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I never knew my natural parents. My guardians never spoke of them, never seemed to know anything abouut them, never ever showed any curiosity. Thus my own curiosity was never satisfied. I dreamed - as most adoptive children do - that my birth parents were a great lord and lady, perhaps a king and queen. I dreamed that they would one day find me, take me away from my humdrum life, and anoint me as prince of a distant land.
I always thought I was different from the other children around me. I was faster, stronger and fiercer sometimes. I felt more of a kinship with the village dogs, particulary the major's vicious hunting dogs, than I did with human children.
Even then, at the age of ten, I had the inescapable belief that my mysterious heritage would set me apart from those around me. Three years later, with the onset of puberty, I realized I was right.
How I wish that I had been wrong...
Werebeasts come in a staggering number of phenotypes, each distinguished by its animal form. During my travels, I have personally encountered evidence of a baker's dozen, from the common werewolf to the enigmatic wereraven. If that were not enough, I have heard credible rumors of roughly another half-dozen varieties. This does not include the scores of more-or-less fantastical tales which describe everything from werefrogs to wereelephants.
I have determined certain guidelines as to what animal forms are viable. In my experience, there is only one strict prohibition: a lycanthrope neuerhas a pure herbivore (plant-eater) as its animal aspect. To my knowledge, this prohibition has never been broken, and anyone who claims to have encountered a wererabbit or a werecow has almost certainly been hallucinating, perhaps after an extended visit to the local tavern.
For the vast majority of lycanthropes, the beast within is a carnivore, a creature that subsists on the flesh of other animals. This category includes werewolves, weretigers, werejackals, and the like. Though less common, certain lycanthropes do assume the form of omnivores, creatures whose diet comprises both plants and animal flesh. Examples include werebears and wererats.
Whatever their diet, the majority of animal aspects are mammals - furred, warm-blooded, air-breathing, and viviparous. This is not a hard-and-fast rule, however. Several nonmammalian creatures are worthy of note, including the wereraven, the weresnake, the werecrocodile, and the dreaded wereshark.
For the record, I have personally encountered lycanthropes with the following animal forms: wolf, bat, boar, rat, tiger, badger, bear, fox, shark, crocodile, raven, seal, and jackal. Other phenotypes which I believe to exist, although I have not seen them myself, include cats, snakes, coyotes, lions, jaguars, walruses, and-may the gods help those who sail the seas-killer whales!
Whatever their form or phenotype, werebeasts in the Ravenloft setting share a common ability: they can see in the dark as well as any character with infravision. Further, when the moon is full, werebeasts can see as well as they do in broad daylight.
Lycanthropes of all types are daunting foes. Magical weapons [of +1 or better enchantment] can strike them and inflict damage normally, but most other weapons are useless against a lycanthrope in its animal or man-beast form; the wounds caused by a non-magical weapon heal almost instantaneously.
When in human form, an infected lycanthrope is as vulnerable to attack as any normal man or woman. Though this is not so for the true lycanthrope. In my experience, a true lycanthrope in human form may appear to sustain a wound from an ordinary weapon, but in reality suffers no ill or lasting effects. The apparent wound fades quickly, sometimes in an hour or so, but the change is not instantaneous. In this way, true lycanthropes can maintain a ruse of being normal humans. (Perhaps this is for the best. I shudder to imagine the ignorant hunter who might stab one innocent after another, looking for the one who fails to bleed profusely.)
Yet the situation for a would-be hunter of lycanthropes is far from hopeless. Every werebeast has at least one nonmagical vulnerability, one item or substance which can bring about its death. If common lore is to be believed, no lycanthrope is immune to silver weapons. While that may be true in some mythical or distant realm, it is not true in any land I have visited. Rather, the vulnerability varies from phenotype to phenotype, and less frequently, from individual to individual within a single phenotype. The werebeast hunter who relies solely on a silver weapon will inevitably face his own grisly death, or worse.
