Monster Hunting Squads | New Mechanics for Fifth Edition (BroadSword Preview)

This article is part of the Monster Hunters series that will appear in BroadSword Monthly. If you’d like a preview of additional content, be sure to check out the Monster Hunter material on my Patreon.

Two human brothers race their ax-beak-drawn chariot down the long, dark road, hot on the trail of a ghostly specter that’s killing the locals. Armed with weapons made of iron, they’re ready to send the undead creature back to its grave.

The elven ranger touches the footprints on the ground. Still warm. She knows by the shape and size exactly what it is. Impatiently, her party members wait for her analysis. “Owlbear,” she sighs. “It’s cave is somewhere in the area. And there’s more than one.”

When the half-orc barbarian arrives, the farm is still on fire. “We’re not safe here,” he tells the surviving homesteaders. Two-hundred yards from where he stands, a pair of yellow eyes stare back from the treeline. “This is a trap,” he growls, drawing his axe. Then, the dragon attacks.

Monster hunters are adventurers who focus specifically on hunting and killing certain types of monsters. Most monster hunters specialize, too, focusing on a specific type of monster to track and kill.

This section of BroadSword Monthly goes into details on how to run a monster hunter campaign in Fifth Edition. It includes information for players and GMs on running a monster hunting squad, as well as details for GMs on how to craft episodic Fifth Edition sessions that focus on tracking and killing epic level monsters.

Monster Hunting Squads

Characters participating in a monster hunter campaign typically organize into monster hunting squads. For the most part, a monster hunter squad operates the same way that an adventuring party does. The main difference, however, monster hunting requires incredible organizational skills and plenty of teamwork, especially when faced with challenges that are beyond-deadly. For this reason, many monster squads establish set roles for its members.

Monster Hunting Roles

Your monster-hunting role offers the overall direction of your character, but is, by no means, handcuffs for how you portray them. As you gain ranks in the squad, your role offers new abilities, magic items, and other benefits.

You choose your character’s role when the character first joins the monster hunting squad. Your character’s position rank is equal to your character’s tier. Starting from rank 1, you gain new proficiencies, special equipment, and your rank 1 position feature. Then, as you increase your character level tier (at level 5, 11, and 17), your rank increases with it, awarding you additional benefits.

When you choose a squad role for our character, that choice is independent of and in addition to your character’s background, class, and other options. While common sense may dictate that you choose a role that plays to your strengths, choose the position that is most interesting to you. In addition, roles are completely optional. You’re free to do as you wish or create roles of your own design (GM’s discretion, of course).

The most common monster-hunting roles are detailed below.

Administrator

“Just tell me what you need.”

Administrators act as property wranglers, treasurers, and financial whizzes for monster hunting squads. After all, a lot of monster hunting requests pay little-to-none. While a free meal or two and a bed in the barn might be offered to the team, it doesn’t cover the cost of silver weapons, spell scrolls, bribes, and other goods the squad needs to perform their job.

Your chief contribution to the monster hunter squad is to ensure that all the back end stuff is taken care of and that there is as little friction as possible.

Essential Functions: Handle squad funds, locate arms and equipment, keep principles and hirelings paid

Position Proficiency: In addition to the proficiencies noted below, you can add your proficiency bonus to any ability check to negotiate costs, read financial documents, and hire competent talent.

The Administrator

Character Rank Features
1st (Level 1 – 4)
Proficiencies and Starting Equipment, Deal Brokering
2nd (Level 5 – 10) “I Know a Guy,” Squad Ledger
3rd (Level 11 – 16) Interdimensional Bank, Find a Buyer
4th (Level 17 – 20) Cash-in, Coin Exchange

Proficiencies and Starting Equipment

As a rank 1 administrator, you gain proficiency with calligrapher’s supplies. In addition, you gain a set of calligrapher’s supplies, a merchant’s scale, and a ledger which you use to keep track of the squad’s finances and holdings.

Deal Brokering

Also at rank 1, while in a familiar urban setting, you can perform a 1-hour ritual to find and purchase one common, uncommon, or rare item of your choice. Make a DC 15 Charisma (Persuasion) check. With a successful check, you also negotiate a 50 percent discount on the item.

