"This class is so far from the idea of balance that not even Tolkien's elves can see it in the distance." - Me, after reading this class. Now that I've got your attention, I'll warn you this review is very long and hopefully quite comprehensive as to the issues with the class (there are many).
- The artwork is well made.
- The class concept/idea is novel, even if it does lean a bit towards "edgy" tropes, and could fill a comfortable slot in the class roster.
- It only gets extra attack once, this is balanced.
- Additionally it only gets 5 Ability Score Improvements, another balanced choice.
- The 14th level feature "Hardened Soul" is fine, and makes sense thematically.
- "Blood Curse of Binding" in isolation as a "not-spell", is actually okay. It's a strong ability, as it's a bonus action, but it finds a niche as a budget hold person; at most I'd suggest a low level requirement (3rd level) or a change in action economy (requires an action) for balance.
- "Blood Curse of the Marked" in isolation as a "not-spell", is good. It's seemingly balanced to be strong but not over powered, although this does push it towards "auto-take" territory.
- "Blood Curse of the Muddled Mind" in isolation as a "not-spell", is good and thematic for a class inspired originally by "The Last Witch Hunter". It's a shame this is really the only "anti-mage" aka "witch hunter" feature in the class.
So now we'll get to the bad, I'll go through the class feature by feature and I'll add headers for easy scanning:
The Base Class
The class has a d10 hit die, which is fine for a martial class sure but this runs into an issue I'll no doubt bring up a few times. Whilst this is seemingly done to match the Fighter's hit die it starts to butt heads with the "hit points for magic" "risk for reward" mechanics. By 4th level a character with 14 Constitution has 36 HP on average and loses 5 HP on average between short rests depending on their usage of Crimson Rite and Blood Maledict's Amplify (assuming 1 use of each, keeping Crimson Rite active until the next rest).
This gets exacerbated even further at higher levels, at 20th level a 14 Constitution character will have 164 HP and will lose only 24 HP on average (assuming 4 uses of amplified Blood Curses and a use of Crimson Rite, accounting for Sanguine Mastery's re-roll and pick the lower feature) between short rests. This gets worse if you're dealing with a character that's improved their Constitution score higher than 14, in a test build I built a human Blood Hunter with 14 Constitution at 1st level whom would put at least two more points into it, so their average would be 184 HP but they'd still only be losing 24 HP on average; which means you're risking next to nothing to fuel your main class abilities.
I'm torn between suggesting a change however as reducing the hit die to a d8 would lower the martial capabilities of the class (inability to be a front-line fighter) although it would make the choice to use Blood Maledict/Crimson Rite at early levels (and somewhat at late levels) more of the "risk vs reward" it seems it should be; that and it would make the class' combat role closer to say a Swords Bard or Hexblade Warlock.
Proficiencies & Equipment
I'm unsure that the class should be able to use shields, which I'm assuming is inspired from the Cleric's armour proficiencies, as it appears to clash with the depictions of the class (which feature either one-handed or two-weapon fighting), as well as the class' inclination towards Dexterity as an attribute (Dexterity save proficiency, the Lycan subclass making your unarmed strikes finesse weapons, offering Studded Leather as starting equipment, and Strength builds having to juggle four attributes: Str, Dex, Con, Int).
This class seems to borrow an aspect of the Ranger for the skills which is mostly fine, although the choice to include Acrobatics in the skill list but leave out Perception (something that someone whom is a Hunter of Monsters might need to be aware of their surroundings) is quite odd. I'm assuming the idea is you use your background and/or race to pick up the skill but that seems to clash with the aforementioned theme of being a monster hunter.
The class equipment seems mostly fine, although the choices of armour are strong for first level (the best light armour or the second best medium armour for a dexterity build) as well as the ranged options, whilst nicely thematic, will hamper ranged builds at 5th level due to the loading property preventing them from using their extra attack unless they replace their weapons. Due to the wording of the first option they could take a longbow with no arrows for their martial weapon or take a shortbow with no arrows for one of their two simple weapons, but this would mean they'd then gain a redundant crossbow/hand crossbow.
Hunter's Bane massively steps on the toes of the ranger, giving you the 14th level version of Favoured Enemy at 1st level although your choice is locked to fey, fiends and undead (likely something you'll be fighting if you're playing this class in a campaign) and doesn't include learning their languages. I get the need to put across that "monster hunter" theme/idea for the class but taking another class' ability at its strongest version nearly wholesale isn't the way to go. In a module such as Descent into Avernus/Curse of Strahd you're on par with the party's potential Ranger and vastly outshining them in any campaign that involves any combination of the three.
Additionally the text-blurb for the Hemocraft save DC feels like it should be apart of the class' second 1st level feature "Blood Maledict" rather than in this feature; this might make more sense in your own setting (referring to the class creator) but as someone unfamiliar with it this seems out of place in terms of formatting.
Speaking of, Blood Maledict. One of the class' core gimmicks it relies on a powerful but novel idea of giving the player "pseudo-magic" to cast not-spells called "Blood Curses", the majority of which are bonus actions or reactions (7 bonus, 1 action, 4 reactions) with a 30 foot range, that can be amplified for additional/more powerful effects at the cost of your hit points (1d4 from 1st-4th level, 1d6 from 5th-10th level, 1d8 from 11th-16th level, 1d10 from 17th to 20th level).
