Archives of Nethys

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Herne

Seemingly one with the forest, this tall man is dressed in the browns and greens of a woodsman and sports a pair of stag’s antlers upon his brow.

Herne CR 6

Source Pathfinder #73: The Worldwound Incursion pg. 86
XP 2,400
CN Medium monstrous humanoid
Init +3 (+5 in forests); Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, scent; Perception +14

Defense

AC 20, touch 13, flat-footed 17 (+3 armor, +3 Dex, +4 natural)
hp 68 (8d10+24)
Fort +5, Ref +9, Will +9
Defensive Abilities defy the gods; DR 10/magic; Resist cold 10, electricity 10

Offense

Speed 30 ft.
Melee sickle +12/+7 (1d6+4) and gore +7 (1d6+2)
Ranged mwk composite longbow +13/+8 (1d8+4/×3)
Special Attacks powerful charge (gore, 2d6+6)
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 8th; concentration +10)
Constant—speak with animals
3/day—faerie fire, longstrider
1/day—freedom of movement

Statistics

Str 18, Dex 17, Con 16, Int 11, Wis 16, Cha 15
Base Atk +8; CMB +12; CMD 25
Feats Deadly Aim, Point-Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Weapon Focus (composite longbow)
Skills Handle Animal +8, Intimidate +12, Knowledge (geography) +6 (+8 in forests), Perception +14 (+16 in forests), Ride +6, Stealth +12 (+14 in forests), Survival +12 (+14 in forests); Racial Modifiers +2 Knowledge (geography) in forests, +2 Perception in forests, +2 Stealth in forests, +2 Survival in forests
Languages Common, Sylvan; speak with animals
SQ favored terrain (forest +2), martial training, swift tracking

Ecology

Environment temperate forests
Organization solitary, pair, or band (3–6)
Treasure standard (sickle, masterwork composite longbow [Str +4] with 20 arrows, wooden armorAPG, other treasure)

Special Abilities

Defy the Gods (Su) Hernes gain a +2 bonus on saving throws against divine spells and the spell-like and supernatural abilities of divine spellcasters and outsiders summoned or called by a divine spellcaster.

Favored Terrain (Ex) A herne gains a +2 bonus on initiative checks and Knowledge (geography), Perception, Stealth, and Survival skill checks when it is in forest terrain. A herne traveling through forest terrain normally leaves no trail and cannot be tracked (though he can leave a trail if he so chooses).

Martial Training (Ex) A herne is proficient with all simple and martial weapons and with light armor, medium armor, and shields (except tower shields).

Swift Tracker (Ex) A herne can move at its normal speed while using Survival to follow tracks without taking the normal –5 penalty. A herne takes only a –10 penalty (instead of the normal –20) when moving up to twice its normal speed while tracking.

Description

For nearly a century, the Estrovian Forest has been haunted by stag-horned woodsfolk known as hernes. From Egede to Lackthroat, stories are told of these mysterious beings. Some believe them to be the ghosts of hunters betrayed; others say they are fey spirits who guard the woods; and still other believe them to be fiends summoned by worshipers of the Old Faith. While none of these stories are true, they all contain a kernel of truth.

Hernes superficially resemble the humans from whom they descend, save for the many-pointed antlers which project from their brows. Though they are creatures of flesh and blood, hernes are infused with the spirit of the wild hunt. For the most part, hernes live as humble woodsfolk, reaping the bounty of the forest by their own hands. Yet they are also protectors of the forest, hunting those who abuse it or dare to claim ownership of its reaches. When hernes’ anger is roused, they become the avenging spirits the stories make them out to be.

Hernes tend to be tall and lean. Males stand 6 feet tall or taller—with their antlers adding another foot or so— and weigh around 190 pounds. Female hernes are slightly shorter and lighter, and their antlers are smaller, with fewer points.