Most phenotypes are susceptible to some herbal concoction or naturally occurring element (even those who can be harmed by silver weapons). While some of these compounds are poisonous to humans, their effectiveness against specific lycanthropes is unmatched. The slightest trace of the appropriate compound, whether ingested or insinuated into a wound, may be enough to slay a susceptible werebeast instantly. Most lycanthropes find the smell of their chemical nemesis distasteful, although this reaction is not so strong that an individual cannot suppress it if circumstances so warrant.
A werebeast has a 75% chance of detecting any trace of its chemical nemesis in its food. if a piercing weapon is coated with this sub-stance and subsequently wounds the creature, the beast is allowed a save vs. poison to avoid the fatal effects of the substance.
Below I have set out what I have managed to learn about the vulnerabilities of different phenotypes. (While I recognize that other werebeasts exist, I have not been able to gain such information about them.) Note that infected lycanthropes share the same vulnerabilities as the creature who infected them. Also note that none of my statements below is categorical; it would be unwise to bet one's life on this information.
Werebat: The vast majority of werebats are vulnerable to weapons made of silver, as are werewolves. One rationale I have heard put forward is that the color and nature of silver represents the full moon, which is a frequent trigger for tycanthropes. (Since not all lycanthropes have this as their trigger, I am not totally convinced of this, but I have nothing better to propose.) Also note that many werebats are vulnerable to the herb skullcap.
Werebadger: I have encountered only a few of these creatures, so I must emphasize that my experiences may not be representative of an entire phenotype. However, those I battled proved vulnerable to silver weapons. Upon the advice of a Vistana (which I followed only with the greatest reluctance), I tricked one werebadger into ingesting poppy seeds. This substance proved fatal to the werebeast.
Werebear: Most werebears are vulnerable to a cold-forged weapon, provided the weapon is made of the purest iron. The symbolic rationale for this vulnerability seems to be that cold-forging iron requires great physical force, a characteristic that also applies to werebears. In addition, many werebears are susceptible to belladonna, or "deadly nightshade".
(Regarding cold-forged iron: According to the armorers I've consulted, most ordinary weapons are made of low-grade steel. Pure iron is rarely used, for it is softer than steel, it akes less of an edge, and it is less resilient. Thus, a would-be hunter desiring a cold-iron blade must commission a blacksmith to create it. Furthermore, most weapons are forged - beaten into shape - when the metal is red-hot and pliable. In contrast, cold-forged weapons cannot be heated. The iron must be beaten into shape while it is cold. Obviously, this is a much more difficult procedure.)
Wereboar: In general, wereboars are vulnerable to spears made of sharpened oak. The entire spear must be free of any metal or stone reinforcement; a metal spear point renders the weapon ineffective. Natural boars are sylvan creatures, and they are most frequently hunted with spears (thus the expression, "bleeding like a stuck pig"). This seems to be the symbolism for this vulnerability. As for an herbal bane, many wereboars are susceptible to camphor.
Werecrocodile: Perhaps because they are relatively primitive creatures, werecrocodiles are vulnerable to primitive weapons. The majority can be struck normally by cutting, piercing, or bludgeoning weapons made of flint. Flint weapons may have wooden or other handles, so long as the actual cutting edge, piercing point, or place of impact is unreinforced flint. Mandrake appears to be the herbal nemesis of most werecrocodiles, though I am uncertain whether any singular part of the plant is responsible.
Werefox: Surprisingly, most werefoxes are vulnerable to bludgeoning or piercing weapons formed from the bones of any canine creature (dogs, coyotes, wolves, or jackals). I am intrigued by the possibility that this is a form of symbolic magic, since fox hunts using dogs to chase and kill the prey are common in several regions I have visited. In addition to the weapons described, many werefoxes seem vulnerable to juniper berries.
Werejackal: Weapons made of beaten copper are effective against most werejackals. This soft metal is rarely used for normal blades, so copper weapons must be custom-made. I do not understand the symbolism of this vulnerability. As for other banes, some werejackals seem extremely vulnerable to fennel.
