When time permits, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters, such as…
How would you incorporate Matthew Mercer’s blood hunters into Eberron?
At its core, the blood hunter is a warrior who can strengthen their own attacks and weaken their enemies at the expense of their own health. A blood hunter can invoke the Crimson Rite to infuse a weapon with elemental power or invoke a Blood Curse on an enemy, but this requires them to take damage based on the role of their Hemocraft die. A secondary aspect is a knack for hunting monsters. From the beginning, they have advantage on checks made to track or recall information about fey, fiends, or undead; the Brand of Castigation allows a blood hunter to mark a creature and always know the path toward it. Ghostslayer blood hunters specialize in dealing with the undead; Lycan blood hunters take on aspects of the curse of lycanthropy; Mutant blood hunters alter their own physiology; and Profane Soul blood hunters forge pacts with dangerous entities to gain their powers. Ultimately, the defining feature to me is monster hunters who burn their own essence to bring down their foes.
The critical question is what aspects of the existing blood hunter we want to keep. Is it important that the character is part of an order, or could they be a unique individual who has found their own path to this power? Does the power have to be based on blood, or as long as the core mechanics remain the same, could it be about consuming the character’s soul? I’ve never used blood hunters in my campaign, but here’s a few different ways I could imagine doing it.
The Order of the Silver Night (Ghostslayer)
When the jealous gods cursed our people with mortality, they filled the night with countless terrors—tempting demons, slavering werewolves, hungry corpses, and more. They sought to sever our path to divinity, to trap us in our flesh and to tear us apart. But I will seize that power and use it to slaughter these horrors, even if burns my body from within. I will be the silver sword in the night, the blade that stands between the innocent and terror.
The Seekers of the Divinity Within—also known as the Blood of Vol—know that there is a spark of divinity within mortal blood. They also know that the universe is a hostile place, that the gods have stacked the odds against mortals, and that only by standing together can humanity survive. So it was that long ago the wizard-priest Duran devised the ritual known as the Hunter’s Bane. Its name comes from the fact that the rite is incredibly painful, and can cripple or even killed those who undertake it. But those few Seekers with the strength and faith to complete the ritual of the Hunter’s Bane can draw on the power of their own divine essence, channeling their own power into their blades or laying curses on their enemies. But this power hasn’t been earned through enlightenment; the hunter can channel their divine spark into their blood, but it literally burns them from within.
The Order of the Silver Night protects seekers from supernatural threats. While they are far fewer in number, these Night Hunters serve much the same role as the templars of the Silver Flame—though a hunter will point out that their order is nearly a thousand years older than Tira’s church. They are ever watchful for scheming fiends, horrors emerging from Khyber, and other beasts… but their true and greatest enemies are the restless dead. Outsiders see Seekers using skeletons as laborers and learning from oathbound martyrs and assume that the Blood of Vol embraces all undead. But a ravenous ghoul is no one’s ally, and an exorcist is the only answer when a maddened ghost possesses an innocent in a quest for bloody vengeance. With its proliferation of Mabaran manifest zones, Karrnath deals with more spontaneous, malefic undead than any of the other Five Nations—and the hunters of the Silver Night stand ready to deal with these terrors. With this in mind, the hunters of the Silver Night typically use the Ghostslayer archetype; others use the Profane Soul archetype with an Undying Patron.
It may be that there is another aspect to the Night Hunters, one not known even to the hunter initiates themselves. The Seekers of the Divinity Within view sentient undeath as both a gift and a sacrifice. The faithful support vampires and oathbound with a tithe of blood, but this is based on the implicit understanding that the undead serve the living. It’s possible that the lich Duran—the oldest member of the Crimson Covenant and the creator of the Hunter’s Bane ritual of the Silver Night—has recruited an elite group of Night Hunters to police the Seeker undead, and to eliminate those who have been corrupted by greed or by the influence of Mabar. If a player character is drawn into this secret order, they could be tasked to investigate the Order of the Emerald Claw, to eliminate the undead who aren’t truly devoted to the well-being of the Seekers… perhaps even Lady Illmarrow herself. Whether the character uses the Profane Soul or Ghostslayer Archetype, Duran would effectively be an Undying patron.
It would be simple enough to posit a Ghostslayer order within the Church of the Silver Flame—one could even say that the damage the hunter suffers is “being burnt by the Flame.” However, I like the visceral contrast between the templar paladin calling on the Flame and the Seeker hunter ripping their unearned power from their own divine spark, doing whatever it takes to protect the innocent even if it may kill them. I’d love to play in a campaign with those two characters fighting side by side.
Olarune’s Blessed (Lycan)
Long ago, Olarune gave our people a gift. We could fully embrace the Beast Within, wielding all the power of the wild. But an ancient evil snatched her gift and twisted it, so any who channeled its power would become predators bound to its will. We refuse to surrender Olarune’s blessing. We defy the ancient evil, and use this power to destroy every monster it has unleashed within our woods.
The Towering Wood is filled with terrors. Capricious fey, plantlife twisted by the daelkyr Avassh, the fiendish minions of the Wild Heart—these are just a few of the dangers of the deep wood. The shifter tribes of the Towering Wood are guided by Moonspeaker druids, by cunning rangers and bold barbarians. But some of their most legendary champions are those who have reclaimed Olarune’s Blessing—fierce warriors who can unlock the full potential of their shifting gift.
