnant women could leave you with a hostage rescue scenario to play out.
- Alternatively, spring the bathhouse encounter on your PCs - just happening to pass someone who appears to be a major league villain as you're headed for the tub…