The Path of the Slayer dates back to Ancient Times. The undiluted act of killing, pure and untouched by morals, pleasure or conflicting motivations, is not good or evil, but merely an act of survival and perfection.
Slaying must not be confused with the caretaker role of the hunter, or the petty and debased act of assassination. This is the path of the slayer.
The slayer’s nature is unclear, and the answer will depend on who you ask.
The Origins of the Slayers
The origins of the slayers are forgotten, and only hints exist in the first writings of mortals. Supernatural creatures cannot be trusted, as they all serve greater causes, and will twist the truth to serve their own ends.
The legends are contradictory, and will never be confirmed.
- The Founders of Civilization. The Gods of Life and Death taught the art of slaying to the cave dwellers at the dawn of time. The first slayers were the teachers of the early hunters and soldiers, which ensured the survival of the species, growth, and laid the foundation of civilization. While the first hunters, along with the gatherers, were the caretakers of the early tribes, and provided food and security in the wilds, and thus growth. The first soldiers, or tribal warriors more likely, provided the strongest with a means to enforce unity, and therefore safety and further growth. The act of killing is the very foundation of civilization.
- The First Monster Hunters. The first slayers were the first line defenders against the darkness. The demon slayers, the dragon slayers, the vampire slayers, and the giant slayers, among others, defended the mortal races by hunting down the monsters and saved the world as we know it. Today’s slayers carry on this tradition and answer when their skills are needed. Some even believe this is a divine calling, for something you are chosen.
The Slayer’s Background
Slayers are recruited from all layers of society and backgrounds.
- Adopted Orphan. Unknown assailants killed the slayer’s parents for unknown reasons, and a kindly friend of the family adopted their child, and the child became an apprentice of the death cult.
- Kidnapped. The slayer was abducted as a child and forced into the ranks of the slayers. The child may or may not have become a believer, but has grown to become a slayer.
- Oath of Vengeance. The slayer sought out the death cult to learn its secrets to get revenge for some past wrong.
- Religious Upbringing. The slayer’s parents were religious and raised their child in the faith. The religion may not have caught on, but the skill certainly has.
- Dedicated Defender. The slayer was trained by the home community to deal with ancestral enemies, like trolls, vampires, and giants. A task so dangerous required single-minded dedication and flawless skill, leaving little room for anything else.
- A Divine Calling. The slayer was called by the supernatural, sought out a mentor, and is convinced he or she has a higher purpose.
The Tasks of the Slayer
The tasks of the slayers are as follows.
- Apprenticeship. Being accepted as an apprentice is the first step to a become a slayer, where you cast aside your old life and dedicate yourself to honing your skills and preparing your mental strength. Some must actively find their mentors, which may be a trail in itself, while others are chosen.
- The Weapons of the Ancient Ones. Every slayer should track down the weapons of a slayer of the past. These honored weapons usually carry the imprint of slayers past, just as the current slayer will embed power in the weapon to future generations.
- The Lore of the Ancient Ones. Keeping true to the slayer’s true purpose required mental strength. The apprenticeship included the first lessons, and the teachings of the ancient masters will complete this training.
- The Trails of the Slayers. The slayers test themselves against increasingly difficult opponents, in single combat if possible.
- The Enemy. The final task of the slayer is to kill the enemy of mortal worlds, which is where the slayers of the past all have failed in the past, because how do you slay death itself?
The Death Cult
The death monks are the custodians of the lore of the Ancient Ones and the perfect loremasters of death. The monks practice sorcery, martial arts and sagecraft to reach the ideal balance between life and death, and wisdom and oblivion. Their lack the focus makes them lesser fighters than the slayer, which is of no concern, as the act of slaying is not their role. The death monks are the caretakers and teachers.
The monks’ wisdom and vaults of secret knowledge make them feared, but also targets for lesser powers.
The Holy Places
The following locations are related to the slayers, and perhaps it should be expected that they deal just as much with those who have fallen from the true path as the slayers themselves.
The Vaults of the Fallen Ones. The bleak lure of death has haunted cultists and heretics since Ancient Times, and any collection of lore they have gathered, however flawed, may be of interest.