Wererat: These fell creatures show the greatest variation in their vulnerability. Some are susceptible to silver weapons, others to weapons of cold iron, still others to implements of wood or stone. This variability makes these, perhaps the least powerful of werebeasts, quite difficult to destroy. They show similar variability with regard to chemical susceptibilities. There is no single chemical which can be depended upon to harm any significant proportion of wererats.
Wereraven: Most of these creatures are vulnerable to weapons made of silver, possibly for the same reasons described for werebats. If these creatures have an herbal bane, I have not discovered it; wereravens do not appear susceptible to any chemical poison.
Wereseal (Seawolves): Weapons made from the bones or teeth of whales are particularly efficacious against most wereseals, since carnivorous whales are among the natural enemies of this animal aspect. In addition, these fell creatures are usually susceptible to amaranth.
Wereshark: The majority of, but certainly not all, weresharks are vulnerable to silver weapons. Most others are susceptible to weapons made of two materials: petrified wood (whether the petrification occurs naturally through age or magical intervention) and flint. (Like werecrocodiles, weresharks are primitive creatures, and this is reflected in their vulnerabilities.) I know only of one herbal nemesis for weresharks: mangrove leaves. Unfortunately, it does not appear to be equally effective against all members of this phenotype.
Weretiger: Weretigers are frequently vulnerable to cutting and piercing weapons made from obsidian, a resilient volcanic glass which can take a lethal edge. If there is a symbolic reason for this vulnerability, I do not know it. In addition, many weretigers are said to be susceptible to ginseng.
Werewolf: Most, but not all, werewolves are vulnerable to weapons made of silver. Solid silver is not required; even a weapon coated with a thin layer of this metal will usually suffice. In addition, some werewolves are highly susceptible to wolfsbane, also known as aconite, a highly toxic relative of horseradish.
Table 1: Summary of Vulnerabilities
The transfiguration is the process by which lycanthropes change from one form (or aspect) to another. It takes approximately one minute, during which time the creature is unable to take any action whatsoever. It cannot move, attack, or defend itself. It is aware of its surroundings, however, and can act appropriately the instant the transfiguration ends.
During the transfiguration, the creature's body is racked with convulsions as its skeletal structure and musculature shift into their new orientations. Observers can see the bones and muscles shifting around under the skin, a process which is accompanied by a wet, tearing sound. For true lycanthropes, the transfiguration usually is an experience of transcendent joy. For infected lycanthropes, however, it is one of mortal agony. Because of this, true lycanthropes are quite likely to hold on to any objects or equipment they happen to be carrying during the transfiguration while infected lycanthropes are more likely to drop whatever they hold.
During the round in which it transfigures, a werebeast loses any Dexterity bonus to its AC. further more, it cannot use a shield. Characters who attack a transfiguring werebeast gain a +2 bonus on attack roils.
Clothing and Armor
While the transfiguration changes the form of a werebeast's body, it obviously does not transform the creature's clothing or equipment. In most cases, the man-beast form is larger and more heavily muscled than the human aspect. Depending on the particular phenotype, the metamorphosis from human to animal form may involve either an increase or decrease in overall size. For example, awererat's animal aspect is smaller than man-sized, while a werebear's is larger. This size differential will determine what effect the transfiguration has on any clothing or armor worn by the creature.
If the transfiguration decreases the creature's overall size, then clothing and equipment pose little inconvenience. Elaborate clothing or a complex suit of armor might momentarily limit a much smaller aspect's freedom of movement - a two-foot-long rat is almost caged in a suit of plate mail, for example - in all but the rarest instances however, the werebeast can quickly free itself from such impediments. [At the DM's option, this may take an additional round.]
But what if the new aspect, the one into which the creature is transfiguring, is larger than the one that donned the accoutrements? With all but the most robust and confining clothing, there is little problem. The force with which the skeletal and muscular changes occur is almost always sufficient to burst any ciothing at the seams. This happens so fast that the creature is not discommoded, since the torn fragments simply fall away.
