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Demihuman Lycanthropes

Posted: Sat Jul 13, 2019 3:13 am
by Shannon
I tried to pose this question earlier but my connection failed and ate my work; it took me awhile to muster the wherewithal to write it all again.

Night Howlers provides optional rules for demihuman lycanthropes:
Dungeon Masters may allow certain humanoids to be affected by lycanthropy, either becoming lycanthropes when infected (as the merrow do with shark lycanthropy) or reacting to the disease as tough it were poison (as with demihumans). Humanoids very similar to humans—orcs and the like—are most likely to be affected by lycanthropy, while trolls and other strange creatures are most likely immune.

The Dungeon Master may allow demihuman werecreatures. In lycanthropic levels, they would advance at the same rate as human werecreatures, topping out at thirty-sixth level. They also would advance as demihumans according to the standard rules.
These few words open a fascinating realm of possibilities. They invite one to weave demihumans' long histories (Meditor weresharks? Shadowelves as werebats in their caverns! in Alfheim? Dwarven wereseals on Ostland's coasts...?)

Are demihumans more (or exclusively) susceptible to certain strains? ("Halflings can only become werefoxes; no gnomish weresharks!")

Is balance ruined? (Imagine demihumans following the optional path of thirty-six levels as lycanthropes to boot. Might they be too powerful, or be taking too long to advance?)

And what about humanoids? Would trolls be excluded? What of ogres? The n'djatwa? I imagine goblins and hobgoblins who are werewolves riding or leading pack of dire wolves; or werebear bugbears in similar scenarios with bears....

We know from The Sea People that not only merrow, but at least tritons, may become weresharks. Can these also become wereseals?What about kna, kopru, aquatic elves, sea giants, etc.? And can marine creatures only become weresharks or wereseals, and terrestrial creatures terrestrial lycanthropes? A dwarven wereseal or a triton weretiger would face horrible and zany conundrums!

I'd really like to know if anyone has used these optional rules and how it went. or even just hear thoughts from others in the abstract. Thanks!

Re: Demihuman Lycanthropes

Posted: Sat Jul 13, 2019 8:37 pm
by Irondrake
For me, I have never used those optional rules. Mainly because I felt it altered the threat that lycanthropes pose to demi and semi humans. In my campaign, demi-humans are terrified whenever lycanthropes show up because they know that the chance for death is greater if they should become infected with the disease.

To my knowledge, where has not been a version of D&D where demi and semi-humans can become lycanthropes. And I agree with this rule. Also, it's part of the fantasy setting (at least, the default in most fantasy settings for D&D).

But if the optional rule was used, I think it would make demi-humans and semi-humans pretty powerful with the ability to gain lycantrope levels, which when coupled with their regular levels and abilities, would make for some fearsome foes. :)

Re: Demihuman Lycanthropes

Posted: Sat Jul 13, 2019 9:57 pm
by agathokles
That is not entirely true. In 2e, some demihumans may be affected by specific lycanthropic phenotypes (e.g., werebadgers are dwarves).
In Ravenloft, all demihumans can become lycanthropes of any kind (see the Van Richter's Guide to Werebeasts).

In BECMI, I'd be a bit more restrictive, and limit demihuman lycanthropes to specific phenotypes. I'm quite sure I've used hin wererats in the past, and I'd allow dwarf and possibly gnome werebadgers.


Re: Demihuman Lycanthropes

Posted: Sun Jul 14, 2019 1:12 am
by Cthulhudrew
Agreed with several posters here:

I haven't used demihuman lycanthropes because as others said, I kind of like that natural "threat" posed by lycanthropes for various reasons (it helps explain in some ways why lycanthropy hasn't gone rampant through the world). From a purely Mystaran perspective, while I agree the idea of elven werehawks sounds interesting, it also kind of flies in the face of why that was such a threat to the Minrothad Isles, and led to the Silver Purge- lycanthropes posed a clear and present threat to the lives of all elves on their isolated island retreat.

That said, there are demihuman lycanthropes in other editions and even in BECMI; as Giampaolo notes, they appear in the Realms and Ravenloft among other places (albeit, IIRC, only from 2E onwards; I seem to recall a halfling wererat in the third book of the Crystal Shard trilogy, though, which was at a transition period of editions). There is a gnomish weretiger in PC2 Top Ballista. Orcs and goblinkind appear to be susceptible in BECMI canon (Moghul Khan of the yellow orcs is a wereboar). Mermen are also susceptible. Whether mermen or orcs/goblins are considered "demihumans" I suppose is questionable, but they are not ultimately considered human, either. Gnomes are generally considered demihumans, though. I could theoretically see an argument for elves actually being susceptible, since they are close enough to humans to be able to interbreed, where other demihumans do not appear able to do so. I can't recall if tritons were susceptible to lycanthropy or not in PC3.

It is interesting that while all of the pre-3E versions of D&D initially seemed to limit lycanthropy to humans, only in BECMI was it ever outright stated to be lethal to non-humans, at least to the best of my knowledge. Indeed, the Monstrous Compendium entry on Lycanthropes (2E) mentions that lycanthropes are humans that turn into beasts, when it describes the effects of contracting lycanthropy, it lists this as a general rule that it can be contracted by bite and doesn't delineate that it can only be contracted by humans (which you would think would be an important distinction) or provide alternatives for non-humans (such as BECMI's lethality). The 1E DMG did note that only humans could contract it, though it stopped short of saying that the disease was lethal for non-humans.

I should point out also that, in spite of the stance that 1E lycanthropes could only be humans, the Foxwoman in the MM2 contradicts this (it is inflicted upon elven females by other foxwomen); presumably this is intended to be an exception to the rule, though it isn't outright stated as such. My ultimate guess would be that- with so many things demihuman related in 1E- it was thought that demihuman lycanthropes would be overbalanced compared to human characters, thus they decided to disallow them, but those restrictions gradually were lightened over editions.

Re: Demihuman Lycanthropes

Posted: Sun Jul 14, 2019 8:25 am
by agathokles
Indeed, it seems the restrictions were mostly due to "balance" issues. Still, as you note some historical events would not make as much sense with demihumans freely able to become lycanthropes.

There are also differences between editions. Wererats in BECMI are actually "ratweres", and greater wererats are introduced only in PC4. BECMI Werefoxes are infected humans, contrary to the AD&D foxwomen, who are elves.

BTW, in Ravenloft all goblinoids can be affected to some extent, including Trolls. The same happens for some other not normally playable humanoids, such as the Sahuagin.


Re: Demihuman Lycanthropes

Posted: Sun Jul 14, 2019 10:14 pm
by Cthulhudrew
I tried to go back to Dragon and Dungeon magazines, to see if there had been any articles on non-human lycanthropes (which has occasionally been the basis for some of the edition changes, such as the Greater Wererat you mention, which were first mentioned in Dungeon 13, though as GP notes, didn't become formalized as such until PC4). I didn't find anything, but I hardly have a complete collection of either, and could have missed something even if I did. I didn't notice any such articles in the Dragondex online either.

*On a sidenote, that same issue of Dungeon (it's the "Wererats of Relfren" adventure) also expands somewhat on the lethality of the disease vis a vis demihumans in a way that I don't recall either the core rules or PC4 doing. Among other things, it gives a grace period (1 hour per point of Con) within which the disease can be cured before the demihumans succumb to death, as well as penalties after being first bitten.