This column aims to provide players with tips on creating effective and interesting characters of various types. Whether you're a beginning player creating your very first character or an experienced gamer looking to put some punch into an old standby, this column is for you.
Dark hunter is a solid prestige class that bestows many benefits on characters taking levels in it.
- Easy Qualification: Prospective dark hunters must have a base attack bonus of +5, the feats Blind-Fight and Track, 5 ranks in Craft (trapmaking), and 2 ranks in Knowledge (dungeoneering), Move Silently, and Survival. A 5th-level ranger can easily qualify for this prestige class, and indeed, most dark hunters have some levels in ranger. This prestige class is also particularly suited to scouts. Monks, rogues, and ninjas (to a lesser extent) also make excellent dark hunters. Dwarves and half-orcs make good dark hunters because the prestige class enhances their darkvision, but any race has the potential to become a dark hunter. (Among underground races, drow and troglodytes make particularly dangerous dark hunters because of their already impressive darkvision and other useful traits).
- Short Progression: There are only five levels of dark hunter, making it easy to combine this prestige class with others.
- Good Base Attack Bonus: Dark hunters have the same BAB progression as fighters, gaining a +1 bonus for each class level they gain.
- Good Ability Progression: Dark hunters gain a useful ability at every class level, making this an attractive prestige class. While none of these abilities bestow or enhance an individual's spellcasting ability, they are all ideally suited to sneaky martial types who spend a lot of time underground.
- Good Reflex Save: Dark hunters have good Reflex saving throws, following the rogue's saving throw progression.
The dark hunter's advantages come at a price. Here are a few things to consider when thinking about a dark hunter character:
- Poor Fortitude and Will Saves: A dark hunter has the worst progression for Fortitude and Will saving throws in the game.
- Poor Armor Class: Because dark hunter is well suited to sneaky, lightly armored characters, they often have low ACs.
- No Additional Weapon or Armor Proficiencies: Characters gain no additional weapon or armor proficiencies when they take their first level of dark hunter. Thus, a character should already be proficient with all the weapons and armor they want to use in the future.
Playing a Dark Hunter
Dark hunters generally prefer to work alone, striking from ambush before a foe is even aware of the danger. Thus, you should keep the following things in mind when playing a dark hunter.
A single-classed ranger or rogue can make an effective dark hunter, but taking levels in several different classes helps to ameliorate some of the dark hunter's weaknesses. Most dark hunters have at least one level of ranger to get Track as a bonus feat, but adding levels of rogue, scout, or ninja has certain advantages. Because dark hunters are skilled at striking from ambush, being able to deal extra damage to a flat-footed opponent is very handy. Remember that the extra sneak attack damage gained with the third level of dark hunter stacks with that bestowed by rogue levels. Also remember that sneak attack damage can stack with both skirmish damage (gained with levels of Scout [Complete Adventurer 10]) and sudden strike (gained with levels of ninja [Complete Adventurer 5]).
If your character is a dwarf, this prestige class combines very well with stonelord (Complete Warrior 81). Finally, depending on your proclivities, dark hunter mixes well with bloodhound (Complete Adventurer 28) and dungeon delver (Complete Adventurer 42).
Feats and Skills
Most dark hunters need to take their foes by surprise, preferably acting while they are flat-footed. Improved Initiative is, therefore, a necessity for these characters. Dark hunters usually have poor Will saves, so taking Iron Will is sensible. Dark hunters with a poor Fortitude save should also take Great Fortitude. Alertness and Stealthy are also handy feats.
Ideally, a dark hunter should max out his Balance, Climb, Jump, Hide, Listen, Move Silently, Spot, and Survival skills to enhance his ability to operate underground. Adventuring underground provides its own unique challenges. Truly successful dark hunters learn to use the terrain and features of the Underdark to their advantage.