Ecology

The race of hernes has existed for less than 90 years. The first of their kind was Herne Vilhaur, a crusader from Andoran. Wounded by a stag and left for dead by his erstwhile companions, Herne was taken by the druids of the Estrovian Forest. They promised to mend his mortal wounds with their ancient magic, and in a way they did. They hanged him from a mighty oak, and placed on his brow the antlers of the sacred stag that Herne had killed. Then they called down the “curse of the winterthorn” upon Herne, restoring his vitality but tying him forever to the spirits of the forest.

The druids intended to use the transformed Herne as an instrument of vengeance against their enemies. Instead, he turned upon them. Stripped of his humanity, the reborn Herne thought only of vengeance against the allies who had abandoned him and the druids who had made him a monster. Unable or unwilling to leave the forest, he claimed it as his domain. He haunted it till the end of his days, hunting both animals and humanoids who dared to enter the woods. Herne did not kill all he chased; some he allowed to join his band. Recreating the ritual that transformed him, Herne called antlers from the heads of his new companions, thereby passing the curse of the winterthorn on to them.

Even after the original Herne’s passing, his progeny continued his legacy, even taking his name for their race. Hernes breed true, and most of those who now live were born with the curse rather than having it placed upon them. The hernes live off the bounty of the forest and protect it from those they deem unworthy of its gifts.

Save for superficial details, the ritual by which a human can be turned into a herne appears to have been lost with the death of Herne himself. Yet whenever followers of the Old Faith or notorious bandits disappear, rumor quickly spreads that they have not died, but been brought into the fold of Herne’s band.

Habitat & Society

Hernes are relatively few in number considering the vastness of the Estrovian Forest. Though quite capable of living alone for long stretches of time, hernes are not antisocial, and they meet regularly with others of their kind to pass along news and trade crafted goods. They stay together in groups only with a purpose, however, whether it’s to raise a family or to hunt a great beast. The largest population of hernes can be found near the tree known as Herne’s Oak— the tree from which Vilhaur was hanged, and under which his body is buried (along with, according to legend, a trove of funerary offerings).

Like the druids before them, hernes are followers of the old ways, both in practical matters and in spirituality. As hunter-gatherers, hernes raise no crops, and have domesticated only animals useful for hunting—dogs, horses, and owls. Though they thrill at the chase, hernes never take more than they need. They build few structures. Most live in hidden caves that run beneath the Estrovian Forest. Hernes are most active at night; people living on the edge of the Estrovian Forest often attribute strange noises from the woods to the hernes’ midnight hunts.

The hernes practice an ancient form of druidism known as the Green Faith. This religion was once the dominant religion of the northern reaches of Avistan. Over the centuries, however, it has been replaced by the worship of the gods of the Inner Sea region. The arrival of the crusaders, many of whom worship their own regional deities, has only accelerated the decline of the old ways. The hernes thus consider themselves protectors not just of the forest, but also of the spirits which reside there.

Hernes value self-sufficiency, and reject most useless hierarchies. They especially despise those who claim rulership by noble blood. This hatred is reinforced by tales of the druids’ persecution by Mendevian rulers, and of the duplicity of the original Herne’s so-called noble allies. While common folk may be allowed to hunt and gather from the edges of the forest, hernes are quick to turn the tables on the extravagant hunts hosted by the Mendevian elite and their crusader allies. In a few instances, hernes have even given advice and aid to brave outlaws in their fights against corrupt nobles.

Hernes take full advantage of their supernatural reputation when interacting with other humanoids— they know threats are more menacing when issued from the mouth of a deathless servant of nature. Though hernes are not fey creatures and not deathless, most humanoids can’t deny the creatures’ supernatural nature. Though many hernes remain cold to other humanoids, some invite the dispossessed to join their bands. Those who accept the herne’s offer cannot return to the life they once knew. To the superstitious folk of Mendev, swearing allegiance to a herne is tantamount to signing a deal with a devil; such folk are forever beyond the pale.

As warriors have returned to their homelands from the Mendevian Crusades, they have brought with them many stories, including that of Herne Vilhaur and his accursed progeny. Reported sightings of hernes in forests far south of Mendev are easy to dismiss as the imaginings of those who have fallen for these fanciful tales, yet some who know of the hernes suspect they may be expanding their territory.