A novel idea but the mechanics don't hold up, you start with only one use of the feature and one known Blood Curse with uses recharging on a short rest; which means you're going to be using this in most if not all encounters (I'll cover the curses themselves later) especially since the basic use doesn't actually use any of your hit points to do. It's only when you amplify that it uses a number of your hit points equal to a roll of your Hemocraft die, something that only leaves you vulnerable at 1st level (can use anywhere between 1/12th to 1/3rd of your health if you have 14 Con). When you gain additional uses of this feature the cost is even more negligible when expending all uses: 6th level costs you 7 of your average 58 HP (with 10 Con), 13th level costs you 13 of your average 82 HP (with 10 Con), and 17th level costs you 22 of your average 106 HP (with 10 Con, 123 HP with 12 Con, 140 HP with 14 Con).
In keeping with the idea of the feature you can't affect creatures without blood unless you amplify it, meaning quite oddly you're at a bit of a disadvantage when fighting low CR undead such as Skeletons despite supposedly being adept at hunting them. Finally the recharge on a short rest begins this class' trend of fast recharge for nearly all of its abilities, meaning your Blood Hunter will be entering most fights with all of their resource based abilities ready to go after a brief sit down between encounters; if Blood Curses are this class' parallel to Warlock Spells then you're getting a comparable level of "not-spell-slots" on top of the martial foundation of the class.
Fighting Styles are a staple of martial classes, although having them here plays a bit of havoc later so keep that in mind (it mainly concerns dueling and the class' leaning towards Dexterity).
Crimson Rite is another good idea done badly; for the mere cost of 1d4 hit points at 2nd level (average of 2 hp cost from your 16/18/20 HP depending on if you have 10/12/14 Con) and a bonus action (something this class uses a lot) you can cast part of the 3rd level spell elemental weapon without using concentration that lasts for a potentially infinite amount of time (play a Warforged and keep a hold of your weapon, since you don't need to sleep your Crimson Rite will remain active forever unless you are knocked unconscious). Ignoring the Warforged example you will likely only ever have to cast this once (or twice for dual-wielders) between rests.
The damage flavour for the first 3 options are fairly equal choices (fire, cold, lightning), granting you a second one of those three at 7th level; but the choices for the esoteric rites are unevenly weighted between necrotic, thunder and psychic (the latter being one of the least resisted damage types alongside force damage), which means most players will pick psychic damage due to it turning up in other class features later on (as well as it's usefulness as a damage type). With the progression of the Hemocraft die you're out-doing the damage of elemental weapon by 5th level and doing double by 11th level and over double at 17th; all for a bonus action (instead of an action), without concentration, and the small cost of 2/3/4/5 HP depending on Hemocraft die size.
Finally I understand why this isn't limited to melee weapons so ranged builds aren't locked out of class features but it does mean at minimal cost you can deal equivalent damage to a greatsword from up to 150ft away using a longbow at 2nd level (you have the same min/average/max with 1d8+1d4 as you do with 2d6), which gets worse at 5th level and beyond when you're doing more damage than a greatsword from up to 150ft away.
A brief word on Subclasses
Blood Hunter Orders, aka the four subclasses we'll cover in detail later but briefly: we've got "Ghostslayer" that's a pseudo-cleric who can walk through walls, "Profane Soul" that's a warlock-wannabe for those who want to multiclass but won't, "Mutant" that just for boosting stats so you're good at everything, and "Lycan" that's a best-of-both monk-barbarian hybrid with legendary-tier magic weapons for hands. Needless to say they've all got issues (and that's not a joke about the dark/edgy class theme).
Brand of Castigation (the root of many problems)
Brand of Castigation, the root of many later problems. This feature is very strong, acting like a pseudo-smite (because we're really borrowing from nearly all classes in some fashion) when you damage a creature with your Crimson Rite (something you can use for very little cost, and do from up to 150ft away from a target, but could theoretically do from an infinite distance away if you had a weapon with that range) you can brand them without requiring any kind of action.
This free action branding lasts until you dismiss it (or you brand something else), which in realistic terms is when the creature is dead, requires no concentration, and means that if the creature deals damage to you or anyone within 5ft of you it takes 1-5 psychic damage depending on your Intelligence modifier; it also counts as a spell of a level between 3rd-9th depending on your class levels for the purposes of dispel magic but not counterspell so good luck getting rid of this thing if you're not a spellcaster. This also recharges on a short rest so you'll near-always have this ready to go in an encounter, meaning the monsters are incentivised into not hitting you, as they will take damage at whatever range they do it at because the brand has no range, meaning the hit point cost of your other features is even more trivial because you're taking less damage.
This is the most niche ribbon feature, a tiny crown made of ribbon if you will, and like with most areas this class enters it's the best at it. If you're playing in a campaign where you're not investigating dark and evil objects/places often then this feature is practically useless and 9th level is effectively a dead level in the class besides your improving proficiency. If you are playing in a campaign involving that then you're going to be a Know-It-All when it comes to lore, especially since the feature suggests that if you roll well enough the DM provides your character "visions of things previously unknown to the character" to quote the text; considering you can take History as a skill and it uses one of the classes main stats you're looking at a +7/+8 (based on 16/18 Intelligence) bonus to the roll you make with advantage, so those visions may be quite frequent.
If you happened to have the misfortune of a dead level from Grim Psychometry not being useful then Dark Augmentation, your 10th level feature makes up for it in spades. You gain 5 feet of speed and your Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution saves gain a bonus equal to your Intelligence modifier, so your Strength and Constitution saves are at +3/+4 (based on 16/18 Intelligence, and 10 Strength/Constitution) and your Dexterity saves are at +10/+12 (based on 16/18 Dexterity/Intelligence).
This is strong at the level you get it, stronger when your Intelligence modifier is higher than your proficiency (effectively giving you better proficiency in Strength/Constitution saves) and becomes ridiculous at 17th level where you've got near-proficiency in Strength/Constitution saves (based on 20 Intelligence) and your Dexterity saves are at +16 (based on 20 Dexterity/Intelligence) meaning you have only a 15% chance to fail a DC20 Dexterity save. Combine this with the Order of the Mutant for even more shenanigans I'll cover later.