Such is not the case with all armor, however. Suits of armor are obviously more robust than normal clothing; they are designed to withstand abuse as well as to resist being torn away. So resilient are most types of armor that they can cause significant harm to a werebeast unwise enough - or unlucky enough - to change into a larger aspect while wearing them. Generally speaking, the more protection a suit of armor provides, the more damage it can inflict on the werebeast wearing it.
When a werebeast changes back to human form, it will almost invariably be naked. The experience of returning to one's self, naked, bruised, and in a strange place, is often the first clue to an infected lycanthrope of his affliction.
Calculations for constriction damage caused by armor are optional. Damage occurs during the round in which the transfiguration takes place. (Note that this damage is not healed during the transfiguration.) At the end of that round, the armor fails away: straps and the like tear, or the armor bursts asunder at the seams. There is no saving throw against this damage.
Damage and Healing
The transfiguration is a process by which the entire body modifies itself to conform to a different pattern or standard. Since this standard describes an unwounded, whole body, it should come as no surprise that the transfiguration can effectively cause cuts and contusions to vanish. Whenever a lycanthrope changes form, it heals a significant proportion of any wounds it has suffered in its previous aspect. In other words, if a wererat in rat form suffers a laceration, it may be able to heal that wound, at least in part, simply by changing to its human aspect.
I have heard tell that lycanthropes in certain distant and mysterious lands can heal by transfiguration only that damage which they suffered while in animal aspect, in other words, by changing from animal to human form. However, in the lands I'm familiar with, any transfiguration will have salutary effect. Note that lycanthropes will be cautious when it comes to transfiguring while in combat, even if they could benefit from healing, because the process briefly leaves them at the mercy of their foes.
Each time an infected lycanthrope returns to human form, it heals 10% to 60% (1d6 x 10%) of any damage it has suffered since its last transfiguration. The same rule applies to true lycanthropes whenever they assume a different aspect. DMs who wish to avoid a tittle extra bookkeeping may rule that the transfiguration heals 10% to 60% of any outstanding damage, without regard to when it was inflicted.
Memory Loss and Retention
True lycanthropes suffer no memory loss due to the transfiguration. Their personalities are unchanged and their memories unaltered, regardless of their current aspect.
As mentioned earlier, they are even totally aware of their surroundings during the transfiguration itself. Would-be werebeast slayers who count on a moment of disorientation or shock immediately after their foe's transfiguration are bound to be sorely disappointed.
The situation with infected lycanthropes is more complex. As I have discussed previously, an infected lycanthrope in human form will remember his actions in secondary aspect vaguely at best. Those memories will have the surreal, indistinct characteristics of a nightmare incompletely recalled upon waking. Without other, more tangible clues such as inexplicable wounds, few victims of the dread affliction will believe those memories are anything but nightmares.
Further, even the transformation itself cannot be clearly recalled. For the present purposes, one should consider an infected lycanthrope to be in its secondary aspect from the moment the first transfiguration starts to the instant the second one ends. Thus, he will not remember clearly the torment of shifting to animal form or back again... although faint echoes of these agonies might be part of his "nightmares".
For infected lycanthropes, memory loss is unidirectional. In other words, a werebeast in human form will not recall what he has done as an animal. However, while the werebeast is in animal form, he will remember virtually everything that he knows in human form, though bloodlust colors his attitudes and sensibilities. This is how an infected werebeast successfully hunts down loved ones and enemies alike; it recalls all pertinent facts about its prey. Such knowledge includes any precautions, tricks, and traps that the prospective target may have mentioned to the marauder while the latter was in human aspect. Further, the ravening beast recalls any precautions that he himself might have taken while in human aspect whether or not the human suspected that his own dark side was a thing to be feared.
I recall one particularly fateful case in Darken. Unbeknownst to anyone, including herself, a well-known and well-loved merchant was an infected wererat. When a mysterious, marauding beast started to slay this merchant's closest friends and associates, the survivors asked for her aid in protecting them. She helped them design cunning tricks and traps that should, by all rights, have kept even the shrewdest intruder out of their homes. Then the marauder penetrated these security precautions as though it knew everything about them... which of course it did.