Olarune’s Blessing doesn’t come easily. The rite of the Hunter’s Bane is one of the mysteries of the Moonspeaker druids; it can only be performed when the moons are properly aligned, and if the aspirant lacks spiritual strength they will become a monster bound to the will of the Wild Heart. A triumphant hunter receives Olarune’s gift, but the curse is always a part of it, and this is the principle of the damage dealt by blood hunter abilities; when the hunter draws on these powers they are actively fighting the curse of the Wild Heart, pushing through the corruption to seize the primal gift.
In playing one of Olarune’s blessed, the main question is why have you left the Towering Wood? You are a champion of your people, and there are many threats in the Eldeen you could deal with; why, then, would you become a wandering adventurer? Here’s a few possibilities…
- You lost control and the Wild Heart’s influence turned you against your people. Your Moonspeaker restored you at the cost of their own life. You have left the Towering Wood to distance yourself from the influence of the ancient evil; you must master the blessing and strengthen your resolve before you can risk returning to your home.
- A feud with other blood hunters drove you from the Wood. This could have been fueled by tragic romance, by tribal politics, or something else—but it is a mortal feud that drove you from your home, not fear of an immortal power. Do you intend to one day return and settle the matter, or have you closed the door on your old life?
- The Eldeen Reaches are a young nation living in the jealous shadow of Aundair. The survival of the Reaches may depend on the recognition and support of the people of other nations. You’ve been sent into the world to be a hero—to perform great deeds that will raise awareness of and support for your people.
- You have a nemesis—a fiend tied to the Wild Heart? A particularly cunning and cruel lycanthrope? Whoever they are, they inflicted great suffering on your people in the Towering Wood but have since fled. You are determined to hunt them down and make them pay. If you’re starting as a low-level character, it could be that this nemesis slew your blood hunter mentor. You know that you don’t currently possess the power necessary to defeat them. Finding and defeating your nemesis is your endgame, but as an adventurer you are working to develop the skills and allies you will need to defeat them; it’s not a race.
Mutant blood Hunters
With Mutant blood hunters. there are so many interesting possibilities that I find it difficult to choose one over the other. The Mutant hunter ingests mutagens that temporarily alter their physical capalities, and which possess both positive and negative side effects. Here’s just a few ideas…
- The Gifts of the Traveler. As a changeling, you were born into a nomadic family with a secret gift they’ve kept hidden even from other changelings—a system of rituals and formulas that allow them to push the bounds of changeling shapeshifting. How have they used this power? Are they agents of the Traveler, challenging traditions and promoting change? Are they locked in a feud with another changeling clan—a shadow war singleskins know nothing about? As an adventurer, are you acting as an agent of your family, or are you perhaps its last surviving member?
- Narathun Commandos. The dwarves of Clan Narathun are driven by the pursuit of arcane knowledge. Over the last century they have struggled to wrest the secrets of fleshcrafting from the Realm Below. The Narathun commandos are the product of that work—soldiers transformed to fight aberrant fire with fire. Your Hunter’s Bane rite essentially merged a symbiont with your nervous system, and your basic blood hunter abilities reflect this painful bond. Your mutagens are short-lived symbionts or formulas that interact with the embedded force. You surely served in the War Below; why have you left? Did you serve your time and retire with honor? Have you been banished from your hold after an incident in Sol Udar you won’t speak of? Are you pursuing a Cult of the Dragon Below—or are you afraid that such a cult has sunk its claws into your family?
- Seryan Heir. As a dragonmarked heir of House Vadalis, you have discovered that you have ties to the infamous Seryan family—a Vadalis line that practiced vile magebreeding techniques and created horrifying monsters. You’ve read your ancestors’ notes and experimented on your own body using their techniques, undergoing the excruciating Hunter’s Bane rites; now you are continuing to experiment with their mutagens. While your ancestors may have been monsters, you believe that their work can be used for the greater good; you just need to perfect it, and you’re the only test subject you’re willing to endanger. You’re an adventuring Doctor Jekyll. It could be that you actually harvest ingredients from the creatures your party defeats—Hang on, let me get the eye from this bullette; it’ll be perfect for my experiments!
Profane Soul blood Hunters
Even more than Mutants, Profane Soul blood hunters present a vast array of possibilities based on the patron that they choose. An Undying hunter could be tied to the Silver Night, while an Undead hunter could be connected to Katahska the Gatekeeper or the Bone King of Mabar. In Aundair, there could be an order of Archfey hunters who use their gifts to hunt down renegade fey; Hexblade hunters could have ties to the Court of Shadows, knowingly or unwittingly drawing power from Sul Khatesh. On the other hand, a Hexblade hunter could have been transformed when they unwittingly accepted a cursed weapon—perhaps from one of the Daughters of Sora Kell! The Great Old One works well for a hunter with a tie to one of the daelkyr or even the Dreaming Dark; is the hunter fighting the force that transformed them, or do they revel in its gifts?
Most of these ideas work best for characters who are starting at 3rd level, allowing the connection to the patron to be part of the character’s story from the very beginning. However, you could still establish the story even if the character doesn’t receive the full benefits of the relationship initially. The main thing to keep in mind is the principle that it’s painful for a blood hunter to draw on their powers. This suggests the idea that the Hexblade hunter is cursed; that the Great Old One hunter is dealing with painful daelkyr modifications; that the Archfey hunter pays a price for channeling fey power. This article on warlocks might provide additional ideas!
That’s all for now! As this is an IFAQ, I won’t be answering questions on this topic, but feel free to discuss these ideas and share what you’ve done with Blood Hunters in your Eberron! And thanks as always to my Patreon supporters for making these articles possible!