Brand of Tethering
Up next is Brand of Tethering. Whilst it may sound like another type of brand you can cast it is in fact an addition to your existing Brand of Castigation (because why have players choose between two features they can do without action economy when you can let them do both?). Your Brand of Castigation now does twice as much psychic damage when the branded creature hits you or a creature within 5ft of you, which will be around 8/10 (based on 18/20 Intelligence) of one of the least resisted damage types.
Additionally this free action feature (that you'll practically always have ready in an encounter) which only requires you damage a creature with your Crimson Rite (something that can be done from up to 150ft away) stops the branded creature from dashing and, when they try to escape you and your two buddies who're hitting it (that it can't hit back at all without slowly killing itself) like any sane person would want to by using a teleport or plane shift of any kind they take 4d6 damage they don't get to save against and then have to succeed a Wisdom saving throw or the teleport/plane shift fails.
This practically forces the DM to have the BBEG (or one of his lackeys) know dispel magic to remove the brand so they can escape the party (the lack of dashing means they will be out-run by the party) but even then the chance of success at this level is 25% (the brand counts as a 6th level spell at this level, so the dispel DC is 16), which slowly diminishes down to 10% at 18th level when the brand is equivalent to a 9th level spell that you can cast without any action economy and recharges on a short rest.
As far as capstone features for classes go, Sanguine Mastery is a very strong one. It also destroys any remaining vestiges of "risk vs reward" when it comes to using your hit points as a resource to fuel your abilities. At 20th level you'll have on average 124/144/164/184/204/224 HP (based on 10/12/14/16/18/20 Constitution) and you'll be using on average 30 HP for your base class features (based on 4 uses of Blood Curses and 1 use of Crimson Rite, without Sanguine Mastery) before this feature comes into play, with the HP cost reducing to 24 HP on average after re-rolls which makes the cost even more negligible than before. The other part of this feature, regaining uses of Blood Curses on a crit, seems harmless but like Dark Augmentation you combine it with the Order of the Mutant for shenanigans.
The Order of the Ghost Slayer
Finally onto the subclasses, first up Order of the Ghostslayer.
Rite of the Dawn & Curse Specialist
At 3rd level you gain a new Crimson Rite flavour that's just better than the others you have access to: you 1d4 deal radiant damage (which scales up), you weapon gains the effect of the light cantrip without the dim light radius, you gain resistance to necrotic damage (which in real terms means you're always resistant to necrotic damage during encounters), and you roll two dice of radiant damage instead one when hitting undead (Curse of Strahd might be a breeze eh?).
In addition to the only Rite you'll be using until 14th level (or when fight a celestial which goes against the class' theme and the Hunter's Bane feature) you gain an additional use of your Blood Curse(s) and remember that limitation about the target needing blood? Well this now ignores that limitation so skeletons are now fair game, as much as that breaks the premise of how the blood curses work as well as making the need to amplify the curses non-existent which means you're only losing 2 HP on average between short rests for your abilities. Seems like any potential drawback from the pseudo-magic feature the class has as a pillar just got roundly ignored by this subclass huh.
At 7th level you get "Ethereal Step" and the simplest way to describe this feature is thus: you can cast the spell etherealness without requiring any action, that lets you affect both the material and ethereal planes at the same time, also lets you walk through objects and creatures like difficult terrain and lasts for 1-5 rounds (based on your Intelligence Modifier).
You can only use it once to start with but don't worry, it recharges on a short rest and you can use it twice between rests at 15th level. So to recap, you can cast controllable version of the 7th level spell etherealness that still lets you interact with/attack creatures on the material plane, 1-2 times between short rests, that requires no action or bonus action at 7th level.
Brand of Sundering
At 11th level you gain an upgrade to your Brand of Castigation called "Brand of Sundering", whilst this feature might seem reasonably innocuous at first hear me out. Whenever you do damage to the creature you've branded, you do an additional Hemocraft die of rite damage and the creature can't move through creatures/objects. Sounds fine, until you realise that your longbow now does 1d8+2d8+Dex damage to the branded creature from up to 150ft away.
Something that gets even worse when your Hemocraft die size goes up to 1d10; making it 1d8+2d10+Dex damage per hit from up to 150ft away against a creature that can't attack you back without taking 4/8 damage (based on 18 Intelligence at 11th level/13th level) per instance of damage against you or anyone within 5 ft of you (so if you're ranged it's the wizard/warlock chilling with you or if you're melee it's the martials you're fighting next to). The "can't move through creatures and objects" part just adds to the 13th level base class features list of reasons why the BBEG/Monster can't do anything to escape.
Blood Curse of the Exorcist
At 15th level you gain your unique Blood Curse, "Blood Curse of the Exorcist". As a bonus action you can end a charmed, frightened or possessed effect on an ally within 30ft. Hey, that seems fine... However amplifying for the low low average cost of 4 HP makes whatever caused said condition on the ally take 3d6 psychic damage that they are unable to save against and then they must make a Wisdom save or be stunned until the end of your next turn.
So to recap as a bonus action you can undo a condition on an ally, damage an enemy and cast an auto-hit stunning strike on them by giving up just 4 of your 94 hit points (based on only having 10 Constitution); you can also repeat this madness 3 more times before you need to rest (5 times total at 17th level).
For the subclass' final feature you get... drum-roll please Rite Revival! Which is literally just Relentless Endurance from the Half-Orc racial traits but it only activates as long as you have a Crimson Rite active, which would make it less useful (although realistically you should always have a Rite active) until you realise that there's no recharge on this feature so you will just never die as long as you have some form of healing such as a potion of healing since, on average, you'll regain 7 hit points which is more than the average damage of 5 you'll take from your Crimson Rite, or have the party Cleric/Bard/Healer use ranged healing (like healing word) to keep you on your feet and keep your Rite active.