Eventually, the merchant began to suspect the truth. So she set snares and traps around the periphery of her own home, hoping to trap herself while in the form of the beast as she left the building for her nightly rampage. Although a cunning ploy, this also failed, since her beast form remembered all of the precautions she had taken while in human aspect. Eventually, she had no choice but to voice her suspicions to her neighbors and ask them to lock her up at night. Fortunately for all concerned, that was when I came upon the scene. After having tracked down the true wererat that originally infected the woman, I was able to arrange for her cure.
The DM decides whether a deity withholds spells from an infected priest as punishment for the actions of the beast within.
Effects on Character Skills
Some victims of pathologic lycanthropy have learned specific skills before they contracted the dread affliction. For example, they may have acquired prodigious weapon skills. Or they may have learned how to wield the powers of magic. How does the transfiguration affect these skills?
As long as a victim of pathologic lycanthropy is in human form, the affliction has little effect on his skills. He can wield his sword or cast his spells as effectively as he did before he acquired the infection.
While I have heard that certain specific attributes are altered, this seems to be rare. For example, those skilled woodsmen known to some as "rangers" frequently show unusual degrees of animal empathy, being able to calm wild beasts with their very presence. This ability may evaporate if the ranger is infected with lycanthropy. Priests of the more beneficent gods may find that their deities become somewhat unresponsive. Once the lycanthropy has started to manifest itself - that is, once the individual has transfigured for the first time - a priest may find himself unable to acquire and use the more potent types of clerical magic. I suspect that this arises more from the actions of the person while in secondary aspect than from the simple fact of his infection, however. Any priest who acts against the tenets of his faith will be punished, and the actions of a transfigured lycanthrope will almost certainly be against the tenets of all but the most bloodthirsty religions. Certain deities, especially those who follow the precepts of forgiveness, might not exact such penalties on their priests. I do not know this for sure, however.
What, then, about skills acquired through training and experience? Does an infected lycanthrope retain these special abilities even when he becomes the beast?
In general, the answer is no. In animal aspect, a lycanthrope's ability to attack and to defend itself are those of the aspect itself. It matters not whether the victim is, in human form, a sickly peasant or the mightiest warrior in the world. In animal aspect, both of these folk have the same physical strength and combat skill (assuming both are transformed into the same phenotype, of course).
An infected lycanthrope does not retain its human mentality when in animal aspect. While knowledge of facts is retained, all skills depending on mental outlook and philosophy are lost with the transfiguration. Thus, the animal aspect of a spellcaster cannot wield the powers of magic.
As noted, memory is maintained in animal aspect, albeit possibly in a modified form. (Otherwise the beast would not be able to evade traps set by itself in human form, and could not track down its victims using knowledge of their habits and whereabouts.) It thus seems logical to me that skills based largely on factual knowledge will be maintained in animal aspect. For example, if a woman skilled in heraldry becomes infected with the scourge, she will retain her ability to recognize coats of arms even while in animal form.
What about true lycanthropes? Since they were born as werebeasts and surely will die as such, they have no "previous skills" to lose. The issue of what special skills a werebeast can acquire is discussed in Chapter Three.
In general; all class-related skills will be lost on transition to animal form: a rogue's lock-picking and climbing skills, for example, or a warrior's combat skills. An infected lycanthrope in animal form has the abilities and immunities of the werebeast that infected him. This means his THAC0. AC, damage, saving throws, hit points, and special attacks and defenses are those of the werebeast.
Infected and true lycanthropes differ significantly in their eating habits and dietary requirements. Thus, I shall deal with each type of lycanthrope separately.
While in human aspect, victims of pathologic lycanthropy experience no significant change in their need for food; it remains just as it was before they contracted the contagion. Although their preferences alter somewhat, leaning more toward rare cuts of meat, they can still subsist on normal diets, and can extract sustenance from fruits and vegetables.
