D&D 5E Balancing A Playable Lycanthrope Character


I think the key is to gatekeep the damage immunity, strength increase and multi-attack behind the requirement to be in hybrid form.

Some things to consider, going on the above assumption...

The lycanthrope's hybrid form is a melee beast (pun intended)... But the character is a gunslinger, and assuming he's still looking to play a ranged character rather than going all John Wick gun-fu, should be making at least a token effort to stay out of melee range. Which means that, in general, they're not taking nearly as much damage as a melee character or as often. And if they're not taking as much damage, the ability to resist/completely shrug off damage that they're not taking anyway becomes somewhat less impressive. If they're not planning to stay in melee range, the beast form's multi-attack isn't as useful.
Since the transformation requires an action, and combats are generally brief, action economy strongly behooves them to pick one form - Quickdraw McGraw or Fluffy the Wonder Poodle - and stick with it for the entire fight: They can't effectively be fast and furry-ous in the same battle, particularly since their equipment doesn't transform with them.

So here's how I'd do it...

  • The character gains the enhanced senses (maybe proficiency in Perception if they don't already have it, maybe expertise if they do) and shapechanger in all his forms.
  • He also gets the tabaxi's claws trait (1d4/slashing unarmed strike) in all his forms.
  • You might give him resistance to non-magical, non-silver b/p/s damage (perhaps for CON modifier rounds usable proficiency bonus times per long rest) if you're feeling generous.

- The transformation to wolf form and to hybrid form are handled differently:

Wolf form can be taken proficiency bonus times per long rest.

Hybrid form is modeled on the frequency and duration of the barbarian's rage ability, with the caveat that:
A) if the character takes damage in the first turn of an encounter before they've had a chance to act, or
B) they take damage equal or greater than their CON score in a single round,
they must make a CON save (DC = damage taken) or transform involuntarily if they still have uses of their transformation available.

During the transformation to hybrid or wolf, they gain the STR increase, the AC bonus, the damage immunity and the wolf/hybrid attacks.

You'll have to work out whether or not the hybrid form is capable of wearing the gunslinger's armor and using his guns. Which probably isn't too problematic since shooting the guns isn't affected at all by the effects of the transformation.
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Hmm....an Astral Lycanthrope would probably be a relative of the Imaginary Friend in Steampunkette's Paranormal Power book. It would be a Tiny, Small, Medium or Large Beast (Thoughtform). The animal form it would physically take in the real world would represent an aspect of the host's psyche. Their inner animal as it were.


One of the characters in my D&D campaign got himself bitten by a werewolf. He then failed his save throw, and so he's now on his way to becoming a werewolf. (The player is actually very excited about this...he has always wanted to play a werewolf character but was never given the opportunity, so he asked me if he could decline to make the save throw.)

So I now have the honor of coming up with a playable character for him, one that doesn't completely wreck the game balance.

A bit of background info: the character is a human fighter, 6th level, with the Gunslinger subclass (high-dex, low-strength build). Other members of the party are a Firbolg Druid, an Elf Artificer, a Human Rogue, and a Goliath Monk, all 6th level.

Now, let us review the Rules As Written for a playable Werewolf.
A character who becomes a lycanthrope retains his or her statistics except as specified by lycanthrope type. The character gains:
  • the werewolf’s speeds in nonhumanoid form (40ft in wolf form)
  • the werewolf's damage immunities (bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks not made from silvered weapons)
  • the werewolf's traits (shapechanger, keen hearing and smell)
  • the werewolf's actions that don’t involve equipment (multiattack, bite and claw only)
  • proficiency with the werewolf’s natural attacks and damage (bite 1d8 piercing, claws 2d4 slashing, Strength-based)
  • unable to speak while in animal form.
  • The DM is free to decide that a change in alignment places the character under DM control until the curse of lycanthropy is removed (I appreciate having the freedom to do so, but I'm going to let the player decide.)
  • Strength of 15 if his or her score isn’t already higher
  • a +1 bonus to AC while in wolf or hybrid form (from natural armor)
For reference:
Shapechanger: The werewolf can use its action to polymorph into a wolf-humanoid hybrid or into a wolf, or back into its true form, which is humanoid. Its statistics, other than its AC, are the same in each form. Any equipment it is wearing or carrying isn't transformed. It reverts to its true form if it dies.​
Keen Hearing and Smell: The werewolf has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on hearing or smell.​
Multiattack (Humanoid or Hybrid Form Only): The werewolf makes two attacks: one with its bite and one with its claws (hybrid form).​
Bite (Wolf or Hybrid Form Only): Melee Weapon Attack, 1d8 piercing damage, Strength-based. If the target is a humanoid, it must succeed on a DC 12 Constitution saving throw or be cursed with werewolf lycanthropy.​
Claws (Hybrid Form Only): Melee Weapon Attack, 2d4 slashing, Strength-based.​
And they call it a curse.