The Order of the Profane Soul
Next subclass and arguably the weakest of the four: Order of the Profane Soul. A subclass that's the awful half-way between "I want to multiclass into warlock" and "I want the capstone feature for my class" where you gain "3rd-warlock" spellcasting and basically no other features of Warlock.
Otherworldly Patron, Spellcasting & Rite Focus
At 3rd level you get spellcasting, which is just warlock spellcasting but less of it. You also get an upgrade to your Crimson Rite depending on what flavour of warlock you would have multiclassed into:
- The Archfey gets a free cast of the spell faerie fire on a hit (instead of advantage they can't use cover).
- The Fiend feature does nothing unless you picked the Rite of the Flame in which case it means you're rolling a 3 on average for your Fire damage.
- The Great Old One gives you a free cast of cause fear on a crit that lasts only a turn (but can frighten undead).
- The Undying gives you a Hemocraft die of HP back when you kill something with a rite weapon.
- The Celestial lets you cast healing word with Intelligence using your "not-spell slots".
- The Hexblade gives you your proficiency in flat damage on the next attack that hits a creature you targeted with your Blood Curse (bit niche, also does nothing if your curse killed the creature you targeted).
A mixed bag indeed.
Mystic Frenzy & Revealed Arcana
At 7th level you borrow the Eldritch Knight's feature word for word. Whilst also borrowing that feature, you also get a spell depending on your patron that you can use one of your two spell slots to cast: blur, scorching ray, detect thoughts, blindness/deafness, lesser restoration, and branding smite. The spells you get aren't too bad, but they're nothing stellar to compete against your four chosen spells for your meagre two spell slots.
Brand of the Sapping Scar
At 11th level you borrow another feature from Eldritch Knight for your Brand of Castigation upgrade, although this one has been re-flavoured to fit the class. Combined with everything else the Brand can do even a feature as relatively mundane as this is strong; the most basic example of why that is concerns casting hold person on the branded creature that already can't run away (not dash) or use magic to escape (without hurting itself) and now has disadvantage on avoiding being restrained.
At 15th level you gain another free spell depending on your patron but this time you can cast them without using a spell slot once per long rest. This is okay, unless you didn't want that specific spell in which case this is basically a dead level for you. The balance between the spells is a bit askew too, since being able to get a free cast of slow or haste is often a lot more powerful than something like bestow curse or blink.
Blood Curse of the Souleater
At 18th level you get this subclass' arguably most powerful feature, your unique Blood Curse "Blood Curse of the Soul Eater" which is one of those features that can be potentially abused with a bag of rats/spiders. Using your Soul Eater Blood Curse you use your reaction to gain advantage on your next turn's attacks when a creature is reduced to 0 hit points, spending on average 5 of your average 112 hit points (based on 10 Constitution) to gain back a spell slot too. Cumulatively you're spending only 5 hit points on average (based on 4 uses, one amplified) out of your average 112/148/184 hit points (based on 10/14/18 Constitution) to effectively have 3 spell slots and advantage for four turns which is a bargain of a trade.
Additionally you could use the demise of your allies to your benefit with this feature since despite saying you usher the soul to your patron the doesn't say it kills the creature that dropped to 0 hit points, meaning your ally can go unconscious and power you up in the process; enjoy trying to reconcile where exactly that player character's soul is when they get healed though.
The Order of the Mutant
Third subclass is the Order of the Mutant and this is one of the two strongest. For this one we've got to talk about it's gimmick of "Mutagens" before we talk about the features.
In somewhat alphabetical order we have:
Formulas & Mutagencraft
- "Aether" where you can essentially cast fly for an hour but it's only a 3rd of the fly speed (20ft) and you've got disadvantage on Strength and Dexterity saves which renders the benefits it provides not worth using; especially when someone else in the party will likely have fly for multiple people at 11th level when you get this Mutagen and/or you're already a race that can fly so your racial flying speed is better.
- "Alluring" is next, it gives advantage on Charisma ability checks but disadvantage on initiative rolls; situationally useful but otherwise nothing amazing.
- "Celerity" is next and this one is a doozy too; your Dexterity increases by +3 (increasing to +4 at 11th and +5 at 18th) but you have disadvantage on Wisdom saves, meaning at 3rd level you can have 20 Dexterity using point-buy (15 from point buy, +2 from racial stat, +3 from Mutagen) further making a Dexterity build the way to go and even better, this means you can have 24 Dexterity by 11th level (15 from point buy, +2 from racial stats, +3 from ASIs, +4 from Mutagen).
- "Conversant" is similar to alluring, advantage on Intelligence ability checks but disadvantage on Wisdom ability checks; rather underwhelming especially since, unless you're a bookworm, you'll be using your Wisdom skills more than your Intelligence skills but your mileage may vary.
- "Cruelty" is next, it requires you to be 11th level and lets you take another attack after using the attack action as a bonus action but you have disadvantage on Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma saves; whilst an extra attack may be nice the crippling blow to your saves makes this not worth using unless you really need that extra swing.
- "Deftness" is similar to "Conversant" but with Dexterity and Wisdom ability checks respectively; as such it has the same issue.
- "Embers" & "Gelid" seem like a decent pair, granting you resistance to fire & cold damage as well as vulnerability to cold & fire respectively; that's until you realise you can only have 3 of these ready at one time and there's others that eclipse the benefits these mutagens bring.