If you fail this check, you cannot use this feature again until you finish a long rest. When you use this feature successfully twice, you cannot use it again until you attain the next character tier.

“I Know a Guy”

Starting at rank 2, while in a familiar urban setting, you can perform a 1-hour ritual to locate someone that you know that could potentially help you and the monster squad. Make two checks with a DC of 13 + your character tier: Charisma (Persuasion) and Wisdom (Insight). Both checks gain a +1 bonus for every hour beyond the initial hour that is spent undertaking this activity. Each check also gains a +1 bonus for every 100 gp you spend. A maximum bonus of +10 can be applied to each check.

The total number of successes determines the outcome of the activity, as noted on the “I Know a Guy” table.

“I Know a Guy”

Successes Benefit
0
The last time you interacted with your contact, they were not pleased with you. Seeing you again brings back bad memories. This contact might even be a rival, now.*
1
Your contact is willing to assist you. Choose one of the following benefits:
  • Your contact secures one item of your choice that costs no more than 1,500 gp. You must return the item to the contact once you are finished using it, typically within 1 week. If the item is damaged or lost, you are responsible for any costs to repair or replace the item.
  • Your contact gives you item of your choice from chapter 5 of the PHB, so long as the item costs no more than 75 gp. You are not required to return the item.
  • Your contact offers one piece of lore. You declare the focus of the lore–a specific person, place, or thing. The lore offered is the equivalent of one true statement about a person, place, or thing. The GM is the final arbitrator in what you learn.
2
The contact is happy to see you and looks forward to working with you once more. Choose one of the following benefits:
  • Your contact secures one item of your choice that costs no more than 3,000 gp. You must return the item to the contact once you are finished using it, typically within 2 weeks. If the item is damaged or lost, you are responsible for any costs to repair or replace the item.
  • Your contact gives you item of your choice from chapter 5 of the PHB, so long as the item costs no more than 150 gp. You are not required to return the item.
  • Your contact offers two pieces of lore. You declare the focus of each piece of lore–a specific person, place, or thing. Each piece of lore offered is the equivalent of one true statement about a person, place, or thing. The GM is the final arbitrator in what you learn.

*May involve a rival.

Once you use this feature, regardless of the outcome, you can’t use it again for 7 days.

Squad Ledger

At rank 2, your ledger becomes an uncommon magic item and its pages are enchanted with a potent illusion. To you and any creatures you designate, writing you place in the book appears normal, written in your hand, and conveys whatever meaning you intended. To all others, the writing appears as if it were written in an unknown or magical script that is unintelligible. Alternatively, the writing can appear invisible, or show up as a different message entirely.

In addition, any object owned by the squad that you record in the ledger is traceable with your ledger. As an action, you read aloud the name of a recorded item. You can then cast the locate object spell in order to locate the specified item. Once you use this property of your ledger, you can’t do so again until dawn the next day.

Interdimensional Bank

Starting at rank 3, as an action, you speak a command word while holding your ledger. When you do, you can instantly teleport any coins that you can see within 10 feet of you that aren’t being worn or carried by another creature into an extradimensional space. The space can only hold coins. Using another action, you can say a different command word and withdraw a number of coins of our choice. If another creature steals your ledger and knows the command words, it can steal your coins.

Find a Buyer

At rank 3, while in a familiar urban setting, you can perform a 1-hour ritual to find a quick buyer for a magic item in your possession. At the end of the hour, make a Charisma (Persuasion) check. You gain a +1 bonus to the check for every 100 gp spent to locate a buyer (to a maximum of +5). Reference the Find a Buyer table below to determine the DC for this check, as well as the sales price for the item. The DC increases by 10 if the item is illegal or stolen.

Find a Buyer

Item Rarity DC Sales Price
Common 5 50 gp
Uncommon 10 200 gp
Rare 15 2,000 gp
Very Rare 20 15,000 gp
Legendary 25 50,000 gp

Once you use this feature, regardless of the outcome, you can’t use it again for 7 days.

Cash-in

Beginning at 4th tier, when you use your “I Know a Guy” feature and your contact secures an item for you, you can “cash-in” on a favor. If you do, you do not have to return the item to the contact; it is yours. Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again (but you can still use your “I Know a Guy” feature as normal.)

