A Light in Darkness
And before the final blank overtook his dying eyes, he saw that She gave place to It; he saw more, that Life gave place to Death — causelessly, incomprehensibly.
— Clemence Housman, “The Were-Wolf”
The dread disease lycanthropy may be the most feared malady in the Land of Mists. It unleashes those parts of us that we strive so persistently to suppress: the dark, the primitive, the feral, the enraged. Worst of all, this presence lies submerged, hidden so that no one might suspect the ferocity of the animal within. Even the lycanthrope himself might be ignorant of the beast he becomes when the moon is full.
Natural lycanthropes, also known as true lycanthropes, are born with the innate ability to assume the form of an animal and a hybrid beast. The nature of this power is a mystery, but it appears to be an inherited condition. One is either born a natural lycanthrope, or one is not; a natural lycanthrope cannot be cured of the condition, nor can one contract natural lycanthropy. Natural lycanthropes can inflict lycanthropy on others, but this is always the afflicted variety of lycanthropy, not true lycanthropy.
As lycanthropy is an inherent facet of their existence, natural lycanthropes are able to completely control their transformations. They may transform whenever they wish, and only unusual circumstances can force them to change if they ho not want to.
All natural lycanthropes are able to assume two forms in addition to their natural human form. The first of these forms is that of an animal. The lycanthrope always has the same appearance in its animal form. The animal form is usually larger than the average member of its species, but not abnormally so. Some lycanthropes, however, have dire animals as their animal form. The natural lycanthrope in animal form is in complete control of its faculties and can understand human speech, though it cannot speak itself.
Natural lycanthropes are also able to assume a hybrid form, a hideous cross between their human and animal forms. The hybrid form is bipedal and humaniod in shape. It retains the ability to hold and manipulate objects and can speak. Its head closely resembles the animal forms, and the body is usually covered with fur (or scales or feathers, as appropriate). The hybrid form is usually powerfully built and often possesses sharp claws that can inflict serious wounds. As with the animal form, the natural lycanthrope retains full control of its actions in hybrid form.
Afflicted lycanthropes are those who have had the lycanthropic condition thrust upon them. Those who are injured by a lycanthrope but survive may contract lycanthropy, or one might be cursed to become a lycanthrope. Afflicted lycanthropy is like a disease that can be passed on to others or, with difficulty, cured. It is not a common disease, however, and a paladin’s immunity confers him no guaranteed resistance against afflicted lycanthropy. Likewise, attempts to use the Heal skill on afflicted lycanthropy symptoms usually fail; while it might be in the healer’s power to ease the pain a lycanthrope feels, she won’t be abating the lycanthrope’s shape changing.
Unlike natural lycanthropes, afflicted lycanthrope have no control over their changes. They cannot initiate a change of their own will. Instead, their change is triggered by an event outside their control. The must common trigger is the full moon, but other possible triggers exist. Afflicted lycanthropes can assume only a single alternate form. That form may be either the animal form or the hybrid form. Afflicted lycanthropes of the same bloodline tend to have the same alternate form. For example, a victim infected by a hybrid afflicted werewolf likely assumes a hybrid form itself when it changes. The alternate form is determined at the time of infection and never changes.
Afflicted lycanthropes become animalistic and prone to rage in their alternate form. They attack innocents without remorse, often targeting loved ones. The afflicted lycanthrope usually has no memory of actions taken while changed.
Lycanthropes in Ravenloft
The following changes should be made to the Lycanthrope template for Ravenloft. These rule supersede those presented in the Monster Manual.
Curse of Lycanthropy: The Fortitude save to resist lycanthropy increases to DC 18, lycanthropy is more virulent in Ravenloft.
Alternate Form: Natural lycanthropes can assume an animal form and a bipedal hybrid form.
Afflicted lycanthropes assume only one of the two forms. For wereboars, hybrid and animal form stats are identical. For werebears, hybrids have a +1 AC bonus (Size) and a +1 melee bonus for claw and bite attacks.