- "Impermeable", "Shielded", & "Unbreakable" form a triangle of giving resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing whilst giving vulnerability to bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing; a neat idea that makes use of these damage types but it has the same issue as "Embers" & "Gelid" have, although having a 3rd of a Barbarian's Rage active until you rest is quite a strong thing depending what you're fighting.
- "Mobile" is incredibly strong: you gain immunity to the grappled and restrained conditions until you rest and at 11th level this gives immunity to paralyzed too, and the side effect? You have disadvantage on the Strength ability checks you no longer need to make because you're not being grappled, so this is practically an auto-take for this subclass.
- "Nighteye" just gives you darkvision up to 60ft if you don't have it and gives you an extra 60ft if you do, the downside is sunlight sensitivity; so this is only really useful if you're fighting often at night and don't have darkvision or are fighting in expansive caverns underground, pretty situational but not awful. The exception being if you're a Drow, where you end up with 180ft of Darkvision with no additional penality as you're already dealing with sunlight sensitivity.
- "Precipient" is a clone of "Deftness"/"Conservant" but with Wisdom and Charisma; same issues apply.
- "Potency" is "Celerity" but for Strength instead of Dexterity and gives you disadvantage on Dexterity Saves, meaning at 3rd level you can have 20 Strength using point-buy (15 from point buy, +2 from racial stat, +3 from Mutagen) and you can have 24 Strength by 11th level (15 from point buy, +2 from racial stats, +3 from ASIs, +4 from Mutagen); this means you can get half of the Barbarian's 20th level feature at 11th level which is insanely strong for a Strength build, completely stepping on the toes of another class' theme/style/gimmick with just one element of this subclass.
- "Precision" requires 11th level and lets you crit on a 19-20 whilst giving you disadvantage on Strength saving throws; a rather late feature considering Fighters can get this at 3rd level with no drawback, this gets thrown in the same group with the other "okay at best but comparatively useless" mutagens.
- "Rapidity" increases your speed by 10ft (15ft at 15th level) and gives you disadvantage on Intelligence saves; potentially useful if you want to keep up with the party monk but is overshadowed by the other, vastly better mutagens.
- "Reconstruction" requires 7th level, gives you your proficiency in hit points back each turn for 1 hour when you're under half, and only reduces your speed by 10ft for it; the effect itself seems a decent enough balance but then you remember this class uses its HP as a resource and using this mutagen you regain, on average, equal to or more than the amount you use when rolling Hemocraft die on your turn (3 HP cost for an average hemocraft die at 7th level, regain 3 HP each turn when under half) meaning any vulnerability you might get from using your Hemocraft die-based abilities whilst low on health is roundly negated.
- "Sagacity" is just "Celerity" with Intelligence and Charisma respectively; exact same issues apply here.
- "Vermilion" gives you an additional use of your Blood Curses and gives you disadvantage on death saving throws, I'd say this is a neat mutagen but the cost rather outweighs the boon; although considering how hardy this class can be it's a rare day you'd be making death saves so if you're in dire need of more Blood Curses then it's at effectively no cost.
So for actual subclass features now that's out of the way we have "Formulas" at 3rd level. This gives you access to 4 of the aforementioned Mutagens, gaining another one at at 7th level, 11th level, 15th level, and 18th level; each time you get a new one you can swap out an old one too so they're a bit like Eldritch Invocations from the Warlock, a fine idea ruined by everything around it.
You also get Mutagencraft, a feature that lets you make the aforementioned mutagens at a rate of one per short/long rest, upping to 2 at 7th level and 3 at 15th level; you consume them with a bonus action which last until you rest (2 that last 1 hour instead) and you can get rid of effects of them with an action. They can't be used by anyone else and ones you make but don't use stop working when you rest. So some things here, firstly these concoctions require no materials/components/items to make meaning you're never going to be without these bonuses that last until you rest (mostly); three levels in and you're comfortably sitting at 20 in Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution (depending on mutagen/stat choice).
Secondly with the exception of the two that only last an hour there's no downside to just drinking your mutagens as soon as you make them, take "Celerity" as an example: for having 20 Dexterity when everyone else could at most only have 17 (assuming your party is using point-buy, example is: 15 from point-buy, +2 from racial bonuses) giving you a big advantage over other classes at that level and the only downside is disadvantage on Wisdom saves that'll only come up if the enemies you're fighting are spellcasters or have an ability which targets Wisdom but should you fail you can just end the disadvantage when you need to with an action.
At 7th level "Strange Metabolism" gives you immunity to poison damage and immunity to poisoned, which is strong out the gate but wait! There's more! Remember those negative effects of the mutagens? Well you can use a bonus action to just ignore the negative effects of a mutagen for 1 minute, once per long rest; that disadvantage you had on Wisdom saves to get your 20 Strength, Dexterity or Intelligence (now as high as 22 thanks to the 4th level ASI), well you can get rid of that when you get into an encounter that might challenge those saves. 20-22 Strength, Dexterity or Intelligence at 7th level with no downside? Broken.
Brand of Axiom
At 11th level you get a new brand, or you would if this was balanced; you get an upgrade to your Brand of Castigation! Remember when I said it was the root of a lot of issues? This time around your on-a-hit free action, unlimited range, no saves allowed Brand will: automatically cast dispel magic on any illusions or invisibility the branded creature has going, dispel polymorph and true polymorph and undo natural shape-shifting if the creature fails a Wisdom save, stun them on said failed save until the end of your next turn, cast an auto-success version of counterspell if they or someone else attempts to use any illusion/invisibility magic on them (even if someone else cast blur, mirror image, or greater invisibility on them it would fail automatically), and if they attempt to shape-change or use polymorph again they must make a Wisdom save or be stunned until the end of your next turn.
