Aeramis, compared to our world, is one of constant danger. Werewolves prowl the countryside, vampires rule the night, ghosts and undead rise from graves to drag the living to their deaths, and among all these monsters are the many practitioners of dark arts and evil magic. Even beyond these supernatural threats lie other dangers; giants as tall as buildings, hordes of violent raiders, and hungry beasts with no sense of morality. Even nature itself sometimes rises full of twisting vines and poisoned thorns to strike down civilization itself.
The Rangers of the Wild do their part to protect the common folk from these dangers, but their numbers are not sufficient, nor are they fully prepared, to face the full powers of the darkness head on. to truly prevail, some must be willing to be consumed by the darkness itself. These men and women undergo years of training and suffer through a blood ritual which changes not just who they are but what they are. In so doing they gain amazing abilities to fight the legions of evil, but at the cost of their own innocence and a place in civilized society. These people are blood hunters.
What is a Blood Hunter?
Most individuals find their way to the Order around the age of 11 or 12, and should the higher class masters find them capable enough they will be apprenticed to a blood hunter mentor and live with them until the age of 18. Orphans most commonly reach the steps of the Order’s institutions; having no other family and no where else to go. During their time with a mentor the apprentice learns combat techniques, studies monster lore, and travels with their mentor on contracts (though it often takes years before the apprentice is allowed to take part in direct combat). They also prepare themselves mentally and physically in other ways to receive the Hunter’s Bane at 18 years of age. It is not uncommon for a mentor to extend a gift to his subordinate upon successfully becoming a blood hunter, usually in the form of a specially crafted weapon or other item.
Known as the Blutändun ritual in the blood hunter order, the Hunter’s Bane is an alchemical concoction, its exact origins lost to time, which forever alters the drinker’s life force. Not all who drink the Hunter’s Bane live through the ordeal, and those who do survive can take a week to recover. However, successful imbibement of the Bane slowly alters the body over the recuperation period, giving the new blood hunter increased strength and agility, unique sangromantic powers, and a sort of sixth sense that allows them to discern the subtle traces of evil lingering in the world. A new blood hunter’s irises also turn deep red as a side-effect of the Bane, which makes identifying a blood hunter relatively easy.
Besides the eyes, blood hunters are not all that easy to identify. They utilize all sorts of armor and weapons in their work, though a silvered weapon is a common instrument that any blood hunter would be a fool not to carry. In the old days blood hunters wore a very tall-crowned hat with a wide brim, but this is not a requirement and many blood hunters go without one. What is standard is a medallion or pendant, each made of silver and iron and approximately the size of a gold piece. This medallion has a small gem inlaid into it, the exact type and color unique to the institute that the blood hunter studied from. This medallion is the true mark of a blood hunter, their “badge of office,” and the Realm has made the copying or impersonation of such a medallion (or a blood hunter himself) a serious crime. Each medallion, besides simply confirming the owner’s trade, also acts as a form of identification between Order members; the marks and scratches upon a medallion, like the stripes of a tiger, are unique to each blood hunter who carries it, and these medallions also double as stamps for wax seals. Order members are expected to seal their official documents with it before sending them out, with the witness marks proving the document’s authenticity. Standard equipment for all blood hunters thus includes a 4″ melting pot and a small cradle for a fire, a melting spoon, a small jar of wax cubes of the color appropriate to their institution, and a handle with a short screw at one end, which can be attached to a medallion when needed.
Blood hunters are separated into three ranks or classes. First class hunters are the peak of the Order, usually bestowed upon the oldest blood hunters who have shown great daring or service. Second class is most often bestowed upon a blood hunter when they successfully train an apprentice to take the Hunter’s Bane, but can be bestowed in other ways as well. Third class is the level given to an individual who has successfully taken the Hunter’s Bane and survived; it is the lowest class of a true blood hunter. Apprentices are members of the Order, but not being true blood hunters are not given a class and thus bear the title of “apprentice.” Meanwhile, first and second class blood hunters commonly carry the title of master.
