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D&D 5E Lycanthropy and Player Characters - homebrew progression rules

MarkB

Legend
I'm currently running Rime of the Frostmaiden (currently near the end of chapter 2), and after an encounter at the end of last session, a few party members have voluntarily contracted lycanthropy and become werebears. I'm fine with having a party of lycanthropes, but the immunity to regular damage is a bit much, and I don't want it to trivialise the rest of the campaign.

I'm considering two options. One is to just dial down the immunity to resistance and leave everything else unchanged. The other is to introduce a slow progression to the curse that will allow them to gain that full immunity as the campaign progresses. Here's what I've come up with for that:

Lycanthropy
The curse of lycanthropy causes a progressive change to the bearer, growing stronger through each full moon.

Initial Exposure
The curse builds gradually in the bearer, manifesting mostly as strange urges and expanded senses. They may develop an appetite for raw meat, while finding cooked food less appealing. You gain the Keen Smell ability, granting you advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely upon smell.

First Full Moon
The first full moon brings with it an inevitable transformation. Those who resist the curse are transformed involuntarily as soon as they are touched by the light of the full moon, while those who embrace it can hold off on transforming for a couple of hours. This transformation is into the full animal form, and while those who resist the curse become mindless, ravenous beasts, even those who embrace it are not entirely themselves. They retain their intelligence and awareness, but are still driven by a need to hunt. If they do not successfully hunt and feed upon a kill this night, their transformation will remain stunted at the Initial Exposure stage until the next full moon.

At this early stage of the curse, the bearer gains resistance to bludgeoning, piercing and slashing damage from non-magical weapons that aren’t silvered.

After a successful hunt, the transformation grows more complete, and for those who embrace it, more controllable, though it is physically taxing. As an action, the bearer may transform into a bestial form (either animal or hybrid). Once in that form, they can freely use an action to switch between hybrid and animal forms, but they may only transform from humanoid to bestial form a number of times equal to their Proficiency modifier. This limit refreshes after a long rest.

The bearer gains damage resistance only while in animal or hybrid form.

Second Full Moon - Control
As the next full moon approaches, the bearers’ power waxes. Starting the day before the full moon, they are able to transform to bestial form at will, with no daily limits. They also gain resistance to damage from non-magical, non-silvered weapons even when in humanoid form. So long as they transform on the night of the full moon, and eat a meal of raw meat while in animal or hybrid form, their curse will progress to the next stage, and they will thereafter retain their ability to transform at will.

Third Full Moon - Mastery
As the curse’s power magnifies, the bearer becomes more resistant to harm. Retaining their damage resistance in humanoid form, they now become immune to bludgeoning, piercing and slashing damage from non-magical, non-silvered weapons while in animal or hybrid form.

Fourth Full Moon - Apex
After the fourth full moon, the bearer retains their damage immunity even while in humanoid form.

Short version:
  • Initially, all they get is Keen Smell.
  • After the first full moon (which is only a couple of days away in my game) they get to transform Proficiency-modifier times per day, and have damage resistance while transformed.
  • After the second full moon they can transform at will and have resistance to ordinary weapon damage in any form.
  • After the third full moon they have damage resistance in humanoid form, and immunity in hybrid form.
  • After the fourth full moon, they become the full Monster Manual version.
The adventure has a certain amount of travel time built into it, so the characters should progress through at least 2-3 stages over its course.

Does this sound reasonable? Too short, too long, too convoluted? Do you have your own variant lycanthropy rules, and how have they played out at the table?

EDIT: Corrected the summary for second full moon.
 
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In my game, you black out while transformed and have no control or knowledge of what your character did in lycanthrope form. On the 3rd transformation, you lose the character forever. They are now an NPC villain. That's if you're human. If you're anything else, you die upon the first transformation instead.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
I have a player who recently got lycanthropy from a were jaguar. I too am doing a progression, but slightly different. I'm progressing as they level up, as opposed to moon cycles. And I changed the weapon resistance to regenerate 5 hp per round from non magical attacks. That allows regular weapons to hurt and potentially knock them down, but they will get back up. Like a troll.

I also have a rule I borrowed from 1e, in that monsters of CR 5 or higher will bypass weapon resistance with natural attacks. CR 3 or higher is half damage
 

MarkB

Legend
I have a player who recently got lycanthropy from a were jaguar. I too am doing a progression, but slightly different. I'm progressing as they level up, as opposed to moon cycles. And I changed the weapon resistance to regenerate 5 hp per round from non magical attacks. That allows regular weapons to hurt and potentially knock them down, but they will get back up. Like a troll.
Some good thoughts there - troll-style resistance is certainly a viable option. I'd probably only allow them to regenerate back up to half health, though.
I also have a rule I borrowed from 1e, in that monsters of CR 5 or higher will bypass weapon resistance with natural attacks. CR 3 or higher is half damage
That's a viable option. I might push those CRs up a little higher, though - maybe 8 and 5 respectively.
 

One option might be that they take damage just like normal characters, but they don't die after failing three death saves. You keep rolling until they get a 20 and stand back up, but each failure moves the track further towards giving in to the beast and NPC-hood.
 

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