Remember, the only pre-requisite to activate your brand is to damage this creature once with your Crimson Rite; you do the equivalent of cast two or more 3rd level spells without any action economy using a resource that replenishes on a short rest. This ability cripples shape-changing enemies like Lycanthropes and could potentially counterspell an infinite number of casts of true polymorph (several mages trying to cast on the branded target), with only a single DC 16/17/18 saving throw (based on 18/20/22 Intelligence) between it working and the creature or caster (wording is unclear) being stunned for the next round.
Additionally the wording of this feature is very vague. Does "any illusions disguising or making a creature invisible when you brand them" apply to all illusion school spells on the creature, specifically "disguise" and "invisibility" spells, or all illusion school spells both on the creature and those nearby that may render it disguised or invisible such as silent image? If a branded creature succeeds the Wisdom saving throw to change shape or polymorph, do they have to then make a save because they're now "a creature branded by you is polymorphed or has changed shape" and "must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or revert to their true form and be stunned until the end of your next turn"?
The wording needs to be cleaned up here to specify what spells/effects "illusions disguising and making a creature invisible" concerns as well as to whether or not a polymorphed/shapeshifted creature needs to save all the time it is branded. If it does have to save say every turn it's polymorphed whilst branded then this feature is incredibly powerful since it's able to potentially inflict stun every 6 seconds for the rest of the creatures life.
Blood Curse of Corrosion
At 15th level you get your unique Blood Curse: Blood Curse of Corrosion. This lets you inflict the poisoned condition on a creature within 30ft as a bonus action if they fail a Constitution save, which they make again at the end of each of their turns until it ends (which could potentially be forever since this effect doesn't have a time limit). That may seem underwhelming or even okay considering you can do this 3/4/5 times (depending on level and/or mutagens) but it becomes very strong when you amplify it; for the low cost of an average of 4 HP you can deal 4d6 necrotic damage to the target, which it takes each time it fails the saving throw for this not-spell that has no time limit.
The vague wording bugbear strikes again here too since it's not clear whether or not the creature takes the initial 4d6 necrotic damage before taking the Constitution save or after it fails the Constitution save. This is also something you can do to 3/4/5 different creatures, again as a bonus action, without requiring concentration, meaning you can potentially kill up to 5 creatures in an encounter without lifting a finger after casting. It's worth noting that by this level your save DC can be as high as 20 (based on 20 Intelligence, "Sagacity" mutagen +4, and +4 proficiency); meaning creatures with 10 Constitution have a 5% chance of not taking 4d6 necrotic damage every 6 seconds for the rest of their (now short) lives.
At 18th level you gain "Exalted Mutation" which completely removes any scarcity to your mutagens. Rather than only having three mutagens to use, as long as you've currently got one active (and you will do for most of them because they last until you rest at which point you get them back) you can swap the active one to another one of the 8 you know; effectively granting you up to 7 more uses of your mutagens (depending on how high your Intelligence modifier is). There's one small mote of balance here though, rather than recharging on a short rest this "hot-swap mutagen" feature recharges on a long rest; however I'd be hard pressed to believe you'd run out of uses of it by the time you take a long rest.
The Order of the Lycan
The final subclass is the Order of the Lycan, it's the other of the two strong subclasses and oh boy, this one steps on some toes.
Heightened Senses & Hybrid Transformation
At 3rd level you gain advantage on Perception checks that use hearing and smell, which is fair. You also get "Hybrid Transformation", the bastard spawn of a Monk and a Barbarian that takes the best of both with a bit more thrown in. You can use this feature once between short rests (because of course), costs a bonus action (which conflicts with activating Crimson Rite), it lasts an hour (so much longer than a barbarian's rage), you can still speak and use equipment/weapons, and revert to normal when you hit 0 HP.
Whilst wolfing out you get a +1 to melee damage rolls that goes up to +2 at 11th and +3 at 18th, which means weapons you're holding get half the bonuses from being +1/+2/+3 (this stacks with the dueling fighting style too, so a rapier would deal 1d8+Dex+2+1 per attack). You have advantage on Strength checks and saves (just like Barbarians). You get resistance to bludgeoning, piercing and slashing damage from non-magical attacks that aren't silver (almost identical to the barbarian due to the lack of enemies with magic/silver weapons), and whilst not wearing heavy armour (which you're not proficient with anyway) you get a +1 to your AC (so not only can you get the best light armour, studded leather, it can essentially be studded leather +1 when you need it to be). You can apply your Crimson Rite to your unarmed strikes, your unarmed strikes become finesse (because this class really wants you to use Dexterity instead of Strength), you can make an attack with them as a bonus action after attacking with them as your action (essentially making them light weapons), and they deal 1d6 slashing damage (making your unarmed strikes stronger than a Monk's for two levels), which increases to 1d8 at 11th level (in line with when the Monk gets the same damage die for martial arts).
Are there any drawbacks to becoming a better version of Barbarian? Well you get "Bloodlust". If you start your turn with no more than half your max HP you must succeed a DC 8 Wisdom save or move directly towards the nearest creature (which will more than likely be whatever you're fighting) and use the attack action against it (which you were going to do anyway), you have the choice to not use extra attack for this on the rare occasion you are doing friendly fire, and then you act normally for the rest of your turn. If you happen to be raging (because you got greedy, wanted two versions of rage and multiclassed into barbarian) or otherwise unable to concentrate you fail the save automatically.
Not really a downside (40% chance of failure if you have 8 Wisdom, the lowest possible with point-buy) unless you're playing a ranged build with this subclass (but why would you when it's heavily melee focused) or if you've multiclassed into a spellcaster since, unlike a barbarian's rage, you can actually cast magic whilst transformed (what spellcaster wouldn't want an hour of resistance to common damage and +1 AC alongside all the proficiencies this class gives you?).