Coin Exchange

Also at tier 4, when you withdraw coins from your Interdimensional Bank, you can choose to withdraw the coins in any denomination of your choice. For example, if you have 2,000 gold in the bank, you can choose to withdraw the coins as 200,000 cp, 20,000 sp, 2,000 gp, or 200 pp.

. . .

Captain

“All right, team, listen up.”

Monster hunting might be a team effort, but the captain is ultimately the one in charge. Captains act as the strategists, decision-makers, and shot-caller for monster squads. After all, it’s their job to make sure that the job gets done right and no one gets hurt doing it.

Your contribution to the squad comes in the form of solid decision making and a cool demeanor. Good or bad, you’re responsible for everything that happens to the squad.

Essential Functions: Make decisions, manage the squad, keep everyone safe

Position Proficiency: In addition to the proficiencies noted below, you can add your proficiency bonus to an ability check to influence the decisions of a group or boost the group’s morale.

The Captain

Character Rank Features
1st (Levels 1 – 4)
Proficiencies and Starting Equipment, Assess the Situation
2nd (Levels 5 – 10) Hunter’s Kit, Words of Motivation
3rd (Levels 11 – 16)
The Right Tool for the Job, Voice of Reason
4th (Levels 17 – 20)
Arcane Aptitude, Weapon of Legacy

Proficiencies and Starting Equipment

As a rank 1 captain, you gain proficiency with the herbalism kit. You gain a herbalism kit and a hunter’s kit to keep all of your monster-hunting tools, potions, and other tools in.

Assess the Situation

Also at rank 1, you can attempt to determine the abilities of one creature you can see. As a bonus action, make a DC 15 Intelligence (Investigation) check. If you have fought at least one round of combat with the creature, you make this check with advantage. On a success, you learn three details of your choice about the creature. Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest. You can use this feature one once on any creature.

Hunter’s Kit

Starting at rank 2, your hunter’s kit becomes an uncommon magic item. It functions as a bag of holding.

Words of Motivation

At rank 2, if you spend 1 minute talking to someone that can understand you, the creature gains temporary hit points equal to your character level. The temporary hit points remain until the creature starts a short or long rest. Until the creature loses these temporary hit points, it is also immune to being frightened.

Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you complete a long rest.

The Right Tool for the Job

At rank 3, you can use a bonus action to reach into your hunter’s kit and make a DC 10 Intelligence check. On a success, you draw forth an item of your choice on the Adventuring Gear table in chapter 5 of the PHB. The item must be of a size that can’t fit into your hunter’s kit and be worth no more than 15 gp. Once you attempt to draw five items from your hunter’s kit, you cannot draw forth any more items until the next dawn.

Voice of Reason

Also at rank 3, you can cast calm emotions once with this feature and regain the ability to do so when you finish a long rest. Charisma is your spellcasting ability for this spell.

Arcane Aptitude

Starting at rank 4, you have learned the value inherent in magic. After you finish a short or long rest, you can attempt to prepare an abjuration or divination spell of your choice of 3rd level or lower. Make a DC 15 Intelligence (Arcana) check. On a success, you have the ability to cast this spell once using this feature. You lose the ability to cast the spell after you complete another short or long rest. After successfully preparing a spell using this feature, you are not able to do so again until seven days later following another short or long rest. If you failed the check, this property can’t be used again until you finish a long rest.

Weapon of Legacy

At rank 4, when you succeed on a check to draw an item from our hunter’s kit while using your Right Tool for the Job feature, on a success, you can choose to draw forth a weapon of your choice from Weapons table in chapter 5 of the PHB. If the weapon is a ranged weapon, it comes with 10 pieces of ammunition.

The weapon is a magic weapon of the chosen type with a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls. In addition, choose one of the following damage types when you retrieve the weapon: cold, fire, lightning, radiant, or necrotic. When you hit with the weapon, it deals an additional 2d6 damage of the chosen type. The weapon’s magical abilities fade after 1 hour or if you return the item to your hunter’s kit. Once used, this property of the kit can’t be used again until the next dawn. On subsequent uses, you are not required to choose the same weapon or damage type.