As soon as infected lycanthropes assume the shape of a beast, however, things are very different. The creatures will immediately try to eat their fill of fresh, raw flesh. The amount required varies by phenotype and matches the requirements set out for true lycanthropes below. (For example, when an infected werewolf assumes its animal form, it will start hunting for 20 pounds of fresh meat.) Very few infected lycanthropes maintain their secondary aspect for more than eight to twelve hours, however, so the chance of starvation is slim. Once the beasts become human again, their need for flesh is diminished. Nonetheless, infected lycanthropes that retain their animatistic form for extended periods could conceivably starve if opportunities for killing were limited.
Table 4: Diet of Lucanthropes
Regardless of phenotype, all true lycanthropes must eat meat to survive. Although they can eat vegetables and fruit (and will do so to bolster their masquerade while in human aspect), they gain little nourishment or enjoyment from doing so.
Some phenotypes can subsist on previously killed prey, on flesh that has been dead for hours or even days. This ability matches the natural feeding habits of the base phenotype. If the animal form resembles a creature that is naturally a scavenger - for example, wererats, werewolves, and werejackals - then the werebeast can eat older flesh. If the animal aspect is naturally a hunter - weretigers or weresharks, for example - the werebeast can gain sustenance only from flesh that is freshly killed.
Regardless, all werebeasts vastly prefer freshly killed prey.
A wary hunter of werebeasts does not confuse the need for a fresh kill with the inability to stomach cooked or aged meat, however. Even a weretiger could enter an ordinary household and dine heartily on a venison stew. While the creature would gain no sustenance from the meal, and might have to feign any enjoyment, it would not be harmed by the experience.
For werebeasts who assume the form of animal scavengers, the restrictions on what meat they can and cannot eat is very similar to the requirements of normal humans. Thus, if meat is in a state fit for humans to eat without serious risk of sickness, a scavenger lycanthrope can also eat it.
Scavenger iycanthropes can and do preserve flesh, using techniques similar to those used by humans, that is, spicing and salting. Such techniques decrease the nutritional value of the flesh, however, by a factor of two. Thus, scavenger lycanthropes must eat twice as much preserved meat as normal. Even scavenger werebeasts can never extract sustenance from cooked food. Cooking instantly and irrevocably destroys the nutritional value of meat for a werebeast.
As a general rule, a true lycanthrope must eat an amount of flesh roughly equal to the amount necessary to sustain a natural specimen of its animal aspect. For example, a two-foot-long giant rat would eat perhaps two pounds of food each day. This means a wererat must eat two pounds of raw flesh each day to sustain itself. Food other than raw flesh - or, in the case of nonscavenger werebeasts, other than fresh raw flesh - does not count toward this total. Thus the wererat would still have to eat two full pounds of flesh, no matter how much fruit, bread, and vegetables it otherwise consumed.
From my own research and encounters, I provide the following estimates of food requirements for different phenotypes. I must stress that these are estimates: variation between individuals may exist. Also, this does not take into account the possibility that certain werebeasts may prefer to eat more than others.
The figures above represent my best guess at aoerage requirements. A true lycanthrope can go for up to four days without suitable food before it begins to suffer any ill effects. This assumes, however, that it eventually makes up for the food it has missed.
Note that even the wererat discussed above will probably slay one animal (or person) every day (or couple of days, at least). Since it prefers fresh meat, it will probably make a kill just to get its two pounds of flesh.
All lycanthropes appear to prefer human and humanoid flesh to that of animals. This preference is not so strong that the creatures cannot override it when necessary, however. They can derive sustenance from any form of flesh (keeping in mind the restrictions I have set out above, of course).
Van Richten's estimates for dietary requirements are quite accurate, but he fails to answer several key questions. For instance, how much flesh can a werebeast glean from the average man? From a goblin? For a simple solution, use the following guidelines in play: On average, a man-sized victim yields 100 pounds of flesh (including skin, marrow, and organs). A creature classified as "large" yields 150 pounds, while a creature that is size "small" yields 50.
Unlike the undead creatures I have studied, werebeasts follow a natural cycle from birth to death. They are born, they mature to adulthood, and they eventually die of old age. As noted below, however, this pattern varies between infected and true lycanthropes.
