D&D 5E Balancing A Playable Lycanthrope Character

A side note on this whole conversation and just an observation. Why is it that we seem to do we assume that all D&D fantasy worlds have a moon like ours? Or that the moon is on a monthly cycle? This came up in a Ravenloft game - that the moon was full more often, once every 10 days. My immediate question was - is that unusual for Faerun? Does the world have only a single moon which is a bit of an oddity in our solar system, or is it a specific moon?

I don't want to derail, just a thought to ponder when doing world design.
An answer: We usually assume DnD worlds work like our unless otherwise stated. So in the absence of specific moon rules, we presume that there’s one moon with about the same cycles.

Some settings do make those changes; Dragonlance comes to mind. But as far as I know FR and all the homebrew settings I’m playing in have an earth-like moon.

And frankly, changing the moon is usually more trouble than it’s worth, unless you’re going to tie something core to the setting to the new moon rules. Again, c.f. Dragonlance and the moons affecting magic based on the caster’s alignment (but there’s reasons most settings don’t do stuff like that.)

In short, if the setting premise doesn’t imply werewolves will be important, I would expect the moon there to work like the moon here.
 

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Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
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I have been ninja’d on the whole multiple moons thing by @Oofta and @Corinnguard . I think that could make for a nifty setting.

Also, kudos to @Corinnguard on bringing up the whole astral lycanthropy suggestion. I like the spin it puts on things; lots of room for fresh storytelling. Different strengths and weaknesses to be sure. Plus a bit of Forbidden Planet.


 
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MarkB

Legend
I have been ninja’d on the whole multiple moons thing by @Oofta and @Corinnguard . I think that could make for a nifty setting.

Also, kudos to @Corinnguard on bringing up the whole astral lycanthropy suggestion. I like the spin it puts on things; lots of room for fresh storytelling. Different strengths and weaknesses to be sure. Plus a bit of Forbidden Planet.


The Forbidden Planet reference brings to mind an early scene in the movie where they comment on how the ship makes its own eclipses as it navigates through the system. So that brings up what happens to a lycanthrope on a Spelljammer ship in space. Do they shift when the ship flies directly between a moon and a sun?

And what about a lycanthrope who's on a moon?
 


CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
My campaign setting is an alternate Earth...there is only one moon, and it has the same lunar cycle and phases that we have here in the Real World. So I don't really have to change much in that department.

As for balancing these powers:
There is a bad precedent for lycanthropy in my game world. It's generally regarded as very bad news in this part of the world, and has a lot of bad history attached to it. I cribbed a large portion of history from GAZ-09, "The Minrothad Guilds," particularly the bit about the Lycanthropic Plague and the Silver Purge that followed it. For those who aren't familiar with the old Mystara gazetteer:
Years ago, there was an outbreak of lycanthropy in the kingdom. Nobody knows exactly how or when it started, because the Merchant Guilds tried to cover it up to keep the shipping lanes open. You see the realm was a plutocracy at the time, ruled by the wealthiest Guild houses, and they were worried that a quarantine would be disastrous to their profits.

(Does this sound familiar? Yeah, buckle up. I put all of this together in the summer of 2020.)

So the plague spread unchecked throughout the archipelago for months, and werewolves slaughtered thousands of people. When the Guilds' coverup finally came to light, the people were outraged (to say the least). Seeing an opportunity, the Temple of Dawn threw the full weight of their templars against the werewolves in a dramatic show of power, anxious to prove to the populace that they alone could save the kingdom from "the were-menace," and captured a handful of werewolves in the town square. It worked: the frightened public called for an emergency election, easily voted the Temple of Dawn into power, and ousted the Guilds.

Now in control of the realm, the Temple set about to end the werewolf threat quickly and bloodily. Drumhead trials, witch-hunts, and lynch mobs swept the land, in a two-year long killing season that came to be known as The Purge. Panicked friends and neighbors turned against each other, and entire families were rounded up and imprisoned or executed on little more basis than rumor and public pressure. So while the Temple of Dawn was indeed effective at ending the Lycanthropic Plague, many scholars estimate that The Purge actually killed more citizens than lycanthropy did. Hardest-hit by the Purge were shifters, changelings, druids, and other innocent shape-changers. It's probably not a coincidence that the druidic enclaves--once the dominant religion in the realm--were all wiped out by their Temple of Dawn rivals.

All of this happened about 40 years ago...well within living memory. The Merchant Guilds aren't the ruling class anymore, but they still hold a great deal of influence (and most of the wealth). The Temple hides behind its "we only did what we had to do" philosophy, and the public is content to let the ends justify the means. Surviving druids are slowly rebuilding their enclaves, and still face persecution and suspicion to this day.

All of that is in my campaign sourcebook, and the players are well aware of it. We chatted about it during our Session Zero, and there is currently an active quest to find a suspected werewolf in town (plot twist: there's more than one werewolf.) So the player is well aware that his character's life is going to be very difficult, and possibly very short, if word gets out that he's carrying The Plague.

It's a step in the right direction toward balance, anyway. More work is needed. But it would be nice to have some non-story balances in there as well...some kind of mechanic or adjustment.

I'm reading through some of the linked suggestions. So far I really like what I'm seeing in the Level Up 5E packet, particularly with exhaustion after shapeshifting, and how wolfsbane affects lycanthropes. Good stuff, that.
 
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particularly the bit about the Lycanthropic Plague and the Silver Purge that followed it.
There was a 2e 3pp product where you could play as a lycanthrope by using a lycanthrope class modeled after each of the changing breeds. (I use the phrase Changing Breeds because for a while I collected books from Werewolf: The Apocalypse ;)). In an attempt to change the lycanthropy virus so that it would give all of the benefits but none of it's drawbacks, some lycanthrope mages accidentally released a lycanthrope plague across the setting. As a result, there were a number of new kinds of lycanthropes from weredeer to werecows running about. :p I think the accessory was called Crucible of the Night.
 


The Forbidden Planet reference brings to mind an early scene in the movie where they comment on how the ship makes its own eclipses as it navigates through the system. So that brings up what happens to a lycanthrope on a Spelljammer ship in space. Do they shift when the ship flies directly between a moon and a sun?

And what about a lycanthrope who's on a moon?
In space no one can hear you howl.
 

I'm currently running one in my 4e Retroclone.

Current rules:
  • They transform when bloodied (below half hp) the first time each encounter
  • While transformed they:
    • Resist physical damage
    • Regenerate
    • Need to make opportunity attacks when allies
    • If they start their turn next to an ally they need to attack them rather than an enemy
And I use a lot of forced movement because this is 4e, and they've been fighting in cramped spaces. This wouldn't work for everyone but does for the player and the group.
 


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