What Do I Know About Reviews? Blood Hunter (D&D 5e)
For someone who would reflexively say that Dungeons and Dragons 5thedition doesn’t really need more character classes, new character classes seem to catch my attention from time to time. The one I’m referring to at the moment was especially hard to miss, since it was a revision of Matt Mercer’s Blood Hunter class. While it started life as a translation of Vin Diesel’s character from The Last Witch Hunter, it’s clearly got some Witcher DNA in the mix.
Detailing the Rite
The Blood Hunter is a twelve-page with multiple pieces of art featuring various kick-ass monster hunters of different types. Between the formatting, tables, and page layout, these pages look like they came straight out of a Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition rulebook.
Because this is a Dungeon Master’s Guild product, there is only a half-page of disclaimer text, and this particular product doesn’t have a separate cover. It literally looks like it was taken straight out of the character class section of the Player’s Handbook.
Because I often like to listen to a PDF being read while I’m reading it, in part because I’m often taking notes, I use PDF read-aloud features often. Unfortunately, the current version of this product is not naturally natively set up for OCR functions, so PDF readers won’t work on the PDF. This wasn’t a problem for me, but for people that rely on PDF readers for more than convenience, this may be something to take into account.
There is about a page and a half of text that explains what a blood hunter is, and while it hasn’t changed drastically from the description of the original version of the class (which is still up on D&D Beyond as of this writing), there is some subtle nuance added that jumped out at me.
Blood Hunters are an order of monster hunters that use blood magic to augment themselves, give them access to magical abilities, and curse their enemies. They undergo an arduous rite, and if they survive, they come out the other side as a member of the order. Not only does that hearken back to The Witcher, but also the Grey Wardens of Dragon Age.
The new version of the class specifically uses the term “hemocraft” for blood magic, and that shift from a more generic terminology to something more evocative makes me wonder if Matt doesn’t have some plans for implementing hemocraft as a setting element in Exandria on a wider scale.
Whatever his plans may be, as a fan of Kobold Press’ Midgard setting, it wasn’t too hard for me to pick up on the “reforming blood magic to do good” aspect of the class, and its general “Witcher”-ness to think the class would be a good fit in that setting. Sorry Sanguine Path adherents, there might be some more heroic types stealing your secrets to use against you.
General Class Features
The Blood Hunter is built to be a front line fighter, and they start off with a d10 hit die, medium armor and shield proficiency, and martial weapon proficiency. They are going to suffer a bit from multiple attribute dependency, since they are medium armor fighters that probably would like some Dexterity, but they need Intelligence for their hemocraft ability DCs to ramp up.
Blood Hunters get advantage to track certain supernatural creatures, and once per rest, they can also cast a specialized curse on an enemy. The curses can be picked from a specific list, with a few restricted by level and subclass. One neat trick associated with this blood curse is that the curses have a greater effect that kicks in if you take your Hemocraft Die as damage when you enact the curse. Essentially, you can bleed yourself to give your curses more oomph.
At 2nd level, you can bleed out your Hemocraft Die on your weapon to cause it to do extra energy damage. The extra energy damage is equal to that same Hemocraft Die, so it’s a bit of design that does extra duty for this class. There are two confusing bits about this ability. One is that it is noted that this damage is magical, but all of the rites do some kind of “energy” damage. I don’t know if that class feature means that the weapon damage is considered magical when the rite is in place, and I’m not sure under what circumstances energy damage being “magical” is an important distinction.
The other confusing bit is with its interaction with a later class feature in one of the subclasses, but I’ll mention it here. That class feature makes it sounds as if you can have multiple rites active at one time, which would mean that the only limit would be how many rites you know, and how much damage you want to do to yourself, but this causes potential issues with critical hits and later subclass abilities that multiply your Hemocraft Die under certain circumstances.
As it turns out, Matt has answered this online, and the intention is that you can have more than one rite active, but not on the same weapon.
At 3rd level, you pick or Order, and at 5thlevel, you get an extra attack. At 6th level, you can place a blood brand on an enemy, which does psychic damage to them when they damage you—at 13thlevel that brand does even more psychic damage if your enemy tries to teleport away, and probably ruins the attempt as well.
Grim Psychometry is probably my favorite extremely simple class feature, just in how it is flavored. You get advantage on Intelligence (History) rolls in areas where spooky stuff has happened, but it’s because you have visions of the creepy stuff that happened in the past. I’m not sure this needs to wait until 9th level, but I love how it’s flavored.
Other high-level abilities involve bonuses or advantage to certain saves, and the capstone ability, which lets you reroll your hemocraft dice, and regain them when you score a crit.
That’s a lot going on and we haven’t even hit the subclasses yet.