. . .

Face

“I know this is probably difficult for you, but I need you to tell me what happened to your brother…”

Bad situations bring out the worst in people, even the innocent. Fear, anger, or worse boils to the top, making information gathering initiatives difficult. Fortunately, the squad’s face acts as the party’s interviewer, interrogator, and negotiator. Faces can get what’s needed from witnesses, bribe their way into forbidden areas, and even talk their way out of jail time. As the face, your greatest contribution to the squad comes through social relationships and representation. More often than not, you’re the one that gets the group out of (and sometimes into) trouble.

Essential Functions: Interview witnesses, cooperate with local authorities, deal with potential publicity issues

Position Proficiency: In addition to the proficiencies noted below, you can add your proficiency bonus to any ability check to interview witnesses or interrogate suspects.

The Face

Character Rank Features
1st (Levels 1 – 4)
Proficiencies and Starting Equipment, Good Listener
2nd (Levels 5 – 10)
Subjective Credentials, Charming Personality
3rd (Levels 11 – 16) Credible Disguise, Detect Desires
4th (Levels 17 – 20)
Forgettable Face, Legendary Access

Proficiencies and Starting Equipment

As a rank 1 face, you gain proficiencies with a forgery kit. You start with one such kit that contains a variety of papers and parchments, pens and inks, duplicate or stolen seals and sealing wax of the most important organizations within the realm, and other supplies necessary to create convincing forgeries.

Also, you gain fake credentials to one important organization in the realm of your choice such as the badge of a member of authority, a cult’s tattoo, a lapel pin denoting a political position, etc. Work with your GM on potential candidates.

Good Listener

Also at rank 1, you can use your action to try to gain an uncanny insight about one humanoid you can see within 30 feet of you. Make a Wisdom (Insight) check contested by the target’s Charisma (Deception) check. If your check succeeds, you have advantage on Charisma (Deception, Intimidation, and Persuasion) checks against the target until the end of your next turn.

Subjective Credentials

At rank 2, your credentials become a common magic item which can change its appearance based on who is observing it. As an action, you present your credentials to a humanoid of your choice. The target sees your credentials as those belonging to a member of authority whom the creature respects or fears. Creatures immune to charm automatically see through the illusion. At the GM’s discretion, if the creature is hostile towards you, it may become indifferent, and if it is already indifferent it may even become friendly.

To discern that the credentials are, in fact, false, a creature can use its action to inspect your credentials and must succeed on a DC 13 Intelligence (Investigation) check.

Charming Personality

Also at rank 2, if you spend 1 minute talking to someone that can understand what you say, the target must make a Wisdom saving throw with a DC of 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier. If you or your companions are fighting the creature, your check automatically fails. On a failed saving throw, the target is charmed by you as long as it remains within 60 feet of you and for 1 minute thereafter.

Credible Disguises

Starting at rank 3, your credentials gain additional features and becomes an uncommon magic item. As an action, you can use your credentials to create an illusion that makes yourself and up to three other creatures of your choice appear as members of authority, making your clothing, armor, and other belongings look different for up to 1 hour. Your overall appearances and body types remain the same. The authority figures that you assume the appearance of can be ones of your choice or ones created by the credentials’ Subjective Credentials feature. The changes wrought by this magical effect fail to hold up to physical inspection. For example, if you use this effect to add a hat to your outfit, objects pass through the hat.

To discern that you are disguised, a creature can use its action to inspect your appearance and must succeed on a DC 13 Intelligence (Investigation) check. A creature that saw you before you changed your appearance makes this check with advantage.

Detect Desires

Also at rank 3, you can use your action to detect the innermost desires of a target that you can see within 10 feet of you. The target must succeed on a DC 13 Wisdom saving throw. On a failed saving throw, you gain insight into something that the creature desires above all else. Pass or fail, the target is unaware that you are probing its mind.

Forgettable Face

At rank 4, your credentials gain an additional power and become a rare magic item. Any creature that fails its saving throw against your Subjective Credentials feature or witnesses your Credible Disguise has its memory affected after you leave its presence. It remembers you and any of your companions affected by the credentials’ magic but has difficulty recalling your name, face, anything you said or asked, or any other remarkable feature so long as you have not interacted with the creature for more than 10 minutes at a time within the last 24 hours. A creature that already knows you or is immune to charm is not affected.