When a person contracts pathologic lycanthropy, his or her natural life span is unchanged. Thus, a human blighted with lycanthropy will rarely live past 75 or 80, while an elf with the similar affliction might have to suffer it for half a millennium or more.
To the best of my knowledge, regardless of the age and maturity of the victim, the animal aspect is always that of a mature creature in the prime of its life. (This quite obviously puts the lie to that oft-quoted folktale that an infected werewolf must only put up with the affliction for 15 or so years, after which time the wolf within will have died of old age.) Whether the victim is a youth or a centenarian, the animal aspect is always powerful and vigorous.
Does this mean, then, that an infant - perhaps infected with the blight while in the womb - may undergo the transfiguration the first time it experiences its trigger? Could a baby, on the occasion of its first full moon, become a ravening werewolf? Such is not the case. In my experience, infected lycanthropes will not undergo the transfiguration until they have reached puberty (at whatever age that occurs for the species in question). Up until this time, they do not react to the trigger stimulus.
Why is this? I believe that the infective agent insinuated into the bloodstream requires its own trigger - something to make it active. Presumably, the vast physiological changes of puberty provide such a trigger.
According to many tales, infected children do respond to their trigger conditions in subtle ways. Rather than transfiguring into the beast, they exhibit a strong or inappropriate emotional reaction to the trigger. Thus, a child who will one day become a wolf when the moon is full may respond to a full moon with rather beastly behavior. In short, the child may exhibit a monthly lunacy. As of yet, I have found no direct evidence to support this notion, however.
Other aspects of the life cycle - sexual maturity, senility, and the end of fertility - are all unaffected by the blight of lycanthropy. Victims of this dread affliction reach all these signposts of life at the same ages as others of their race.
It should be pointed out, however, that the animal aspects never reach such signposts. No matter how old the human aspect, the beast form will never grow senile, nor will it suffer other visible or physiological effects of aging.
Of course, some infected lycanthropes have a hybrid as their secondary aspect. (They take the form of a man-beast.) In that case, the hybrid form shows the same outward signs of aging as the werebeast's primary form.
Statistics measuring the Strength and Dexterity of common werebeasts in hybrid form are listed below. These figures, and the accompanying notes on aging, apply to any creature in man-beast form, pathologic or infected.
The overall life span of a true lycanthrope seems to be approximately that of the race which its primary aspect resembles. Thus a werebeast that can appear human will have a life span of about 70 years, while a creature that seems to be an elf can live for over half a millennium.
I have been led to understand that, in certain distant lands which I have never had the chance to visit, the offspring of true lycanthropes mature quite differently from normal children. (For example, wererat offspring reach maturity in about two years.) This does not match my personal experience, however.
Everywhere that I have had occasion to visit, the offspring of true lycanthropes always appear to be normal human infants. Some, but not all, exhibit some of the subtle bestial characteristics described in a previous section (see Chapter One), such as slightly elongated forefingers. Otherwise, children who inherit lycanthropy grow and mature at the same rate as others of their apparent race or species.
Like infected children, the immature offspring of true werebeasts cannot change shape. The transfiguration is beyond their grasp, and they remain in human aspect. When they reach puberty, however, the situation changes rapidly.
At some point early in puberty, the child undergoes its first transfiguration. The exact moment cannot be predicted, nor can the metamorphosis be halted or controlled. Even the aspect assumed is uncertain; the child may become either the animal or the man-beast (assuming the phenotype exhibits all three aspects). Once transformed, the child cannot predict how long the change will last. For a period measured in days, the child has absolutely no control over its body, which changes from aspect to aspect randomly.
This period of uncontrollable change tasts for 1d3+1 days. During this time, the lycanthrope changes aspect every 1d6 hours. For each change, randomly determine which aspect it assumes.
Understandably, this period is terrifying for the young lycanthrope, even if its parents have told it what to expect. When in secondary or tertiary aspect, there is a very real risk that the creature will fly into bloodlust.
