“It was supposed to be an easy job, hunting wild animals, even dire beasts would still be simple to handle. But as the moon rose, we noticed Javeed was getting more and more anxious. As night fell we stepped out into the clearing where our quarry was supposed to be, we couldn’t find the beasts. We should have seen the signs: His facial hair was looking far thicker than ever before, but we just assumed that dwarves were like that. When we pulled him into camp, everything went haywire. His face extended into a snout, fingers extending into vicious claws, and his scream of agony turned into a very haunting howl. That was the most horrible way to put down an old friend, and now all of us have dependencies. Mostly to suppress the curse we all now bear, but also to suppress the memories that haunt us daily.”Territh, the Firm’s account of their final quest.
Werewolves. One thing that many people think is incredibly cool, and terrifying (except for the people that don’t). The condition where one turns into a raging beast come a full moon -often with little to no control- is called Lycanthropy and there’s more than just Werewolves, there’s Wererats, Weretigers, Werebears, and so much more! So this time, let’s get a little hairy and sharpen some claws!
What Is Lycanthopy?
No matter how you slice it, Lycanthropy is a curse, and can be removed in the same fashions as just about any other curse, though someone born with it cannot escape except through the wish spell. And it’s a contagious curse that can be powerful if wielded by the right creatures. The features it always entails are: Immunity to Bludgeoning, Piercing and Slashing, the Shapechanger feature (into hybrid, or animal forms, or revert; Action), an Increased Ability Score (Increases to a set value, but never decreases), and Natural Weapon Attacks that you’re proficient in and spread the curse (DC = 8 + Your Proficiency Bonus + Your Constitution Bonus).
Each Lycanthrope is different in subtle ways, such as some getting an AC, sense, or Movement Speed bonus while in their animal or hybrid form, but they can fight the curse, or embrace it. Fighting means they lose control, but only when they transform. While embracing means they keep control, but gain the mannerisms of the particular Lycanthrope that they became, which typically shifts the creature’s alignment. But just because a Lycanthrope isn’t human doesn’t mean they lose their racial traits, they actually keep them. They just have the aforementioned bonuses, which are listed in the MM (p.g. 207) if you want to take a look at what specific ways they change.
What If A Player Becomes A Lycanthrope?
Just because these are monsters with stat blocks doesn’t mean players can’t become one. In fact, the aforementioned page in the MM states the bonuses players receive when becoming Lycanthropes, which includes all the bonuses I included in paragraph 2 (not including the quote), as well any type specific bonuses. But unfortunately, you do have to reference the monster stat blocks to figure out the damage dice.
Playing A Lycanthrope
Now if you really want to play a Lycanthrope in a cool way, you could give them strange habits that reflect their bestial instincts, such as being distracted really quickly, having unbridled emotions, eating meat raw, climbing things, being a little more impulsive, or even having an almost constant itch. And you could also describe your beast and hybrid forms in very unique ways to top it off!
But if you want to make a homebrew werecreature, all you have to do is add unique bonuses for that specific Lycanthrope, for example: the Werefish! Their Strength becomes 16 unless it was higher already, their base alignment is True Neutral, their hybrid and fish forms have a swim speed of 60 ft., Water Breathing (hybrid can hold its breath for 10 minutes), a +1 to AC, and a 1d8 strength based bite attack. Of course you can do this for just about any creature (beasts make the most sense), but you can totally add this to your ocean encounters, alongside a few Weredolphins, and other ocean creatures to really spice up ship battles!
Lycanthropes are really fun creatures, and you should not overlook them if you want some early game mystery. And with that, you may want to try giving one a shot. Perhaps try and get one of your players turned into one, or perhaps give it some aberrant or sorcerous origins and you have a really cool concept on your hands. Now go and spread it like Lycanthropy!