The following subclasses exist for the Blood Hunter:
- Order of the Ghost Slayer (Specialized in Undead Hunting)
- Order of the Profane Soul (Partial Warlock Abilities)
- Order of the Mutant (Shifting Bonus Abilities Based on Mutagens Ingested)
- Order of the Lycan (Focused Lycanthropic Abilities)
The Order of the Ghost slayer gets a shiny weapon that lets them resist necrotic damage, and extra hemocraft die against undead, and resistance to necrotic damage. They get to cast an extra curse per rest, and at 7thlevel pick up the ability to Ethereally shift through people and things once per rest. At 11th level, a branded opponent takes an extra hemocraft die of damage (that’s starting to stack up if you brand an undead opponent). You can also pull your life force back in from a rite you have active on a weapon to keep you from dying at 18th level.
The Order of the Profane Soul is really a partial warlock. You pick a patron, which alters some of the later abilities of the subclass. You get the minimal spell slots of a warlock, as well as access to cantrips. In this case, you are an Intelligence-based warlock. There are a bunch of different kickers based on your chosen patron when you have a rite active on your weapon. At 7thlevel, you get to stab someone as a bonus action when you use a cantrip. At 7thlevel, you get another special ability based on patron, and that happens again at 15th level. At 11th level, your branded foes have disadvantage on saves against your magic.
The Order of the Mutant can use a mutagen that they learn once per rest, and those mutagens only work for them, and can’t be shared. Mutagens all have different side effects, but at 7th level, you get immunity to poison, and you can spend a bonus action to ignore a mutagen side effect. At 11thlevel, if you brand a foe, illusions and disguises don’t work for them, and at 18th level, you can shift the effects of one active mutagen for another.
The Order of the Lycan gets heightened senses (advantage on perception) and hybrid transformation (bonus to damage, AC, claws, and maybe go berserk when you are bloodied). At 7th level, you get faster and better at using your natural weapons. At 11th level, you can transform more often between rests and start regenerating. At 15th level, you have advantage on your branded enemies for purposes of attacks, and you are less likely to go berserk when bloodied. At 18th level, not unlike a barbarian with their rage around this level, you can transform whenever you want.
These feel like some really varied play experiences, and I’m not even going to pretend that I can just read through these and pick out what would happen in play. All of them are pretty evocative, and the only one that sets off my radar a bit is the Order of the Ghost Slayer and its bonus hemocraft dice in multiple features, especially if you have a Ghost Slayer dual wielder that has rites going on both weapons.
I’ll be honest, if I had the inclination to multi-class as a warlock, and it was into anything martial (except paladin), I’d probably just go Blood Hunter–Order of the Profane Soul and see how it worked out.
One bit of flavor text that I might alter is the Onus of Lycanthropy sidebar, which states that Order of the Lycan Blood Hunters can infect others with lycanthropy, but can also suppress their ability to pass on the curse, and are barred from passing on the curse by their order. I think I would rather lockdown that ability to pass on the curse a little more solidly than to just trust fear of repercussion.
I won’t go into these too deeply, except to point out that each of the subclasses gets their own flavor of curse that only works for them. As an example of what some of the curses look like, and how they are boosted, let’s look at Blood Curse of the Marked.
When you mark your opponent, you get an additional hemocraft die when damaging them, until the end of your next turn. If you bleed yourself to get the amplified version, you also get advantage on the attack.
While these come back with a short or long rest, there are some high risk, reward maneuvers when considering the boosted ability. There are some, for example, that restrict actions or do damage, or cause a caster to have a harder time concentrating, and I feel like harrying or restricting is a better use than potentially burning your curse and maybe your hit points and then failing an attack roll (which reminds me of the old days of 3rdedition paladin smites).
There is a ton of flavorful gameplay in this class. It shouldn’t be too hard to fit “blood magic, but for good!” into a lot of campaign settings, even if you aren’t using Exandria as your base of operations. There is a lot of varied gameplay in the four subclasses right from the start, and while it should be no surprise, I really like not just the class abilities, but the descriptions of those abilities.
This class has a lot going on, even for the non-caster variants, and some of it can get a little tangled. It might be easy to sort out at the table, but at first glance, you realize you will probably need a second glance. Some clarifications, such as the multiple active rites, don’t feel intuitive and I needed to look up responses online to see what was going on with that ability.
Recommended–If the product fits in your broad area of gaming interests, you are likely to be happy with this purchase.
Unless you are vehemently against looking at new classes, this one is a fun read, and even if you decide not to allow it in your game, seeing the interaction of class features feels like it may be worth it for the mechanically minded. On the other hand, if you don’t mind new classes, and especially if you happen to like a certain Butcher of Blaviken, I doubt you will be disappointed with the purchase.