By BDC

Pic from the 5E Monster Manual/Art by Jesper Ejsing

My first thought in writing this article is, “Why not?”  I mean have you read the writeup in the 5E Monster Manual?  Pretty much gives most of the perks without any of the drawbacks.  You get automatic bonus’ to strength or dexterity, natural weapons, ups to AC while in hybrid or animal form and, all according what were you play, you may pick up a cool new attack like a pounce, a charge and so on.  SO WHY NOT?  Well mainly, I believe, that most DMs think that to allow one or more characters to play Weres will somehow tip the balance of power and tip the scales on CR calculations in the PC’s favor.  Well, it can…but it doesn’t have to.

Much like everything else in D&D (as it should be) most of the details are in the hands of the DM.  It’s your world, make what you want of it.  And most DMs don’t want to grant a boon like this in fear that it will make creating challenges hard or, far worse, open the door to every insane request your other players have wanted to ask for but haven’t had the door open.  This is valid.  I would say that, if you’re new and/or inexperienced, you should probably just say no and move on.  This kind of move is for the brave, fool hearty and rather experienced DM.  And, even for the most experienced DM, many things have to be taken into consideration.

Art by Ryan Pancoast

HOW DOES YOUR WORLD DEAL WITH WERES?

First off, it all depends on what kind of world you’re playing in.

If this is something new to this world and they are absolutely unprepared for weres, it may tip the balance for sure.  Low magic campaigns and/or low silver availability is no place to set a were loose.  You would definitely need to have your setting be mid to high level magic with plenty of magic items around for, at least, the powers that be to keep the peace against such threats. 

The easiest answer is readily available silver.  Being one of their main weaknesses, if weres are a thing in this world, the town guard and the champions of every town would be ready with silvered weapons.  This is the great equalizer.  Even the common folk could afford maybe one silvered weapon.  Or, if weres are a known threat in certain vicinities, maybe they can’t afford to not have these weapons at their disposal.

Secondly, it has a lot to do with the mindset of the people in your world.  Some civilized cities may understand the condition better and either understand that not all Lycans mean to be evil and have facilities in some churches for those to go when they are about to turn IF your were turns with the moon.  Maybe they’re used to this problem and have clerics at ready with cure curse spells to save them from themselves.  But if you ask me this is all too clean and sterile. 

People act out fear mostly.  Something different sets the rabble off.  Even the most civilized cities will lose their collective minds with this kind of threat or perceived threat.  So many times, you find yourselves among people who take the belief that ‘the only good were is a dead were’ and act accordingly.  These people’s protectors would be ready for this threat at any time; carrying magic weapons or silvered instruments at ready to deal with the fanged menace.

Of course, you may work anywhere in between along with communities of weres that deal openly, if not cautiously, with the rest of the world. 

The fact is, for all of those who fear the campaign getting away from them, seeing their CR calculations thrown out and watching chaos reign, the easy answer is you adjust the adventure accordingly.  Their abilities rise and so does the challenges.  You may need to find a few concessions for the other non-were players to help balance the play.  Or your were characters may just be the muscle of the group.  There’s a myriad of ways to both balance this out and have serious threats that don’t kill the rest of the party every time.

Thirdly, along with the way the rest of the world deals with weres, you can always make this the focus of the campaign.

The reason I’m fleshing this out right now is that THE MAGIC TAVERN is developing their first campaign to publish called MANIFESTO OF THE WHITE WOLF.  It’s a story centered on a group of weres who are leading an army of good lycans in a war against an ancient evil who proclaims that he is their creator.  That’s all you get for now, but the story and coming campaign is designed with a group of weres in mind.  But there’s many ways to do this.

The X-Men by John Byrne

This whole storyline reminds me of one of my favorite Marvel super groups, the XMEN.  Their tag-line is “Protecting a world that hates them”.  And your group playing one or more good weres fighting the curse and becoming the hero would be just this.  They would have to keep to shadows or hide their true natures.  In doing this, you could even expand beyond the Lycan theme. 

Using the whole Mutant plight from Marvel as a template, you could expand the group from just weres to a pack of hated and hunted types who have banded together to save the kingdom and prove the world around them wrong.  Playing from ground zero to a high level adventure, you could slowly win the locals over and, finally, get the respect from the authorities involved.  The expansion would move to include types like tiefling or any fiendish type (see our article called Not everything with horns is a Tiefling), to a necromancer or revnant, to a changling or doppleganger to even a goblinoid or orc.  All it needs to be is a type that is seen as a threat at first glance to those who are hunted and hated.  I would actually like to see this kind of group in action and see some of the storylines you creative DMs come up with.

