As a long time fan of horror movies, especially the slasher sub-genre, I’ve often toyed with incorporating aspects of those iconic villains into my games. Of course the easy answer here is to borrow some of those dark and ominous powers for the villains of the campaign, but a much more challenging choice is to create a horror/slasher hero. So that’s just what I set out to do.
A STUDY IN SLASHERS
First I should mention that much of my homework for this character subclass came from watching movies like Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and comics like Hack/Slash. Both of these works deconstruct the slasher genre in helpful ways. The Scream franchise is also good fodder, as are parody movies such as Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil. Of course, you can’t build a slasher without watching a few of the Friday the 13th, Halloween, and Nightmare on Elm Street movies. It’s been a busy October.
Now which class would I modify? Martial classes (like Fighter or Ranger) felt like they would end up too powerful and some magic classes like Warlock were too complex to modify safely. The Warlock’s “Great Old One” patron is pretty horrific as it is. Oddly, the Sorcerer became the class to work with. One of the most attractive aspects was that it had its own built in currency with the “sorcery point” system which really ended up sealing the deal.
CRAFTING A MONSTER
I decided to focus on three mechanics to make the slasher play something like the movie characters. First, I would build in rules for an iconic weapon, so Jason’s machete or Freddie’s claws were burned right into the rules.
Second, I would focus on working with Hunter’s Mark, a spell that adds damage to attacks, making a slasher more deadly. This also allowed for the relentless tracking abilities that so typify the Jasons or Michael Myers of the world. I ended up leaning into this mechanic a lot, making the target of the Hunter’s Mark the focus of many of the class’s powers.
Third, I would build many of the powers around the expenditure of sorcery points. This made for a very useful dynamic. Players could focus on the “slasher powers” which would largely be melee based… or they could save the sorcery points to fuel spells in the traditional sense. This made some of the power of the slasher mechanics easier to justify, as the player would be trading out a lot of their utility. Even with the ability to burn spells to gain more points, that’s a significant sacrifice to make.
I leaned in pretty heavily on the “Signature Weapon” ability. The Sorcerer doesn’t tend to be a melee class (and still can’t wear much armor), but I wanted to make sure there was some incentive to wade into melee. Adding a liberal use of the Hunter’s Mark at 1st level also supports a pro-combat build. Clearly, most slashers are going to memorize Mage Armor and cast it regularly, but that’s ok. The signature weapon is also an early way to wound non-magical-weapon-resistant monsters, which keeps the Sorcerer uncharacteristically on the front line.
As you’ll see in the class page below, “Unstoppable” continues this trend, both forcing and supporting the Slasher in a melee combat role. “They Always Come Back” is really the money ability with a lot of reasons to hold back some sorcery points. This probably has some potential to be overpowered, but a slasher who’s burning all their resources to keep coming back is going to have little to do when they are actually alive.
“Pervert Gravity” at level 14 symbolizes the move from a novice slasher to your Freddy Krueger type. Having the ability to walk on walls is not necessarily going to win combat, but it adds a lot of spooky factor. I tossed the Thaumaturgy cantrip in here for added flavor. Slamming doors is a gravity power right?
Finally the “Horrific Teleport” is in keeping with a lot of mobility improvements common in late level sorcerers. Plus it lets you finally pull off that move in which Jason is walking slowly behind a fleeing Camp Counselor and suddenly shows up in front of them. It’s a fun power, and by the time you’re level 18, you should be pretty scary.
I considered making an amended or suggested spell list, but really that’s up to the individual player. Obviously, there are some spells that feel much more “on brand” such as Disguise Self, Fog Cloud, Darkness, Hold Person, and Slow, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have your slasher tossing fireballs. It’s your character to make.
Well I’ve beat around the bush enough, for your Halloween game (and beyond) pleasure, I introduce you to the Slasher subclass:
You can download the full PDF by clicking the right here.
What other movie archetypes do you want to see made into 5e Subclasses? What slasher powers have we missed here? Who’s going to play this character in their home group?
Special Thanks to all the DMs in LA who offered opinions & assistance on these rules.
Image Credits: Jason Voorhees care of Paramount Pictures | Michael Myers care of Anchor Bay Entertainment | Freddy Krueger care of New Line Entertainment
Jason image for Slasher Class by Matt Olson | Photoshop by Jay Africa & Katers17