Each institute also has a headmaster who runs it, with no one headmaster above the rank of any other, and together they form the Hunter’s Council. The heads come together once a year, moving between each institution equally, to discuss matters of importance among the Order. When a headmaster dies their institution’s first class hunters come together to discuss and vote in a new head from among their ranks.
The Order, as a whole, is extremely ancient, having existed for over 1,500 years. Its origins are known well to all blood hunters. In T5A 357 three brothers, the Pedwins, defeated a witch who had been plaguing and terrorizing the countryside. Where these three brothers had come from exactly isn’t known, though it is widely held that they had lost their parents and sister to this same witch some years prior. They journeyed around the world after the loss of their family. Wherever they had gone, the brothers returned years later with martial training and the knowledge of strange blood magic. After their first victory against the Black Break Witch they became known as the “Pedwin Witch Hunters,” though over time the name “blood hunter” became the most prevalent term, as their sangromantic abilities became more well known. Each brother specialized in their own brand of blood magic, though they shared common abilities.
The Pedwins spent many years traveling the country and slaying entities of darkness, though whisperings of the dark magics they used to gain their new abilities were not quiet. They generated both fear and respect from the commoners, equally known as “heroes” as well as “freaks” in conversation. However, they soon realized they could not combat evil alone. They were too few, and given enough time would eventually succumb to old age. And so the three went their separate ways, each passing down to the few who choose it the knowledge of their individual specialties. Thus was created the Ordun Blutäger, the Order of Blood Hunters, split into three separate institutions around Aerlon in T5A 365.
the Pedwin Brothers
Andren, the oldest child, constructed his institution to the north-east, nestled into a mountain glen. Named named the Schule Seele, Andren believed that the undead were the highest form of evil, and thus he studied death and the undead the most fervently. He hoped to understand death itself; not just the physical aspect in the moment that a body would fail, but the mental and supernatural moments when the mind and soul would cross into the Ethereal Plane. Andren’s thirst for knowledge bade him, pushing him to trip closer to the ethereal. Forcing near-death experiences on himself were not uncommon, and through the years he became almost as a ghost himself. His institutions members are sometimes called “ghostslayers” by others, as they both specialize in fighting undead and their sangromancy grants them spirit-like powers.
The Schule Seele‘s gem is a green emerald, and their medallions are shaped like inverted triangles like a rising spirit.
Calder, the middle brother, established the Schule Körpe within the reaches of the Wildwood and closest to the capital city of Aera Ven. Before taking on the mantle of blood hunter young Calder was an aspiring chef. When fate intervened and changed his future, he turned that calling into a weapon. Calder believed his body was as much a tool to slay the darkness as any weapon or hunter’s kit. Since he and his brothers used many different tools depending on the enemy they hunted, it only made sense that he should change his body as well. At Calder’s institute, blood hunters learn how to create alchemical concoctions called mutagens that dramatically alter their bodies, reacting with their blood to give them special properties. Because of the way their bodies change, it is not uncommon for these blood hunters to be called “mutants.”
The Schule Körpe‘s gem is a red ruby, similar to the blood that flows through their bodies, and their medallions are diamond shaped. This represents the iron-hard constitution that their bodies have developed over the years.
Ingram, the youngest Pedwin, was always a bit quieter than his siblings. A bit of a bookworm, Ingram likely would have had the honor of finding a teacher at the kingdom of mages to the west. Circumstances being as they were, however, drove Ingram to learn a different kind of magic. Ingram’s institution focuses more on the use of magic and spellwork than his brothers’. The Schule Verstund is located on the western coast of Arcanum, a natural location for the blood hunters who seek to combine martial proficiency with magic. Blood hunters of this order are sometimes said to contain “profane souls,” as no one save the institute’s headmaster knows where exactly the knowledge of their magic comes from.
The Schule Verstund‘s gem is a blue sapphire. Their medallions are pentagons, said to be in mockery of the pentagonal sigils and magic circles often used by cults for summoning fiends.