Obviously, the trouble with this option is that it is extremely overpowered, especially for a 6th level character. If I implement this as-written, every character in the party will ask to be bitten by their new werewolf buddy. I mean who doesn't want to be bulletproof, change shape, buff their strength, sharpen their senses, and get extra attacks every round, with no apparent drawbacks?

If I go with rules-as-written, I would need to build in some pretty serious checks and balances to account for this huge list of boons. This is supposed to be a curse, not an early Christmas present.

Has anyone ever done this before? Players, did you enjoy being a werewolf? DMs, did you enjoy having a werewolf in the game? Were there any balance issues or pitfalls I should look out for?

We had a character become a Wearboar in Princes of the Apocolypse at level 3 and he was really excited. It turned out fine and we finished the campaign with him being a Wearboar. A few things our DM did:

1. It is a danger for the party and the player is not fully in control of it - The character can not initially control it, eventually he will master it and when that happens is up to the DM. But initially it WILL attack allies at the first full moon. Our DM also made him save to avoid involuntarily transforming when severely damaged and again they are not in control when this happens. So while it is a boon for the player it is not really a boon for the party initially. You have a very powerful player that is going to attack you and might attack you while already in combat. The first full moon the wearboar turned and put down the entire party except my Warlock and her flying Sprite Familiar. I hit him with cause fear to keep him away from me and then my Sprite eventually put him down with a poisoned arrow.

2. The party gets a vote - The character in our game was really excited about being a Wearboar, but the rest of the party doesn't have to go along. After the PC turned on us the first time, my Warlock bought a remove curse scroll and I seriously considered curing him in his sleep without his consent. The player who cures him does not have to let the infected player know this, just send a secret note to your DM. Then after a few days the DM tells him he just seems to have lost the disease and he does not know why. My PC did not do that, but I considered it. I did have the scroll though and if he had turned on us again he would have got it cast on him in round 1. He didn't turn on us again after that initial time but he did lose control a couple of times in fights, luckily for him his uncontrolled violence focused on the enemy.

3. Organized enemies should be prepared - We were fighting elemental cults and were known to them. Word got around after a while that we had a wearboar and cultists we faced started showing up with silver weapons. If you really want to be extreme cult casters can show up with a remove curse of their own. Mundane monsters were still a breeze.

4. RAW Remove Curse removes All curses - This did not happen in my game but if he finds a cursed item like a bad luck stone or a spear of backbiting he is either stuck with it for the rest of the game (sucking up an attunement slot too) or he can use remove curse and lose his lycanthropy. I would not put an item out there to force this, that would be a cheesy metagame, but if you already have something that is going to curse him or you have a monster or effect that uses remove curse to be lifted I would not pull any punches either. He has Lycanthropy and he takes the good with the bad.

There are other things our DM did not do but I would consider. Remember it is a curse, the player may be excited about the powers but he is cursed and his life should suck as long as the curse lasts just like if he had a cursed +3 sword. He may be a lot better in combat but the game should not cater to him. Our DM was lenient in this regard, but here are things I would have probably done that our DM did not do:

5. Monster hunters - How many times are PC adventurers hired to rid the country of the monster? It only makes sense that NPCs will be hired to hunt this Werewolf.

6. Shunned - If/when the population finds out he should not be welcome in civilized society. Difficult to find lodging, not allowed inside cities, either disadvantage or outright automatic failure on many charisma checks. Think about what your HOA would do if you found out there was a real werewolf living in the neighborhood .... then have the town do that.
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This is one of the things I really dislike about 5e, and why I still have an attachment to 3.0/3.5. Damage reduction instead of damage immunity on lycanthropes. DR made it possible to still hurt a lycanthrope without needing magic or a specific weapon type/material. The damage immunity (while making things simpler overall) is basically a way to go “That cool werewolf idea you have? Ditch it, because it won’t work.”

Also… Way too many comments on this seem to be “You want to be a werewolf? Thanks for giving me an excuse to make the game miserable for you.”

It might be easier if the character was a descendant of a lycanthrope such as a werewolf than actually being one. 5e has the Shifters. Level up has the Garoul. Garoul | Level Up I would certainly play the latter if it meant getting their Huff & Puff paragon gift. 😋


Also… Way too many comments on this seem to be “You want to be a werewolf? Thanks for giving me an excuse to make the game miserable for you.”

I don't think you are reading the rules on this. The PC is CURSED and refuses to remove the curse. That is what makes the game miserable for him .... and not really miserable but just difficult.

I actually have the opposite view here - Some people are trying to accomodate the player are looking for an excuse to make the curse fun to have.


Rotten DM
.....the werewolf's damage immunities (bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks not made from silvered weapons...
this came up in my Netherdeep AL run. We ended up with were having resistance instead of immunity. Otherwise it is too powerful.

I feel like it was missed you are only supposed to get full benefits if you embrace the curse, which causes the alignment change and path to NPC hood.

My opinion on how it should be done, character rejecting curse is unaffected by changes and have no control over the transformation. They rampage during full moon.

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