Conan the Who?
At 5th level it's worth mentioning that you can out-damage other martial classes easily by using a great weapon alongside your unarmed strikes. With extra attack you make one attack with a greatsword (for example, based on 16 Strength or Dexterity) dealing 12 damage on average (2d6 + 3 + 1, re-rolling for great weapon fighting), follow that up with an unarmed strike for another 7 damage on average (1d6+3+1), and use your bonus action for a further 7 damage (1d6+3+1) for a total of 26 on average.
Compared to a Barbarian with a greatsword (based on Strength 20) who deals 24 damage on average (two attacks of 2d6+4), you're doing more damage than someone with better ability scores and you're not even using your Crimson Rite which would add a further 10 damage on average (3 instances of 1d6 damage from a Rite on your greatsword and another on your unarmed strikes) for a total of 36 damage a turn.
At 7th level you gain 10 feet of movement speed, can long jump 10 feet further and high jump 3 feet higher which is fine and thematic. You also gain a +1 bonus to your unarmed strike's attack rolls, which goes to +2 at 11th, and +3 at 18th; turning your unarmed strikes into the equivalent of uncommon/rare/very rare magic weapon (depending on your level). I say magic weapon because whilst you have your crimson rite active (which will be the case in every fight, also doesn't have to be on your unarmed strikes though, can be anywhere) your unarmed strikes are magical (just like the Monk's class feature from 6th level).
So now the as Monk has caught up to your unarmed shenanigans this starts to out-do them again, at least this feature has the sense to not do the same as "feral might" and apply to weapon attacks too because that would break bounded accuracy; although it can break bounded accuracy if you get an Insignia of Claws from Horde of the Dragon Queen since your unarmed strikes would have a +4 bonus to attack and damage rolls at 18th level, greater than any magic weapon.
At 11th level you gain two uses of your Hybrid form between short rests (if 1 hour wasn't enough you now get 2 hours); in addition to that you get the Champion Fighter's 18th level feature but slightly toned down and 7 levels earlier. Whilst in your hybrid form you regain 1 + you Constitution modifier HP back each turn as long as you're under half your maximum, and as with the "Reconstruction" mutagen this can (and more often than not will) completely negate the cost of using your Crimson Rite or Blood Curses as you simply regain the HP you lose by using them. The feature itself would probably be fine were it not for the way it undermines one of the main gimmicks of the class as a whole.
Brand of the Voracious
At 15th level you get "Brand of the Voracious", once again not a new brand but an upgrade to your Brand of Castigation. You now have advantage on attacks against a branded creature whilst in your hybrid form, this means you're practically never going miss the BBEG/Monster/Poor Sod you've branded and doing on average 48 magical damage (based on 20 Strength/Dexterity and three attacks dealing 1d8+1d8+5+2 each) a turn.
What makes this even more wild is that a single level multiclass into Warlock Hexblade means you'll deal another 12 damage on top of that by using your Hexblade's curse which gives you a critical range of 19-20 too; grab hunter's mark with the magic initiate feat and it's another 13 damage on average on top of all the rest. At 18th level (with 20 Strength or Dexterity) you're dealing on average 54 damage a turn to your branded target (based on three attacks dealing 1d8+1d10+5+3 each), an output that would kill an CR20 Ancient Brass Dragon with 297 HP in 5 and a half turns with only you attacking it let alone a party.
That's not accounting for the psychic damage the Dragon would take from trying to kill you whilst branded, which is anywhere between 6-30 more damage if the Dragon uses its 3 attacks each turn; with a total of 84 damage (based on 20 Strength or Dexterity and 20 Intelligence) the Dragon would be dead in 3 and a half turns (this doesn't take into account the increased likelihood of critical hits, meaning it's closers to 3 turns).
Hybrid Transformation Mastery
At 18th level you can now use your totally not a rage Hybrid form an unlimited number of times (two levels before the barbarians can do this with their rage) and your hybrid form lasts indefinitely (far longer than a barbarian's rage); so something that already had a fast recharge is now always active whenever you need it. In additional to now always being furred except in public, you gain your unique Blood Curse finally: "Blood Curse of the Howl".
What does this Blood Curse do? You can frighten every creature (avoiding allies) within 30ft of you if they fail a Wisdom save, if they fail by 5 or more they're also stunned until the end of your next turn. If you spend, on average, 5 HP you can target every creature (avoiding allies) within 60ft instead. If a creature succeeds the save they're immune to the Curse for 24 hours but if they fail you can potentially frighten and stun them up to 3 more times. The sheer fact that the non-amplified version of this Curse will frighten and potentially stun nearly all of the enemies in one encounter makes this insanely powerful.
As if to try and balance this mess it's the one Blood Curse that requires your action to use; however stack this with the 15th level subclass feature and 20th level class feature to farm Blood Curse uses from your advantage attacks on the branded creature and you can both solo the BBEG/Big Monster whilst also providing crowd control by frightening and potentially stunning any other enemies the party is fighting.
Now to cover all the Blood Curses we've not already looked at:
- "Blood Curse of the Anxious". As a bonus action you can give all creatures advantage on Intimidation against a creature of your choice (who doesn't get to save against this) until the end of your next turn. Amplifying this gives the target disadvantage on their next Wisdom save in the aforementioned time frame and can only be amplified once a long rest. For a not-spell that seems like the base use would be best used outside of combat encounters a time limit of "until the end of your next turn" seems odd, surely this should be for 1 minute? They should also get some sort of save against this too, especially the amplified version which is quite a strong assist for spellcasters in the party during low levels; overall though this is only useful for the amplify feature.