Legendary Access

At rank 4, you advantage on Charisma (Deception, Intimidation, and Persuasion) checks made to gain access into a high-clearance area or normally off-limits location.

. . .

Lorekeeper

“All right, folks. I’ve got bad news and I’ve got worse news.”

Lorekeepers are the occultists and monstrous scholars for monster squads. They learn everything they can about the squad’s targets in order to help the team better prepare for the coming encounter.

As a lorekeeper, you help contribute to the team’s overall knowledge, strategy, and tactics, ultimately ensuring the safety and success of the squad.

Essential Functions: Study and research potential threats, instruct the team on tactics and methods for fighting monsters, summon undead

Position Proficiency: In addition to the proficiencies noted below, you can add your proficiency bonus to any ability check to track a monstrous target that you are familiar with or examine the corpse of a creature killed by the monstrous target

The Lorekeeper

Character Rank Features
1st (Levels 1 – 4) Proficiencies and Starting Equipment, Creature Sense
2nd (Levels 5 – 10) Lore Journal, Tactical Advice
3rd (Levels 11 – 16) Journal Wards, Sèance
4th (Levels 17 – 20) Improved Creature Sense, Strategic Advice

Proficiencies and Starting Equipment

Starting at rank 1, you gain proficiency with one of the following of your choice: alchemist’s supplies, calligrapher’s supplies, or cartographer’s tools. You also gain the tool kit for your chosen proficiency, along with a pen, vial of ink, and a journal to keep your lore on monsters.

Creature Sense

Also at rank 1, you can perform a 10-minute ritual that allows you to detect the presence of creatures. Choose a creature type: aberrations, beasts, celestials, constructs, dragons, elementals, fey, fiends, giants, monstrosities, oozes, plants, or undead. You can also select a race of humanoid (such as gnolls or orcs). At the end of the ritual, you can magically sense the presence of creatures of the chosen type within a range of 1 mile of you. You know the direction they are in but not their exact locations. Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you complete a short or long rest.

Lore Journal

At 2nd rank, your lore journal becomes an uncommon magic item. When you speak a creature’s name, the details and a rough sketch of the creature are magically stored within the book’s pages. The creature must be one that you are familiar with. You can access the details of any such stored information as a bonus action.

Tactical Advice

Also at 2nd rank, your lore journal provides tactical advice on any creature that you’ve stored in your lore journal. If you spend 1 minute studying the entry in your journal, you gain a special d10. Once within the next hour, you can add the d10 to any attack roll, saving throw, or ability check made by you or a creature that you can see so long as the roll is made against the creature whose details you studied. Once you use this property of your lore journal, you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest.

Journal Wards

Starting at rank 3, your lore journal evolves into a rare item. Whenever a creature other than you or one you permit opens your journal, the opening triggers an explosive rune. The creature that opened your journal must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw, or take 3d8 radiant damage on a failed saving throw, or half as much damage on a successful one. The journal then teleports into an extradimensional space and remains there until you use your bonus action to speak a command word that returns the journal to you. Once the glyph is triggered it does not reset until dawn the next day.

Séance

At rank 3, you can cast the speak with dead spell, but only as a ritual. When you do so, an apparition of the deceased creature appears before you to convey the information you seek.

Improved Creature Sense

Starting at 4th rank, you can cast the locate creature spell but only as a ritual.

Strategic Advice

Also at rank 4, your lore journal provides you and your squad increased benefits against monsters. In addition the d10 you gain when you study the lore of a creature using your Tactical Advice feature, for 1 hour, you and each creature within 10 feet of you gain a +1 bonus to your AC against the creature whose details you studied.

. . .

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Art by kittrose on DeviantArt featuring Supernatural

One thought on “Monster Hunting Squads | New Mechanics for Fifth Edition (BroadSword Preview)

  1. Love this concept, I’d like to see a framework for squad based synergy. Say you had a few bards to group jam a spell or effect. Wizards could take a ritual spell to another level etc

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