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 this are the many many practitioners of dark arts and evil magic. Even beyond the supernatural lie other dangers; giants as tall as buildings, hordes of violent orcs, and hungry beasts and monsters with no sense of morality. Even nature itself may rise up, 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 power of the darkness head on. For that, individuals must rise up who are willing to be consumed by the darkness itself. These men and women undergo years of training and complex alchemical rituals of blood magic, changing not just who they are but what they are. In so doing they gain amazing abilities to fight the legions of evil at the cost of their own innocence and a place in civilized society. They become something other than human. These people are blood hunters.
Most individuals find their way to the Order around the age of 11 or 12, and should the high 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 his mentor on contracts (though very rarely does the apprentice 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. Known as the Blutändun ritual in the blood hunter order, the Hunter’s Bane is an alchemical concoction, made from blood and poisons, which forever alters the imbiber’s life force. Successful imbibement of the Bane, which can take a week to recover from and slowly alters the body over time, gives the new blood hunter increased strength and agility, the capacity to invoke the rites of magic that have laid latent in their bodies, and a sort of sixth sense that allows them to discern the subtle traces of evil lingering in the world. It is not uncommon for a mentor to extend a gift to his subordinate upon successful imbibement, usually in the form of a specially crafted weapon or other item. Outwardly, blood hunters are not much different than anyone else. Only their irises, tinted red, may give away their profession, the irises flooding crimson during their recuperation.
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 with them. In the old days blood hunters wore a very tall-crowned hat with a wide brim, but in the present time it is not a requirement, and just as many blood hunters go without one. What is standard is a medallion or pendant, each made of iron and approximately the size of a silver piece. This medallion has a multi-pointed star in the center, made of silver, and inlaid within that star is a small gem unique to the institute that the blood hunter hails from. Such an item 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 individual marks upon a medallion, like the stripes of a tiger, are unique to each blood hunter who carries it. These medallions also double as stamps for wax seals, and Order members are expected to seal their official documents with it before sending them out, the customization and battle scars identifying the writer better than any signature. 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 held within a glass jar, and a handle with a short screw at one end (all medallions have a small hole in their back which the handle is screwed into when needed to seal a document).
Blood hunters are separated into three classes. First Class hunters are the peak of the Order, usually bestowed onto those blood hunters who have shown great daring or service. Second Class is most often bestowed upon a blood hunter when he or she successfully trains 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 simply go by “apprentice.” Blood hunters of the first and second class are commonly called “master” within the Order. The three Order Heads are the individuals who run each institution. They are equal to each other, and come together once a year, moving between each institution equally, to discuss matters of importance among the Order. When one 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 of Esma. Where these three brothers had come from exactly is unknown, 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.” This, of course, was a bit of a misnomer; the Pedwins would go on to slay much more than just witches. Even today so-called “witch hunters” slay creatures of many various forms and natures. The Pedwins were sometimes called “monster hunters,” perhaps a more fitting and overarching term, but both “witch hunter” and “monster hunter” are descriptions of their job rather than a true title. Eventually the name “blood hunter” became the most prevalent term, as their sangromantic abilities became more well known. Each brother specialized on their own brand of blood magic, though they shared common abilities.
The Pedwins spent many years traveling the country and slaying beings 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, and one would hear both “heroes” as well as “freaks” when the Pedwins were seen or mentioned in conversation. After many years, however, they realized they could not combat evil alone. They were too few, and they were now also too old. 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 405.
Andren, the oldest brother, set up his institution to the north-east, in a castle named Ver Schwarfest nestled into a mountain glen. Andren believed that the undead were the highest form of evil, and thus he studied death and the undead most fervently, hoping 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. Blood hunters of his institute, which he named the Institute of the Mind (Schule Verstund), are sometimes nicknamed “ghostslayers” by the common folk, as they have studied death and undeath to such degrees that only those who have crossed over can say they know more. Higher-order members also have the unique ability to extend their consciousness into an ethereal form, making them resemble the specters that they hunt.