- "Blood Curse of Bloated Agony" lets you as a bonus action, and without using any of your hitpoints, give a creature disadvantage on Strength and Dexterity saves until the end of your turn and deal 1d8 Necrotic damage to that creature if it makes more than one attack on its turn. Amplify makes the curse last for 1 minute but the creature makes a Constitution save at the end of each turn to end the effects early. This feature is mostly fine, although the ability to deal a reasonable amount of magical damage to a multi-attacking creature at 1st level is in need of a balance (1d6 instead of 1d8), and the wording for the regular use is muddled; it should say "on it's next turn" instead of "during its turn" as the latter could be read to mean more than its next turn.
- "Blood Curse of Exposure" is a neat idea that can inspire teamwork but is a little clunky mechanically; you can use your reaction to strip a creature of it's resistance to a damage type it was just hit by. Amplify makes immunity into resistance, which is quite strong when you have your party hold their attacks for the moment you use this feature to make use of the lack of resistance/immunity. There is a wording issue however, referring to "immunity" as "invulnerability".
- "Blood Curse of the Eyeless" is basically the Lore Bard's cutting words feature but it uses your Hemocraft die in place of the Lore Bard's inspiration die and blindness in place of being able to be heard. Amplify lets you reduce the attack rolls of all that creature's attacks on its turn. Whilst it has half the range of cutting words it can affect creatures who're immune to being charmed and can cover multiple attacks even at early levels with only one use.
- "Blood Curse of the Fallen Puppet" has a wording issue. This: "...you can use your reaction to make that creature immediately makes a single weapon attack...", should be: "...you can use your reaction to make that creature immediately make a single weapon attack...". Either way, this Curse is neat thematically in letting you control a recently deceased creature. Amplify for this is quite strong however since you can puppet your fallen allies to move half their movement and then attack once with a +1 to +5 bonus (depending on your Intelligence) to the attack roll. The Intelligence bonus should probably be removed to avoid breaking bounded accuracy when puppeteering fallen allies; speaking of fallen allies, a caveat that you can't puppet creatures on 0 HP whom are not dead (aka dying player characters) if you want to keep the Intelligence bonus.
Multiclassing is obscenely good. For those who like to dip one or two levels into a class this one is a treasure trove of good proficiencies and features. Where a Wizard might normally take a level of Fighter to acquire armour/weapon proficiencies and health, they can instead take a level in this class to gain the same weapon and armour proficiencies as a Fighter, the same hit die as a Fighter, whilst also gaining them an additional skill and a tool proficiency too. Not to mention they'd also gain the pseudo-magic of Blood Curses on top of their normal casting capabilities and the high level ranger feature that is Hunter's Bane.
A two level dip in this class would also net the wizard a fighting style (likely archery) and Crimson Rite for magic damage on the weapons they're now proficient with; such as a longbow to go with the archery fighting style so they can deal more damage than their cantrips when the spells run dry. Also points for listing how to multiclass a Profane Soul Blood Hunter with Warlock but considering how bare that subclass is you'd be better off choosing a different Order whilst multiclassing into Warlock if you did want to do that kind of thing; the only downside being that you're not using Intelligence for Warlock spells in that set up.
Speaking of multiclassing into Warlock, taking two levels of Hexblade Warlock is an alluring choice (regardless of your Blood Hunter subclass) and you practically out do everything in the Order of the Profane Soul subclass. If you take just two levels in Warlock and a different Blood Hunter subclass, you have the same number of spell slots as Profane Soul, 3 spells (up to 5 if you take evocations, and those more often than not are ones you can cast for free), 2 invocations (granting you things like 120ft of sight that goes through magical darkness) and the first level Patron features which can, in the case of say Hexblade, boost your damage output.
The Wisdom-Intelligence Shift
I've seen several comments complaining about the shift to Intelligence requiring character to have 4 high stats to make the class run, which could be a fair argument if you're running a Strength build since you'd need Strength for melee attacks/damage, Dexterity for initiative/saves, Constitution for health, and Intelligence for your class abilities; however you could have your Dexterity lower to boost the others as most Strength-based martial classes do when they need a mental stat.
For a Dexterity build, which is something this class seems to heavily push you towards, it easily only needs two-three high stats: Dexterity, Constitution, and Intelligence. Using point-buy I made a standard human character with 10,16,14,16,12,9 (Str, Dex, Con, Int, Wis, Cha) which ended up at 10,20,16,20,12,9 by 18th level; so it's perfectly doable to run this class after the Wisdom-Intelligence shift. You could even start with 16,12,14,16,10,9 (Str, Dex, Con, Int, Wis, Cha) for a Strength-based build too.
And thus we finally conclude all the issues. The base class could almost be a standalone class with one or two more features (or expanded blood curses to make them more of caster), the same with the Lycan and Mutant subclasses. A Lycan/Mutant Blood Hunter feels like it's a class and a half to two classes by itself. The Brand of Castigation and it's upgrades as well as most of the subclass unique Blood Curses stand out as horribly over powered features, clearly part of this newer revision leading me to believe the older version of the class might have been more balanced than this newer "massively rebalanced" version.
In conclusion it may be worth going back to the drawing board with this one, the class suffers heavily from OP feature creep and steps on a variety of other classes' toes (Ranger, Paladin, Barbarian, Monk); despite all of what I've highlighted above I've seen near universal praise for the class (besides the shift to intelligence, people are divided on that) which is what spurred me to write nearly 10,000 words breaking it down and examining it. I have an idea of how I'd fix some of the problems, with many requiring a lot of work/thought, but I'll avoid adding another few thousand words to this wall. Hell I may take a crack at making a reworked/balanced version myself.
If you've gotten this far, thank you for reading through it all. Hopefully some of this was helpful feedback.