Crocutable Art

Much like the campaign we’re working on, you can have all sorts of weres involved.  Once again, see the 5E Monster Manual for details under Lycanthropes.  But you could create some unique weres from the traditional werewolves, to wereboars, wererats, werebears, weretigers, wereravens and bats.  The sky’s the limit.  Just read across the entries in the MM.  There are some interesting abilities that your DM will work to integrate into your character.  From the weretiger’s pounce, to the wereboar’s charge or relentless ability to the nearly universal ability of Keen sight and smell.

On top of that, although most of D&D considers weres once humans, even the Monster Manual gives a nod to using other races in the creation of your were.  And, once again, I say, “Why not?”

The 5E Monster Manual mentions that not only could you use other races than human, but you may have the option to bring ‘one or more’ of the racial attributes along with you.  Once again, this is in the hands of your DM so work closely with him.  Remember, you’re building your character and, then, adding the weres traits onto it.  So building a dwarf who has the Dwarven Resiliance or combat training or maybe an elf with the Fey Ancestry ability along with their ups in dexterity or weapon training.  You could play a halfling who is NATURALLY STEALTHY or RESILIENT to poisons (which strangely enough, weres don’t automatically get).  Or imagine Lycan Dragonborn with a breath weapon.  Or chose a more exotic race like Duergar, Drow or, well, use your imagination.  That’s what the game is about, right?

Artwork by Ryan Yee/TM Wizards of the Coast

CURSE OR BLESSING?

We forget in the path of optimizing out were that what we’re dealing with is a curse, It’s not like you went to looking to become one.  It’s just another bump in the background of the character.  It’s a pretty big bump at that, but it’s a powerful element of the PC’s past.  It goes a long way to defining them.  They faced the demon head on and decided to fight it, becoming the hero of the story instead of the villain, although a perfectly evil campaign with a were character would make even more sense.  Point is, they were bit and contracted this ‘curse’. 

SO, that’s what we’re missing here in all of the rules and suggestions from the 5E Monster Manual after all.  It ends up being more of a boon than something tormenting their soul.  That’s why it’s important to think about your world your campaign is set in and how they respond to the PC.  I think, no matter how you slice it, it shouldn’t be easy for them.  It shouldn’t feel like, ‘Hey, I’m a were now with all of these cool abilities and everybody gives me a pass because I’m the PC!’  There should be some repercussions.

There should be some cons with those perks, right?  At the very least, they should feel hunted and hated.  They may be the exception to the Lycan rule, but most ordinary people haven’t met anything but the slobbering, feral man eater.  It’s going to take some convincing to get them to invite you to dinner.  In fact, you may never be safe in ‘normal’ society.  This is perfect for that character that likes to play the iconoclast and usually plays the tiefling just to piss off the normies.

But, to be honest, as the DM, we should talk honestly with the player that wants this that it isn’t all sunshine and roses.  There are complications that come with your condition.  Maybe along with them being able to shapechange at will, you could add in a full moon madness mode where they have no control where they have to make special arrangements on their special night. 

Another way to work the curse back into the game is to introduce your PC to some flaws.  I know no body likes flaws and they’re not always needed.  But, in the case of the Were, it’s necessary.  Give them their list of pros and, then, have them chose their own con.  This not only balances it out and makes sure all around realize this is a curse but lends to amazing moments in roleplay.

Were Curse Flaws (include a WISDOM Save Dc to not go wild, attack and/or kill)

  1. When I see or smell blood, I must fight the urge to go feral. 
  2. In the heat of battle, I have to struggle or loose control. 
  3. If someone challenges or taunts me; I have to fight the urge to ‘put them in their place’
  4. No matter how hard I try, if I drop to 0 hp, I automatically change and become the animal I’ve fought against.
  5. There’s something from my past that triggers the transformation and I struggle not to kill.  Maybe it’s a person or a type of person.  Maybe a word?
  6. A certain holiday reminds me of something tragic in my past and I have a difficult time not letting loose.

This will get us started.  I think playing a Were can be a fun campaign if done right.  If there is anything I missed that should be considered, please add them in the comments below or follow our social media links and let us know.  The Magic Tavern is a community effort and we value your opinions.

Up next?  We will have a character reference who is, you guessed it, a were as well as a look at the the classes relationship to building a character as Lycanthropes.

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