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D&D: A Combat-Wheelchair-Inspired Subclass For Matt Mercer’s Blood Hunter

5 Minute Read
Sep 24 2020
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If you liked the Combat Wheelchair, you’re sure to love Sara Thompson’s take on Matt Mercer’s Blood Hunter, inspired by experiences with chronic pain.

If the last month has shown anything, it’s that there’s a hunger for more disabled representation in D&D. From Combat Wheelchairs to panels on Inclusive Dungeon Design, to a swath of miniatures representing disabled heroes, there’s been an explosion of representation over the last month and a half.

Sadly, it’s also often accompanied by a hateful wave of pushback from folks who don’t and/or won’t understand the reasons someone might want to play a disabled character in a fantasy game, or that the lower your overall medicine level (say that of a roughly medievalish society), the more you’re going to see disabilities, even with access to magical healing. Or that people wanna play what they wanna play. But, folks like Sara Thompson, an RPG writer, disability advocate, and the designer of the Combat Wheelchair continue to do their work. Thompson is back today with a new set of 5th Edition Rules.

This time it’s a disabled take on the Blood Hunter class designed by Matt Mercer (and seen in Critical Role Campaign 2). Called the Syphonic Order, this particular subclass is inspired by Thompson’s experience with Chronic Pain.

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If you’re not familiar with the Blood Hunter class, it’s a class designed by Critical Role DM and voice actor Matt Mercer, and it’s all about using your blood to empower you to fight monsters:

Marred but resolute, his grimacing face dripping with sweat, a half-orc reddens a finger across his wounds to draw a glowing, ruby glyph in the air. He grips the weightless, completed sigil, twisting it to unleash dark magical energies that fire forward, cursing the stalking behemoth from within its own veins to better even the odds.

A mysterious half-elf swathed in a worn cloak and rugged leather armor carefully investigates a grizzly scene off the roadway, her eyes flashing with recognition as she meditates on the remnants of the massacre. The survivor who warily hired her withdraws with a jump as the half-elf suddenly shoots to her feet, sure in the knowledge of the culprit, where it calls home, and how little time there is to find it.

Stepping into the lightless chambers of ancient dust and lingering whispers, the halfling’s nose picks up the pungent smell of imminent danger as she hears the scraping of bone and claw on nearby stone. She winces as she runs her blade across her palm, the steel transmuting her blood into glowing runes of powerful magic, her sword suddenly engulfed in arcane flames, eager to brand and burn the flesh of her enemies.

Often feared or misunderstood, and driven by an unending drive to destroy the wicked, blood hunters are clever, arcane warriors who have bound their essence to the dark creatures they hunt to better stalk and survive their prey. Armed with the rites of forbidden blood magic and a willingness to sacrifice their own vitality and humanity for the cause, they protect the realms from the shadows, ever vigilant to avoid becoming the same monsters they choose to hunt.

It’s all about dealing damage to yourself to gain boons, which ultimately led to misfortune in Campaign 2, but if you don’t know by now that Mollymauk used a blood rite and dropped his hit points low enough to be killed by Vox Machina’s first big boss, Lorenzo the Ogre Mage, then I guess you do now. Spoilers for something more than a year old, I guess? But the relationship with the Blood Hunter and Pain is a close one. Pain gives you power, and that seems like the perfect fit for Thompson’s new subclass. Let’s take a look.

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via Mustangsart

The process of the Hunter’s Bane is a painful, scarring, and sometimes fatal experience…

And it’s true. To be a Blood Hunter is to put yourself at risk in every fight. Thompson has flavored this subclass to be representative of Blood Hunters who find themselves living with lasting injuries or disabilities gained over the course of their adventuring careers. The Order of the Syphonic was formed as they learned to come to terms with their disabilities and chronic illnesses, focusing on how to work with them, while they carry out their hunts.

Like one of the other Blood Hunter Orders, characters belonging to the Syphonic Order gain abilities at 3rd, 7th, 11th, 15th, and 18th levels, starting with the core of the subclass High Threshold and Empathic Weapon. These two features define their main playstyle. High Threshold represents your higher than normal pain threshold for pain, reflecting how their ability to manage chronic pain has started to effect their Crimson Rite and Blood Curses–Syphonic Order hunters will regain hit points when they activate certain Blood Hunter features, regaining more HP as they grow in level.

Empathic Weapon allows a hunter to siphon some of their chronic pain into their weapon (which can explicitly be the Combat Wheelchair), granting them resistance to piercing damage and bonus psychic damage while their Crimson Rite is active.

At higher levels, features like Exerted Barrier unlock psionic potential in hunters, granting them a d12 that they can roll to determine a protective magic barrier which can be activated as a reaction. This d12 represents the level of Chronic Pain, with a 12 representing almost overwhelming pain–but also reducing incoming damage by that same amount. This damage can be reflected back at creatures.

Or at 11th level, Psi Affinity lets Syphonic Hunters blast creatures they hit with attacks with an echo of the pain they feel every day, dealing additional psychic damage that continues to effect the target until they succeed on a Wisdom saving throw. At 15th level Brand of Suffusion allows syphonic hunters to mark a foe, dealing extra damage based on the hunter’s pain level, culminating in the 18th level feature, Exhaustive Wave which allows hunters to stay up after being reduced to 0 hit points, in exchange for a level of exhaustion and an explosion of psychic damage to hostile creatures within 30 feet of the hunter.

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Like its counterpart, the Combat Wheelchair, the Syphonic Order Blood Hunter is available for free right now, and is ready to be dropped into your games of 5th Edition D&D.

What do you think of this new subclass and its chronic pain based mechanics? Let us know in the comments!

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