Groundbreaking – Masters of the Forest

A human, halfling, orc, and dire wolf walk into a druidic circle … which does the halfling eat first? Selected by druids, this eclectic bunch of rangers enforces the natural order, but how do they get along with each other?

Welcome back to Groundbreaking. Randal here again, to further discuss the Huntsmen and the Masters of the Forest. In case you missed it, or it has been awhile, please refresh your memory with the last installment.

While the Huntsmen aren’t a military or law enforcement unit, they perform many of the functions of both and so tend to lean on many of the common methods of operation. This includes specific posts and duties that units are assigned to for regular intervals of time. To avoid stagnation, and increase overall knowledge, these units are encouraged to take assignments in different areas and perform different duties. Many prefer certain regions and do their best to stay put, while others become attached to certain herds and try to follow them year round. Those with specialties often find themselves repeated tasked with the same unit, but also enjoy the prestige that comes with being needed. Additionally, many become attached to their favorite Master, or try their best to avoid working under a Master they can’t stand. This can cause a little bit of a migration of Huntsmen when the Masters are reassigned and the rank and file aggressively look for new assignments.

Each Master of the Forest is given complete control over the region that they are in charge of, so long as they are in charge of it. While they know they are working as a group, and maintain that they are a united front, they each have their quirks that can make working for (or with) them difficult for those not accustomed.

Alice and Lala

(human accompanied by a dire showshoe hare) Alice traveled the forest with her father 15 years ago when he sought to join the Huntsmen. He was a ranger and trapper from the distant northern snowfields, but decided after losing his wife to a blizzard that he would find somewhere warmer to raise his (then) 10 year old daughter. Lala had accompanied Alice’s mother on her hunts, and so followed them when they left the snow. Soon after arriving, she began training with her father to join the Huntsmen, and was one of the youngest to join. Whether it is in her blood, her connection to Lala, or perhaps the rumors that her mother was an arctic elf are true, Alice is capable of withstanding cold temperatures that would normally incapacitate a human. Spending her formative years traveling great distances with her father to find a new home have caused her to chafe at the thought of staying in one place too long. These two traits are what tend to annoy those working under her the most. Regardless of her post, she will often disappear in the night without warning, especially in cold weather, and wander the woods for a couple days.

While there are a great many complaints about the amount of cold weather travel that she tends bring upon those working under her, she employs her most trusted to manage assignments in her region so that those that cannot or don’t want to are able to maintain a less grueling post. Her actions cause Alice the most grief with Hippnee as he takes his post and responsibilities as Master more serious than any other. He feels that when she is away, the others must pick up the slack and keep the appearance that everything is under control. He has yet to understand that she can be responsible, likely due to her younger age. She best gets along with Fancy, and sees her as a kindred spirit.

Fancy, Spike, and Fang

(awakened dire wolf accompanied a pair of wolves) Fancy was found as a pup and raised by the druids specifically to become an assassin of their order. Proximity to their circle, the ley-lines, the fey, or a luck of genetics provided Fancy with higher than normal intelligence than was expected. After given an order to kill the druid that raised her, she refused, and instead attacked those that gave the order. Her reward was free will and the intelligence to enact it for the greater good. She now understands that it was a small group of bad eggs, and has taken her place as a hunter for the druids, but in a capacity that does good, not evil. While she is capable of speech, she hides this fact by employing trusted Hunstmen to speak in her stead. She is well aware that she is viewed with caution by outsiders, even new rangers, and tends that play up that menacing look whenever it helps her to avoid confrontation, but she is happy to recuse herself from situations that her presence isn’t helping.

Her record as a Master is impeccable, and all those that work under her show her the respect she deserves, just as she does them. She enjoys traveling and hunting with Alice, loves to eat with Hippnee, but just can’t seem to get along with Zebb. Anytime the two of them are present together there is a charge in the air, and her fur just doesn’t quite lay down as it should. There is history there that nobody is talking about, although the rangers sure have a lot of theories about it.

Hippnee and Amber

(halfling accompanied by a lynx) Hippnee is all things halfling. He loves to lay about. He loves to eat. He loves to push his luck. While playing in the woods as an adolescent, he happened across Amber playing as well. Testing his fate by following her up and down trees and ridges led them to form a bond. Ultimately, it is she that led him to realize the calling as a ranger, but his love of the good life kept her around when it was time to eat and sleep. Although he didn’t follow in the mercantile footsteps of his father, the shrewd businessman that raised him as led him to take his role as Master more than serious enough to make up for any other areas he may be lacking (as compared to the other Masters).

While he enjoys frivolity as a free time pursuit, doing so on the job irritates him greatly. This is the source of his problems with Alice. He truly does enjoy the company of Fancy, but truth be told, their friendship started with him providing the best spiced meats he could get ahold of to the wolf pack to ensure that he and Amber were not on the menu. Still a little paranoid about working with an orc and a hobgoblin, let alone their family, Hippnee has a begrudging respect for the seriousness that Zebb puts into his work as a Master.

Zebb, Pishka, Nish, Grum, Petal

(orc accompanied by his hobgoblin mate and their 3 adult children) Zebb was banished from his tribe at an early age. He was forced to keep on the move until he found his way into a hobgoblin tribe that was more open minded than the other humanoids in his home region. He was able to enjoy life without constant warring, using his background and travel to provide for the clan as a ranger, and he even started a family. But he was never at peace, something in him constantly drew him away. When his birth clan began warring again, they eventually encountered his adopted clan, and instead of trying to defend his family from that fiasco, they instead moved on, looking to follow this calling he had. He eventually heard tell of a monk living in a hidden valley within a caldera that was communing with the void, and that any who studies with this sage for a season is able to calm the storm of their mind. Unable to find said monk, being in the caldera brought Zebb and his family peace, and so they stayed to raise their children.

Zebb is a being from multiple worlds, and so he is slow to show emotion in matters of import. This causes him to be seen as cold and distant by Alice. Although he gets along with Hippnee, the halflings frivolity irritates him severely. Fancy and her wolves remind him of his old clan’s war beasts, and he can’t shake the feeling that something is going to set her off. While he is slow to show emotion, he is fast and fierce with his judgements and punishments. He is as fair as any other Master, but the gravity with which he carries it out has given him a reputation as strict.

Well, now we know a bit more about the Masters of the Forest and how they see each other on a base level. I think next time we might take a deeper look into this sage, monk, disciple of the void, or whatever it might be …

Randal Meyer

As a lover of crunch (rules and numbers), Randal is always tinkering with rules options. His love of magic users has led him to always fuss with the mechanics of magic and magic items. Years of GMing on the fly have given him endless ideas and content from which to draw on for adventures (ideas, plots, NPCs). When not working, gaming, or playing with his kids, Randal is likely working on improving Sage (his Discord bot for immersive play-by-post gaming that you can see in action on Know Direction's Discord in the Know Direction Societous PFS channels) over at!