The Assassin Mountain. The legendary stronghold of the master of assassins is located in a remote desert protected by loyal tribes. The master assassins trained minions for centuries and gathered weapons and secrets just as long.
The Ruin of the Demon Lord of Undeath. The vast dungeons and ruined city of the Demon Lord of Undeath blasphemes both life and death and should be destroyed.
The Monastery of the Death Monks. The home fortress of the slayers is a place of dark enlightenment and training as the slayers prepare for their tasks. The monastery is also a target for the slayers’ many enemies and those who seek to twist and exploit their knowledge. The thought of a heretic master death monk is terrifying.
The Final Gate. Some believe the master slayers can freely enter the gate of death and return at will is the final trail of the slayer, although none has yet done so on the record. Scholars disagree on whether it is impossible, none has however achieved this state of perfect, or that those that succeed ultimately has no desire to return to the world of the living.
The Corrupted Slayers
Being a slayer is hard, and many fall from the narrow path once they begin to question why they slay.
- Honor. Some slayers begin to ponder misguided notions of honor and soon find themselves working as mere assassins.
- Redemption. Making up for past mistakes, real or imagined ones, is another way to lose track of the purpose of being a slayer. A true slayer learns of the past and seeks to improve in the future. Dwelling on the past is counterproductive and breeds weakness and ultimately failure.
- Power. Some slayers are seduced by their own skill and the respect and admiration that naturally follows. Praise and respect are addictive, and you lose your way once you actively seek more.
- Vengeance. Just like redemption, revenge is a powerful motivator, and sadly equally misguided. Slayers who seek vengeance hang on to their past, obsessing over real or imagined misdeeds, which ultimately hampers learning and clouds the slayer’s judgment.
- Eternal Life. The worst corruption is the notion that slaying will prolong your own life. This leads to mindless slaughter, which is not the way of the slayer. The most corrupt slayers are undead, little more than wretched vampires in the service of the Demon Lord of Undead.
The Secrets of the Slayers
So who are the slayers? The truth may be more terrifying than commonly believed.
- All Lies. Everything you know, or believe, about the Slayers is a lie. Their philosophy is a tool in an ancient supernatural war, and they are manipulated by powers far greater than themselves.
- There Is No Art, Only Corruption. The Slayers are led to believe they can hone their skill and advance civilization by protecting what they hold dear and perfect their craft. It is all lies, and they are set up to fail, becoming the monsters many claims they are. The corruptor may be a demon lord, a devil, an insane god, or perhaps a fallen archangel seeking worthy adversaries.
- The Chosen Ones. Everything the slayers claim is true. They are chosen to be the perfect killers for the betterment of all, which may be worse than anyone imagined.
- Write Fantasy Religions
- The Secrets of the Demon Hunter
- The Way of the Sellsword
- The Sword of the Crown
- The Heresy of the Faithful
The Reading List
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So who are the slayers really? That is up to you, and there are sources to confuse the issue if you desire to explore this further.
There are at least two slayers in published roleplaying game systems, from Pathfinder RPG 1e and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay respectively.
Pathfinder RPG’s Slayer is a hybrid of the ranger and the rogue and is published in the Advanced Class Guide (2014). Also, see Neal F. Litherland’s post on Kobold Press for a more in-depth look at the Pathfinder class.
The dwarven slayers of the Warhammer universe, most recently featured in the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay fourth edition (2018) by Cubicle 7, are doomed warriors that seek redemption through a glorious death on the battlefield. Also, on a related note, consider looking at the Zweihander RPG.
Speaking of Slayers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer deserves mention. The brilliant tv-series had a licensed roleplaying game published by Eden Studios.
There is no slayer in Dungeons and Dragons, to my knowledge, but there are plenty of references to assassins, notably as a rogue archetype in the Player’s Handbook (2014), which includes the vengeance paladin as another option. Other resources include the Assassin Mountain boxed set (1993), an early book by Kobold Press’s Wolfgang Baur.
You have some options if you are looking to take on the Demon Lord of Undeath. TSR published the Throne of Bloodstone (1988), as the conclusion of the Bloodstone-series for AD&D, where they also set the series into the Forgotten Realms, as shown in more detail in the Bloodstone Lands (1989).
More references from pop culture are appreciated in the comment below.