The following Monster Hunter class for Grim Hollow and 5e is playtest material. This article covers levels 9-14, levels 1-3 can be found here, and levels 4-8 can be found here. The final levels are coming in a future article. The Monster Hunter includes writing and mechanics contributed by Skawabii.
“I’ve been called a mutant, a freak, a cannibal, a monster… I can’t think of a name I haven’t been cursed with. But none of you know how any of this works! You only have your superstitions. And when they don’t work, I’m thrown a purse of gold to ignore your insults.”
– Stelvi, the Hungerer
Stelvi and I hunted together the first time I met the red witch.
Orange light of the fading day forked between the trees. The tall redwoods cast long black shadows. Yet I could still see the bone charms hanging from the branches above us. A raven with red flecks in its feathers cawed. The air was cold.
My suspicion was that the witch could hear me, so I spoke. Stelvi turned her head to me sharply.
“Lady of the autumn court,” I chose flattery, “We have travelled far for stories of your beauty. We are humble pilgrims come to see the world’s natural wonders. When we were told of you, we swore an oath to search until we found you, even if we shall die in these woods.”
A voice whispered back. It was so quiet it could have been a footstep crunching on leaves.
“You don’t look like knights errant.”
I drew my short sword and knelt beside it. Stelvi scoffed, thinking me a fool.
“We have no coin for engraved armor or mighty arms,” I claimed, “our kingdom is the road and our court the forest.”
“I suspect you are paid in plenty,” she emerged from behind a tree.
She had the stature of a young woman in a tattered farm dress. Her feet were dusted with mud and her hair was tangled with leaves. At first glance, a commoner might assume she was lost in the woods. But this body did not belong to her, and the years had begun to show it.
Her skin was stained with red blotches like birthmarks. Where the marks were darkest the skin had begun to peel away. Her nails were sharp and bloodied, as if they had pierced out the ends of her fingers. Though she still wore a human face, her eyes were entirely red with slitted pupils. She was a creature failing to hide herself with a mask.
Stelvi drew her longsword.
“Your stomach’s rumbling,” I muttered to the hunter.
“How much is my life worth?” the witch asked.
“Quite a lot, actually,” I admitted. “You blighted a wealthy man. He’ll settle for nothing less than your head, though I suspect that one’s not yours.”
Stelvi sniffed the air, observing the creature.
“She was part of my family,” the red women looked at her hand. “I was once part of a very large one, and thanks to your ilk she was one of the last.”
“Our ilk don’t tend towards mutual understanding,” I pointed between us.
“The wealthy man sent hounds and soldiers into my woods,” the witch lamented. “When the trees wouldn’t allow me to be caught, he tried burning them down. The forest was scarred. All because a mortal fears what he can’t control.”
I wouldn’t have thought myself the kind to shed a tear because of a forest fire. Or maybe it was Stelvi coiling to attack while the red woman was speaking that bothered me. Still, I considered that I was paid often to defend a village from encroaching monsters. How was defending a forest from encroaching men any different?
Stelvi lunged. Her sword gashed the red woman’s arm. The woman screamed and stumbled. As she tried to scramble backwards over the tree roots, she pleaded for my aid.
“Stop her from killing me!”
I decided to act. I threw a weretrap which exploded off Stelvi’s back with a whip-crack and knocked the hunter prone. The witch fled through the trees. Stelvi staggered to her feet. Blood stained the soil beneath her. The weretrap had opened a wound across her shoulder.
“What are you doing?” Stelvi shouted.
I held my short sword ready.
Stelvi tried to dart in the direction the red woman ran. I interposed myself and Stelvi leaped upon a tree. She began to climb upwards, sinking her claw-like nails into the bark. I reached for my crossbow. When the bolt pierced Stelvi’s thigh it was trailed by long cord, which I yanked and pulled the hunter back to the forest floor.
The red woman was gone.
“You moron,” Stelvi shouted as she rolled to her feet. She tore the bolt from her leg and looked ready to lunge. Instead, she composed herself and sheathed her weapon. Her wounds were already closing miraculously.
It was the last time we hunted together.
By 9th level, stories of your expertise in hunting monsters have spread and you have become a recognized professional in your field. You have advantage on Charisma checks against non-hostile creatures when plying your trade, such as when negotiating payment for a quest, asking for information about a monster, or selling monster salvage.
Hunting Guild Feature
Carver Guild – Grave Riposte
By 10th level you have learned to strike back and your foes who provide you an opening. If a creature you have marked within melee range misses you with an attack or attacks a creature other than you, you may use your reaction to immediately make a melee weapon attack or Grave Strike against them.
Trapper Guild – Ambushers Advantage
Starting at 10th level you have become a ferocious ambusher. You have a bonus to your initiative rolls equal to your Intelligence modifier. If you use Grave Strike against a creature that has not acted in combat yet, you can use your bonus action to make a single weapon attack as well.
Devourer Guild – Alchemical Decoctions
At 10th level, you gain proficiency with Alchemist’s supplies.
You can spend 1 hour and 20 gold pieces worth of alchemical ingredients (such as special herbs or monster salvage) to use your Alchemist’s supplies to convert a single portion into a decoction.