Secrets of Blood
The Hunter’s Bane is not truly a manufactured alchemical concoction. At least, not anymore. It is not even a singular formula, as the term Hunter’s Bane refers to any of the concoctions used by the various blood hunter institutions to initiate new hunters into their ranks.
It was the Pedwin’s blood which allowed them to create new blood hunters. The Hunter’s Bane, truly, is little more than a goblet of water and a drop of Pedwin blood. Only they could pass on their powers; second generation blood hunters, for whatever reason, could not create a third generation.
As the three brothers grew older, they realized that after their deaths the order they had created would eventually die out. Thus for the good of the world and to ensure that their order would live on, each brother underwent a dark ritual to become what is known as a necrichor, a being of living blood. Oddly good-aligned for was is normally an evil entity, each Pedwin necrichor is kept securely within the institute that he founded, still capable of communicating with his students. The Hunter’s Bane is now created from a drop of living blood from one of these necrichors. Only the headmaster of each institute is aware of this truth, and is given sole access to the crypts where their Pedwin founder now “lives.”
Secrets of Family
The history of the Pedwins outlined above is the official tale, passed down through blood hunter generations. It is true, if you ignore the information purposely left out.
Now forgotten to history, there was actually a fourth surviving Pedwin sibling; Lena Pedwin. The fabled “lost sister,” the truth is that she was orphaned along with her brothers when the Pedwin parents were cursed by a witch. Like her siblings, Lena underwent the process of becoming one of the world’s first blood hunters. However, a terrible tragedy struck when the siblings began to set up their institutions around the continent. Lena, while working a solo contract, fell victim to a werewolf. The lycanthropic curse bound itself to her blood hunter magic strangely, giving her unique beastial powers which she found difficult to control. As a result of this, she killed and subsequent cursed a few others.
Andren and Calder believed that she was too dangerous to be allowed to live, even if she was their sister. But Ingram, the closest to Lena in age, tried to protect her. He believed that Lena truly embodied the idea that only darkness could truly fight darkness. Together, he and Lena staged her death at Ingram’s hands, satisfying their older brothers who quickly erased her from history in order to protect the family’s legacy. Lena then went into hiding far to the north, taking with her the handful of people she had infected by that point, and founded a fourth institute in secret, the Schule Nacht.
Unlike her brothers, Lena did not become a necrochor in order to pass on her capabilities. The lycanthropy had mixed with her blood in such a way that new blood hunters of her lineage were also able to pass her unique lycanthropy on to others. Through training and sangromancy, Lena and her blood hunters also learned how to control their affliction and prevent them from cursing the unwilling. Thus, since it’s founding members of the Schule Nacht only infect an individual that has properly consented to becoming a member of their institute.
The Schule Nacht‘s gem is a white moonstone, and their medallions are circular like the moon. Aerlon is large enough that, so long as a blood hunter from the Schule Nacht does not make a habit of drawing attention to themselves, monster slaying and other blood hunter business can be done quietly under the table without alerting the other institutes. Almost no one outside of the Schule Nacht knows of its existence, and most common folk do not readily understand the differences between the medallions of the different schools. If someone has red eyes, wears a pendant with a gem around their neck, and offers to deal with some monstrous threat, that’s good enough for most people.
The concept of the blood hunters in the setting of Aeramis is based on the homebrewed 5th edition class created by Matthew Mercer, which he in turn based on the witchers of the Witcher series, Vin Diesel’s character in The Last Witch Hunter, and the overall concept of a dark mercenary who succumbs to lesser evils in order to protect others (itself a very common trope). Van Helsing (particularly as played by Hugh Jackman) is another example of a “witch hunter.” This is my own personal spin on the lore behind the class, and is not endorsed by Matthew Mercer. If you’re interested in playing a blood hunter in your own game check out DMsGuild.com. There you can purchase and download the blood hunter base class and the Order of the Lycan.