Fey Feature 03/15/2003

The Dark Hunters

The Queen of Air and Darkness honors the most skillful hunters of the Unseelie Court by making them members of her Dark Hunt, also called the Wild Hunt. Sometimes she even recruits extremely talented nonfey who have shown themselves adept at the hunt. At any one time, between 10 and 30 dark hunters serve the queen. She sends them on a variety of missions, ranging from fetching fey nobles with whom she's displeased to hunting new entertainers to perform at her feasts.

Rangers and rogues are the most natural candidates for becoming dark hunters. Often, they're a multiclassed combination of the two. Bards and fighters also do well as dark hunters. Specialized spell progression makes it unlikely that dedicated sorcerers, wizards, or clerics will find the prestige class attractive, though the rangers, rogues, bards, and fighters who become dark hunters often have dabbled in the pure spellcasting classes.

Dark Hunter Missions

The dark hunters perform the Queen of Air and Darkness's bidding. The tasks she sends them on vary greatly. Characters might encounter a group of dark hunters on any of the following missions:

  • Seeking a talented bard or other entertainer to play for the queen. The dark hunters invite the singer or storyteller cordially at first, but ultimately use force if that's the only way to get the performer to come with them.
  • Hunting a former member of the Wild Hunt who disobeyed the queen.
  • Hunting a pack of winter wolves (or other exotic furry creatures) to gift the queen with a new fur cloak.
  • Tracking a fey noble who insulted the queen.
  • Inviting fey to a festival the queen is hosting. (Their attendance is requested in a mandatory sort of way.)
  • Collecting tribute for the queen from her fey.
  • Traveling to a remote vineyard for a vintage wine the queen especially likes.
  • Hunting a young red dragon to add it to the queen's menagerie.
  • Hunting a nest of griffons to steal the eggs, which will be hatched and raised as dark hunter mounts.
  • Seeking a sphinx or copper dragon because the queen wants to hear an amusing riddle.

Remember that the queen is evil, whimsical, and very much accustomed to having her every desire instantly fulfilled. She's purely fey and very much a creature of the moment. The dark hunters exist to get her what she wants.

NPCs compose the majority of the dark hunters. Sworn to serve the Queen of Air and Darkness, they are elite troops. Though found most often in the Plane of Faerie, dark hunters travel extensively on a variety of missions for their monarch.

Hit Die: d6


To become a dark hunter, a character must fulfill the following criteria.

Base Attack Bonus: +5.

Skills: Hide 5 ranks, Knowledge (nature) 3 ranks, Move Silently 8 ranks, Ride 5 ranks, Wilderness Lore 8 ranks.

Feats: Improved Initiative, Track.

Special: Entry into the class must be approved by the Queen of Air and Darkness, and each Dark Hunter must swear an annual oath to obey her.

Class Skills

The dark hunter's class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Animal Empathy (Cha, exclusive skill), Climb (Str), Concentration (Con), Handle Animal (Cha), Heal (Wis), Hide (Dex), Intuit Direction (Wis), Jump (Str), Knowledge (local) (Int), Knowledge (nature) (Int), Listen (Wis), Move Silently (Dex), Ride (Dex), Search (Int), Sense Motive (Wis), Spot (Wis), Swim (Str), Use Rope (Dex), and Wilderness Lore (Wis). See Chapter 4 of thePlayer's Handbookfor skill descriptions.

Skill Points at Each Level: 4 + Int modifier.

Table: Dark Hunter

Level Base
Special --Spells per Day-- --Spells Known--
1st 2nd 3rd 4th 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
1 +0 +2 +2 +0 Spells, low-light vision 0 --- --- --- 2* --- --- ---
2 +1 +3 +3 +0 Fast mount, fast movement 1 --- --- --- 3 --- --- ---
3 +2 +3 +3 +1 Darkvision 2 0 --- --- 3 2* --- ---
4 +3 +4 +4 +1 Uncanny dodge (Dex bonus to AC) 3 1 --- --- 4 3 --- ---
5 +3 +4 +4 +1 Fast mount, fast movement, 3 2 0 --- 4 3 2* ---
6 +4 +5 +2 +2 Scent 3 3 1 --- 4 4 3 ---
7 +5 +5 +5 +2 Uncanny dodge (can't be flanked) 3 3 2 0 4 4 3 2*
8 +6 +6 +6 +2 Fast mount, fast movement 3 3 3 1 4 4 4 3
9 +6 +6 +6 +2 Freedom of movement 3 3 3 2 4 4 4 3
10 +7 +7 +7 +3 Discern location 3 3 3 3 4 4 4 4

*Provided the dark hunter has sufficient Wisdom to have a bonus spell of this level.

Class Features

All of the following are class features of the dark hunter prestige class.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: A dark hunter gains no new weapon, armor or shield proficiencies.

Spells: Beginning at 1st level, a dark hunter gains the ability to cast a small number of arcane spells. To cast a spell, the dark hunter must have a Wisdom score of at least 10 + the spell's level, so a dark hunter with a Wisdom of 10 or lower cannot cast these spells. Dark hunter bonus spells are based on Wisdom, and saving throws against these spells have a DC of 10 + spell level + the dark hunter's Wisdom modifier (if any). When the dark hunter receives 0 spells of a given level, such as 1st-level spells at 1st level, the dark hunter gets only bonus spells. A dark hunter without a bonus spell for a particular level cannot yet cast a spell of that level. The dark hunter's spell list appears below. A dark hunter prepares and casts spells just as a sorcerer does and the spells are arcane. He has a limited number of spells known.