Dark hunters should buy equipment that plays to their strengths and compensates for their weaknesses. Any item that increases their ability to hide and strike from ambush is desirable. Elixir of hiding and elixir of sneaking are good, cheap choices for dark hunters and actually give better bonuses than boots and cloaks of elvenkind (but do not last as long, obviously). Dark hunters also tend to wear light (or no) armor, and so need to concentrate on raising their AC as high as possible. Dark hunters should consider adding the shadow and silent moves enhancements to their armor.
Dark hunters should also look to purchase items that increase their mobility, such as rings of climbing or jumping, slipper of spider climbing, boots of striding and springing, or winged boots. A ring of X-ray vision is also useful to a dark hunter, allowing him to spy on his quarry from the safety of another passageway.
Sample Dark Hunter: H'yterak
A gray, mottled, muscular reptilian humanoid with large claws leaps out at you. A frill running from its forehead to the base of its neck crowns its lizardlike head. Black, beady eyes are full of malignant hate.
H'yterak CR 11
Male troglodyte ranger 3/rogue 2/dark hunter 5
CE Medium humanoid (reptilian)
Init +6;Senses darkvision 150 ft.; Listen +1, Spot +8
AC 23, touch 14, flat-footed 21
(+2 Dex, +3 armor, +6 natural, +2 deflection)
hp 100 (12 HD)
Fort +11, Ref +12, Will +4
Speed 30 ft. (6 squares)
Melee +1 claw +15 (1d6+4) or
2 +1 claws +15(1d6+4) and
Bite +12 (1d4+2)
Ranged javelin +12 (1d6+3)
Base Atk +10; Grp +13
Atk Options death attack (DC 15), favored enemy dwarves +2, sneak attack +2d6
Special Actions stench (DC 15)
Combat Gearnecklace of fireballs (1x 8d6, 2x 6d6, 2x 4d6, 4x 2d6), potion of cure moderate wounds, slippers of spider climb
Abilities Str 16, Dex 15, Con 18, Int 10, Wis 10, Cha 8
SA death attack (DC 15), favored enemy dwarves +2, sneak attack +2d6, stench (DC 15), two-weapon combat style
SQ enhanced darkvision, improved stonecunning, stone's hue, trapfinding, wild empathy +2
Feats Blind-Fight, Endurance, Improved Initiative, Improved Natural Attack (claw), Iron Will, Multiattack, Track, Two-Weapon Fighting, Weapon Focus (claw)
Skills Balance +4, Craft (trapmaking) +5, Hide +21 (+25 in rocky or underground setting or +35 in rocky surroundings within 5 ft. of wall), Jump +10, Listen +8, Move Silently +15 ranks, Spot +1, Survival +8, Tumble +9
Possessions combat gear plus masterwork studded leather, amulet of mighty fist +1, gauntlets of ogre power, ring of protection +2, quiver of Ehlonna with 18 javelins
Stench (Ex) 30 ft. radius; DC 15 Fort save or be sickened for 10 rounds
Stone's Hue (Su) +10 circumstance bonus on Hide checks and can hide in plain sight when within 5 ft. of a stone or earth wall
Skills +4 racial bonus to Hide checks, +8 in rocky or underground surroundings
H'yterak is an implacable hunter, preying on the dwarves that have begun exploring his tribe's tunnels.
H'yterak had the following ability scores before racial adjustments, Hit Dice ability score increases, and stat boosting items: Str 13, Dex 15, Con 14, Int 12, Wis 10, Cha 8.
Have a feat progression you prefer for the dark hunter? Any additional advice you would include for this prestige class? Let us know, at email@example.com.
About the Author
Creighton Broadhurst is a member of Living Greyhawk's Circle of Six and a mad-keen World of Greyhawk fan. His hobbies include trying to complete his original Temple of Elemental Evil campaign (most adventurers daring that dangerous locale do not survive) and clearing up the devastation left by his two-year-old son (who delights in wielding exotic toys to bizarre and deadly effect).