Those who witness a lycanthrope changing forms must make a DC 15 Horror save.
Damage Reduction: Some lycanthropes have variants of the weakest form of damage reduction, with another special material replacing silver. Usually a specific material is tied to a specific animal type, but unique individuals are not unknown.
The Hunger (Ex): A lycanthrope must eat a certain amount of raw meat each day, depending on the size category of its animal form.
If the lycanthrope does not consume this amount, it begins starving in three days (see Starvation in the PHB). A starving lycanthrope must make a Constitution check each day (DC 10 + 1 / previous check) or sustain 1d6 nonlethal damage. Cooked meat eaten is worth only half as much towards the daily requirement.
Lycanthropy as an Affliction
Not all afflicted lycanthropes involuntarily change shape upon the rise of the full moon. Variant trigger events can include other celestial or atmospheric occurrences, such as sunsets, comets or storms; experiencing a particular emotion, such as rage or passion; or exposure to a certain place, object or sensation, such as being in a forest, hearing music or seeing blood. The exact trigger event varies with the individual lycanthrope, but lycanthropes of the same bloodline tend to have identical triggers. The afflicted character must make a Control Shape check when exposed to the trigger event.
Curing Lycanthropy: To cure a character afflicted with lycanthropy, the natural lycanthrope that infected the character must be destroyed. If the character was infected by another afflicted lycanthrope, the natural lycanthrope at the root of the infection must be destroyed. The exact process of removing the affliction is little known and closely guarded. What is fairly well understood, however, is that you only get one chance to remove the curse short of death.
Spreading Lycanthropy: If a person survives an injury caused by a lycanthropes natural attacks, regardless of whether it is a natural or afflicted lycanthrope, they risk contracting the infection. Unlike natural lycanthropes, afflicted lycanthropes have no control over their progeny.
Certain rare lycanthropes have powers beyond those common to their phenotype. Natural lycanthropes are most likely to have such powers, but they occasionally pass them on to their afflicted progeny. It is rare for any lycanthrope to have more than one of these powers and it is almost undeard of for one to have more than three.
Those who hunt lycanthropes, whether to cure an afflicted comrade by destroying the creature that infected him or to destroy a monster that has been plaguing a village, face a difficult task. The following steps, while not guaranteeing a successful hunt, can maximize the chances of locating and destroying the targeted lycanthrope.
Recognizing the Lycanthrope
The hybrid form of a lycanthrope is the easiest to identify, but is also the form least likely to be encountered except in the context of violence. Often, however, it is more important to recognize a lycanthrope before it assumes its hybrid shape.
Distinguishing a lycanthrope from a normal animal of its type is usually difficult, if not impossible, for anyone not intimately familiar with the natural habitats of the animal type. Rangers and druids prove particularly useful because of their knowledge of the wilderness; they can often identify animals that are atypical of their type, either larger or bearing distinguishing marks. Wilderness savvy characters are more likely to notice when local animals start acting strangely or if a new animal has arrived on the scene.
Uncovering a lycanthrope in human form is often vital to a successful hunt. In human form, lycanthropes may not be the most dangerous in battle, but they are insidious as spies who can foil a hunter’s careful plans by overhearing them and taking steps to evade pursuit.
Most lycanthropes bear visible signs of their condition when in human form. These mark include elongated forefingers, eyebrows that form a single line and hair-growth in the palms of the hand. The human form of natural lycanthropes usually displays some aspects of their animal form: wererats possess sharp, beady eyes; werewolves move with a feral grace and may have eyes that are nearly colorless.
Afflicted lycanthropes may bear some or all the above marks, but they do tend to manifest certain attidudinal changes after their affliction. Neighbors can usually tell if “the youngest Moorhouse girl” has been acting secretive or has taken to spending a lot of time outside in the evenings. Some hunters’ when they think they have identified an individual as a lycanthrope, find some means to gain entry into the suspect’s home, either through stealth or deception. In this fashion, hunters may discover same physical connection between the lycanthrope and its victims.