The Institute of the Mind’s color is a vibrant emerald green, and their medallions are shaped like iron circles to represent the unending cycle of life and death.
Calder, the middle child, erected the Institute of the Body (Schule Körpe) in the south, the closest institute to the capital, within the forest of the Verdant. Before the loss of their family Calder had aspirations to cook, and through his and his brother’s lives he turned that desire into a weapon. Calder saw his body to be as much a tool as any weapon or hunter’s kit, and since he and his brothers brought different tools to perform different contracts it only made sense that he should bring a body altered to best suit his purpose as well. Calder reasoned that if the Hunter’s Bane could alter the bodies of himself and his brothers, could not lesser alchemical mutagens further change them? At Calder’s institute blood hunters learn how to create concoctions that manipulate their bodies. They are poisonous to anyone else who drinks them, granting none of the advantages they give their creators. Blood hunters of this institution are often called mutants, a decidedly unkind term, due to the way that their forms change with the imbibement of their mutagens.
The Institute of the Body’s color is a bright red, as of the blood that flows through their veins, and their medallions are diamond shaped. This represents the iron-hard constitution that their bodies have developed over the years.
Ingram, the youngest child, was always more secretive and quiet than his brothers. He could often be found brooding on the knowledge of mages discovered through the ages, whenever he could get it. A bit of a bookworm, Ingram likely would have sought out a teacher at the kingdom of mages to the west and studied to become a wizard. Circumstances, however, naturally drove him to find a new source of magical power. What exactly he did to gain his dark arcane powers even his brothers did not know, but upon separating Ingram traveled west to the subcontinent of Arcanum and settled down to create the Institute of the Soul (Schule Seele). Blood Hunters of this school, in a similar vein to warlocks, pledge themselves to… something dark. The nature and true morality of this being are unclear, even to many of the blood hunters within the school itself, but it is universally accepted that this being must be some form of lesser evil. Some have suggested it is a weakened mote of Tharizdun, the Chained God’s, power. Others believe it to be a devil or demon seeking to build up its own army through tempting promises of providing aid. And then others believe that it is somehow Ingram himself, altered and ascended to a new form of existence. Blood hunters of this order are sometimes said to contain “profane souls,” tainted by the well of vile magic they have tapped into in order to combat the darkest evils.
The Institute of the Soul’s color is a shocking royal blue. Their medallions are shaped like inverted triangles, perhaps meant to evoke the image of a rising soul.
There exist whispers of a fourth institute on Aeramis, hidden deep within the Black Brake of the Verdant. The Institute of the Lycan (Schule Lykwof), if it exists, is a splinter group of the Institute of the Body. Older members of the Schul Körpe may be willing to tell tales of a group of blood hunters who decided that they could extend the practice of altering their bodies to the extreme. They sought out lycanthropes; werewolves, werebears, wereboars, and the like, and allowed themselves to be bitten. This gave them incredible strength and resilience, at the cost of darkening their thoughts and risking the beast taking over. Even with the Order’s agreement that darkness must be fought with darkness, this act was seen as a step too far. These wayward blood hunters were supposedly wiped out, but legends have remained which assert that they persisted, taking residence in the darkest region of the wilderness. New blood hunters inducted into this order undergo “the Taming” not long after imbibing the Hunter’s Bane, transferring to them the lycan curse. Whether these blood hunters would even be recognized by the Crown is a question no one can answer honestly. However, every few years stories are told of a mercenary who could shift into a half-beast form and use their blood to fuel magical attacks. It is presumed they distrust other blood hunters, especially mutants, and thus they avoid them.
Whether real or not, the Institute of the Lycan’s color is said to be a piercing amber. As far as can be determined these blood hunters do not wear medallions, having more primal methods of identification.
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” or, in this case, a blood 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, which offers a fourth Order option.