A decoction is a magic potion that functions exactly like a portion but has no limit on how long it lasts.
Creatures other than you can consume 1 decoction, gaining a level of exhaustion for each additional decoction they consume after that. After finishing a long rest, a creature regains the ability to safely consume a single decoction.
If a decoction enables a creature other than you to cast a spell, they may use their own spellcasting ability or use Constitution if they do not already have the ability to cast a spell.
Rapid Grave Strike
Once you reach 11th level, you are an expert at striking at the weaknesses of your prey. All your weapon attacks now deal an extra 1d8 of damage. You may also now choose to use Grave Strike as part of any Attack action instead of taking an entire action on its own.
Ability Score Improvement
When you reach 4th level, and again at 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level, you can increase one ability score of your choice by 2, or you can increase two ability scores of your choice by 1. As normal, you can’t increase an ability score above 20 using this feature.
By reaching 13th level, you have gathered enough information among the monsters you’ve slain to add another section to your Monster Grimoire.
You may select a new type of monster that you are specialized in hunting from the following list: aberrations, beasts, constructs, dragons, elementals, fey, fiends, giants, monstrosities, oozes, plants, undead, or humanoids (shape changers). You may not choose a monster type you have chosen before. All the benefits you gain from your monster grimoire now also apply to this new creature type.
By 13th level, you have studied the ways in which your foes attack and trained your body and mind to resist them. You are considered proficient with any saving throw made against a creature written about in your Monster Grimoire. If you are already proficient when asked to make the saving throw, you may add your proficiency bonus a second time.
Hunter’s Instincts Improvement
Beginning at 14th level, you have honed your hunter’s instincts to the point of only needing clues a creature has left behind to learn information about them. These clues could include tracks or claw marks, standing inside the monster’s lair, the remains of one of their victims, or even an accurate description given by a witness.
As an action you can make an Intelligence (Investigation) check while considering one of these clues. The DC equals 10 + the CR of the creature who left the clue, the check automatically successful against creatures with a CR less than 1. If you are successful, you learn one of the following pieces of information.
- The creature’s type.
- The creature’s armor class.
- Any damage resistances or immunities the creature has.
- Any damage vulnerabilities the creature has.
If the clue is misleading in any way, such as being an illusion or an inaccurate witness account, you do not learn any information with a successful ability check but instead become aware that the clue is misleading.
Some years later I found myself back in that forest, alone.
It was autumn again. Brown leaves drifted down like snow. She was boiling roots inside a small black cauldron over a campfire. She sat outside a timber and twig hut that looked like it was collapsing. Hundreds of bone and twine effigies hung from the branches above.
“The brave pilgrim returns,” the witch murmured, “to claim your coin after all.”
Her raven with the red flecks in its feathers stretched its wings on her shoulder.
“I’m here to trade,” I assured her.
She felt no danger from me. She had allowed me to discover this place. I may have otherwise wandered her forest for a hundred days and never have seen her.
She looked different than she had before, her humanoid disguise long deteriorated. Her entire complexion was brighter than blood. Gnarled hands like spidery claws were fixed to arms that were far too long and thin for her body. Her hair was a mess of red. Her face was near featureless except for her dark slitted eyes, and a crooked jaw behind a gaping lipless mouth.
“What would you possibly have of interest to me,” she muttered before tasting her stew.
I unhooked the head of the wealthy man from my belt. The same man that had offered payment for her life those years ago. It landed near her pot, scowling upwards. It was difficult to imagine that face had once been human. His teeth had grown into crooked fangs and his skin was so festered with bile it smelled of decay when he had been alive.
“Your blight had reduced him to a monster,” I explained, “and his family paid me to end his suffering.”
“He was always a monster,” she hissed, stirring her pot once more. “He was born to a nest of vipers. He deserved much worse.”
“There used be more of you,” I supposed.
“Three we numbered,” she whispered, “and protected these woods and the folk that lived within them for a century and more. We had a mortal family. A bloodline that had survived for generations of cunning folk.”
“The family whose bodies you harvested to prolong your own life,” I interrupted.
“Who sacrificed willingly to strengthen their community,” the red woman tapped her spoon on the edge of her pot. “A community the trees protected until this worm hired a monster hunter to kill us all. Not one was spared, except me. My sisters, our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren, all dead. The forest floor was soaked with their blood.”
She stood while she was speaking and unhooked her pot from the spit. Then she turned her back to me and began hobbling towards her hut. The raven on her shoulder continued to glare at me.
“When I was here last you convinced me your life was worth more than the coin I was offered for it,” I explained. “Now I want to collect on what it was worth. I’ve killed the man responsible for the death of your family. I want something in exchange.”
Her red eyes peaked back over her shoulder. She was afraid of me.
“I seek a cure for lycanthropy,” I said calmly. “I am told you may know of such things.”
She took a long time to decide. She stared at me. She looked at the head in the dirt.
“To cure such a thing,” she began, “there is a monster you must hunt.”
When her explanation was complete and I had asked my questions, she demanded I leave her forest. I did as she asked. Yet this time I was aware she had tried to charm me, unlike when she compelled me to attack Stelvi those years ago.