Master of the Wild Hunt
|Master of the Wild Hunt|
|Black Skull With Crown of Antlers|
|Alignment||True Neutral (Neutral Evil tendencies)|
|Divine Rank||Lesser God|
|Portfolio||Hunting, Beasts, Night|
|Domains||Animal, Hunt, Strength, Night|
|Worshippers||Druids, Rangers, Hunters, Woodsfolk|
|Favoured Weapon||Spear and Bow|
The Master of the Hunt is a mysterious deity, most associated with Celtic lore, who made an appearance in issue #342 of Dragon Magazine for Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition. Appearing as a black-skinned human man with ghostly green-glowing eyes, wearing an antlered crown, an ebon skull mask, and black leather armor, he is the master of the Wild Hunt; an plane-traveling hunting party of monstrous hounds and inhuman hunters riding unearthly steeds. His only known interest is in the hunt; humanoid, animal or monstrosity, he will chase after any creature that catches his eye and seek to bring them down.
Mortal worshippers of the Master of the Hunt are often as ruthless as their master; though he is considered True Neutral, he has a definite leaning towards Neutral Evil, and this is reflected amongst his faithful. For obvious reasons, he is mostly worshipped by druids, who tend to focus either on the natural cycle of predator and prey embodied by the act of hunting, or else worship him as an empower of militant defense of their woods. Rangers also prominently worship him, seeking to attain his skill as a hunter, be it to safeguard the wilderness or just to stoke their egos and prove themselves masters of all beasts.
For this reason, the different sects of the Master of the Hunt have little in common beyond their worship for the hunt itself. Sects define themselves by who they seek to hunt, as they are usually far less indiscriminate than their deity. Wilderness destroying humanoids, or monstrous beasts, are usually the focus of their ire. When roused to war (or hunt, there is no difference between the two), a sect attempts to drive its chosen enemy from its lands, mercilessly hunting them down to the last.
Becoming a cleric of the Master of the Hunt is fraught with peril; an initiate is taught to track prey, as well as to hunt with the spear and the bow, but they are also expected to learn the methods of flight their prey use when being hunted. Thus, the initiate's final test is to act as the prey of his fellow huntsmen; an hour before dusk, the initiate is carried into the woods, stripped of all weapons, given nothing but clothes on their back, and told to flee the rest of the sect, who will hunt them relentlessly through the night. If the initiate can elude capture until dawn, they are welcomed into the order. If caught, they are slain on the spot.
For obvious reasons, temples to the Master of the Hunt are always located in the wilderness, and resemble grand hunting lodges more than anything; each is decorated with trophy parts taken from beasts felled by the Master's worshippers over the years. Temples are often built a single day's travel apart, allowing them to serve as waypoints on long journeys or hunts. Particularly blessed temples may house holy relics, which usually relate to archery, vision or hunting enhancement: bracers of archery, eyes of the eagle, goggles of night and slaying arrows are common relics.
Needless to say, the hunt is the most sacred rite of his followers. On nights leading into the equinoxes and solstices, the followers of the Master of the Hunt dress up in dark leather armor, black skull masks, and antler-crowns before riding through the wilderness from dusk until dawn, culling whatever creatures they flush out. Through these hunts, they honor their god.
Prayers to the Master of the Hunt often begin with the phrase, "Great and terrible horned lord", but vary greatly thereafter deending upon the alignment of the supplicant and his needs.
The Herald of the Master is Herne the Hunter, a 20th level human ranger who wears the same black skull mask and antlered crown, and who rides a nightmare. Priests of the Master of the Hunt can summon nightmares (normal and Cauchemar) and Nesseian Warhounds (true neutral and neutral evil) as planar allies.
His counterpart in the World Axis is the Archfey Cerunnos. This is only fitting, since one of the real-world gods whom the Master is based on is the Celtic god Cernunnos - ironically, that Celtic deity has never appeared in D&D. Other deities who have been said to lead the Wild Hunt in Earthly mythology have included Odin, Woden, and Arawn.