Dark Hunter Spell List

1st Level -- alarm, command, create water, detect animals or plants, detect magic, detect snares and pits, expeditious retreat, message, mount, spider climb, true strike.

2nd Level -- bull's strength, cat's grace, detect thoughts, endurance, hold person, invisibility, locate object, pass without trace, speak with animals.

3rd Level -- clairaudience/clairvoyance, dispel magic, fly, haste, hold monster, keen edge, phantom steed, see invisibility, slow.

4th Level -- dimension door, dimensional anchor, displacement, ethereal jaunt, freedom of movement, greater command, improved invisibility, locate creature, scrying, sending.

Low-Light Vision (Su): A dark hunter gains low-light vision. A dark hunter can see twice as far as a human in starlight, moonlight, torchlight, and similar conditions of poor illumination. He retains the ability to distinguish color and detail under these conditions. If the dark hunter already had lowlight vision, his ability increases by one factor (if previously able to see twice as far as a human, he can now see three times as far).

Fast Mount (Su): A dark hunter can spur his mount to speeds faster than the norm for its kind by +10 feet when wearing no barding (and not carrying a heavy load). At 5th level, the speed increases by an additional +10 feet (to +20 feet), and at 8th level, the speed increases again by an additional +10 feet (to +30 feet). Thus, a light war horse ridden by an 8th-level dark hunter moves at a speed of 90 ft.

Fast Movement (Ex): At 2nd level, dark hunter has a speed faster than the norm for his race by +10 feet when wearing no armor, light armor, or medium armor (and not carrying a heavy load). At 5th level, the speed increases by an additional +10 feet (to +20 feet), and at 8th level, the speed increases again by an additional +10 feet (to +30 feet).

Darkvision (Su): A dark hunter can see in the dark as though he were permanently under the effect of adarkvision spell.

Uncanny Dodge (Ex): Starting at 4th level, a dark hunter gains the ability to react to danger before his senses would normally allow him to do so. At 4th level and above, he retains his Dexterity bonus to AC (if any) regardless of being caught flat-footed or struck by an invisible attacker. (He still loses his Dexterity bonus to AC if immobilized.)

At 7th level, the dark hunter can no longer be flanked; he can react to opponents on opposite sides of him as easily as he can react to a single attacker. This defense denies others the ability to use a flank attack to sneak attack him. The exception to this defense is that a rogue at least four levels higher than the dark hunter can flank him (and thus sneak attack him).

Scent (Su): The dark hunter can detect approaching enemies, sniff out hidden foes, and track by sense of smell. He can detect opponents within 30 feet by sense of smell. If the opponent is upwind, the range increases to 60 feet; if downwind, it drops to 15 feet. When a dark hunter detects a scent, the exact location is not revealed -- only its presence somewhere within range. The dark hunter can take a move action to note the direction of the scent. Whenever the dark hunter comes within 5 feet of the source, he knows the source's location.

Dark Hunter Associates

Dark hunters rarely hunt alone. They're most often in the company of other dark hunters. It's also customary for them to keep a pack (3-5) of doglike animals and ride an extraordinary mount. The hounds and mount can vary depending upon your campaign. Mix and match from among the following possibilities:

Hounds: Shadow mastiffs, winter wolves, displacer beast, dire badgers, dire wolves, yeth hounds, worgs.

Mount: Nightmare, half-dragon pegasus, half-fiend unicorn, griffon, dire lion, giant eagle, giant owl.

Interesting hounds and creatures can also be made using the templates in the "Fey Born Fair and Foul" article in Dragon#304.

A dark hunter can track by scent, making a Wilderness Lore check to find or follow a track. The typical DC for a fresh trail is 10 (no matter what kind of surface holds the scent). This DC increases or decreases depending on how strong the quarry's odor is, the number of creatures, and the age of the trail. For each hour that the trail is cold, the DC increases by 2. The ability otherwise follows the rules for the Track feat. Creatures tracking by scent ignore the effect of surface conditions and poor visibility.

Freedom of Movement (Su): For a total time per day of 1 round per class level, the dark hunter can act normally regardless of magical effects that impede movement (similar to the effects of the spellfreedom of movement). This effect occurs automatically as soon as it applies, lasts until it runs out or is no longer needed, and can operate multiple times per day (up to the total daily limit of rounds).

Discern Location (Sp): Once per day, a dark hunter candiscern location as the spell.

Code of Conduct: A dark hunter is sworn to unquestioningly obey the commands of the ruler of the Unseelie Court, the Queen of Air and Darkness. The queen is a capricious creature, quite chaotic and quite evil.

Ex-Dark Hunters

A dark hunter who disobeys the Queen of Air and Darkness or refuses to swear his yearly oath (or his oath upon gaining a new level) cannot gain new levels as a dark hunter but retains all dark hunter abilities.

About the Authors

Gwendolyn F. M. Kestrelis an editor for Wizards of the Coast's Roleplaying Games R&D department. Recent credits include editingFaiths and Pantheons,Oriental Adventures, andMagic of Faerûn, and designing part of theBook of Challenges. She's a frequent contributor to the Wizards of the Coast website. Also, check out the website she created for her fiancé, Andy Collins, atwww.andycollins.net.

Faith M. Price accidentally fell into the adventure game industry nine years ago. Since then she has worked for two game manufacturers, and has written for numerous magazines. She currently lives in Washington with two RPG designers and two cats, all of whom require regular feeding and attention.

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