Natural lycanthropes usually harbor some evil scheme in their hearts; they either serve some more powerful evil master or else they have ambitions to increase their kind, terrorize the countryside, gain a power base or start a cult of worshipers.
Afflicted lycanthropes, on the other hand, frequently do not realize what they have become or, if they do, hate the beast that lives within them. They are both the most and least likely to manifest changes in behavior. Ignorant afflicted lycanthropes usually act no different after their change than before. They tend not to remember anything that happens to them when they shift forms and rampage through the countryside. Afflicted lycanthropes who realize what has happened to them often take pains to make certain that no one discover them. Such individuals may begin wearing gloves at all times, to mask the marks of the lycanthrope on their hands and fingers. They may take precautions to keep out prying eyes and behave in a guilty fashion. They are the easiest to identify and the least deserving of death for what has happened to them.
Unfortunately, the tracks of a lycanthrope all too often consist of a trail of mangled and bloody corpses, the victims of the creature’s mindless ravages. Many lycanthropes, particularly afflicted ones, do not stray far from their native territory or village, so the individuals they attack are often the ones most closely known to them — family members, friends and neighbors, plus the occasional elderly person or wandering child. A study of the victims, gory though that may be, can sometimes produce clues as to the identity of the lycanthrope.
The Lycanthropes Lair
Afflicted lycanthropes rarely maintain a lair as such. These unfortunates tend to attempt to keep up their daily routine, pretending (to themselves or to others) that nothing is wrong. As such, while they may gourd themselves with minor protections to avoid being surprised, they rarely construct elaborate safeguards in the forms of traps and guardians.
Natural lycanthropes, on the other hand, keep their lairs as secret as possible, fortifying their havens with numerous traps for the unwary and often populating it with servitors — creatures under their domination and sometimes other lycanthropes. These lairs should be scouted out, using some of the same techniques described above, with as much care as a canny hunter would give to exploring the lair of a vampire or lich.
While most afflicted lycanthropes keep only one lair, usually their place of residence before they were infected, natural lycanthropes may have not only a wilderness retreat but also a place within a city or village where they lead an apparently normal life among normal people. It is important to discover all a lycanthrope’s lairs in the event the creature escapes the first attempt to capture or destroy it.
Kill or Cure?
Unlike many other monsters, lycanthropes present a true dilemma for the hunter. While natural lycanthropes have no possibility of redemption, since their innate tendencies favor evil deeds, afflicted lycanthropes have the possibility of being cured or having their curse removed. While under the effects of their killing lust, afflicted lycanthropes are just as dangerous and deadly as natural ones, but when they return to themselves, many loathe what they have become and seek some way to retrieve their lost lives.
Hunters must decide, particularly when faced with an afflicted lycanthrope, whether to kill the beast or attempt to capture it and, if possible, rid it of its infection or curse. If tho object is to take the lycanthrope alive, then the best way to do so is through a trap, particularly if the creature is in animal form. Spells that affect monsters tend to be useful as well. If the hunting party decides the beast’s destruction is their only recourse, they should carefully consider which weapons and spells are most effective in their pursuit.
Many lycanthropes are vulnerable to attacks by silver weapons, particularly those that take the form of wolves. Other types of lycanthropes have other vulnerabilities, which must be discovered through research and investigation. Weapons made from these allergens tend to deal damage that prevents the beast from healing itself through regeneration. Holy weapons and magical weapons are usually effective as well. If a hunter discovers the lycanthrope’s particular chemical or herbal allergen (such as wolfsbane, mistletoe or rowan-berries to name a few) that substance can be used as a poison or soporific to subdue the beast for either the capture or kill. Holy water usually does little to no damage unless it is, itself, an allergen. Lycanthropes cannot be turned or damaged by positive energy.