For obvious reasons, the parents of a young true lycanthrope will find some excuse for separating the youth from human society before the onset of puberty. In some secure location, they will monitor the progress of their offspring, helping it gain control of its transfigurations. This training period may last for days or weeks, depending on the personality of the child, and the care with which its parents try to teach it [in other words, DM's discretion]. At the end of this time, the creature will have full control of its shapeshifting ability, and will rarely (if ever) undergo transfiguration without actively willing itself to do so.
What about young lycanthropes who are separated from their parents, or those who may even be unaware of their true nature? (I have known one such case, an unfortunate child whose adoptive parents were forced to slay him when he became a wererat and tried to kill them.) Without guidance, it is possible that even an orphaned child could learn to control its transfiguration. The learning process takes much longer without suitable guidance, of course, extending from days or weeks to weeks or months. Some individuals can never learn how to control their transfigurations, however. With time, the random shifts become less frequent, but they never completely vanish. For obvious reasons, these individuals cannot successfully masquerade as humans. Neither are they accepted by their own kind, and thus are doomed to solitary (and usually short) lives.
Aging and True Lycanthropes
True lycanthropes never assume the form of immature animals. Nor, in my experience, is there such a thing as a child-beast hybrid. When the first change comes upon the creature, its other aspects are fully mature in all characteristics. This to not say that time does not touch the true lycanthrope, however. Unlike their infected brethren, true lycanthropes appear to age in all their aspects.
In animal form, the changes wrought by age are largely cosmetic. The fur on the animal's ears and muzzle becomes whiter, the teeth discolor, and the eyes become steadily more rheumy and bloodshot. Such aging reflects the relative age of the creature's human form. (For example, assume that the primary aspect is a human with a life span of 80 years, and the animal aspect is a wolf, with a life span of 20. When the creature is 40 years old, its animal aspect will resemble a 10-year-old wolf.) Looks are deceiving, however. The animal's actual speed and strength seem to change only slightly with age, if at all.
The man-beast aspect also appears to age at a rate which is proportionate to the human aspect's condition. In time, patches of gray will appear in its pelt, and the hair may even start to thin. The eyes will become more bloodshot, in this case, appearances are correct. The man-beast's strength, dexterity, and other characteristics are affected by age, in much the same way as the primary aspect.
While I probably know more about this fascinating subject than any other expert, even my knowledge is incomplete. Like most other creatures, lycanthropes consider their procreative behavior to be intensely personal, and not a topic for public discussion.
Whiie in human aspect, infected lycanthropes will engage in the same procreative behavior as uninfected individuals of their own race. Fertility, incidence of multiple birth, gestation period, and similar factors are unchanged. As mentioned in the previous chapter, if the father of a child is an infected lycanthrope, the child will not automatically suffer the affliction (unless the father subsequently infects it through normal means, of course). If the mother suffers the blight, however, so will the child. It will share the same phenotype and trigger condition as its mother.
It is interesting to point out that infected females who are with child become immune to their normal trigger condition during the last third of the gestation period. This seems to be an adaptation designed to protect the unborn child. Human females, then, will not undergo transfiguration - no matter what the stimulus - during the final three months of pregnancy. As though to make up for the lapse, the first transfiguration after giving birth may be particularly violent, and it will always lead to bloodlust.
The woman automatical iy flies into bloodlust on changing into her secondary form, and must eat twice her normal amount following her first post-partum transfiguration. If she survives this episode, she reverts to her normal behavior thereafter. The effective Strength and Dexterity of many man-beast forms are listed below. Mote that some infected lycanthropes may acquire a man-beast form as their secondary aspect (rather than an animal). The rules stated here apply to such infected creatures as well.
Although it would seem logical that a female werebeast's first target after giving birth might be her own offspring, this does not seem to be the case. Probably as the result of a prosurvival adaptation, female werebeasts in their secondary aspect seem to consider their own children off-limits ... so long as those children are also infected lycanthropes. Children born before their mother's infection, who do not share the lycanthropic scourge, often do become targets of her bestial predations. (Of course, this willingness to attack one's own offspring can also be observed in infected males whose children do not share their affliction.)
There are some significant differences in procreative behavior between true lycanthropes and the human or humanoid species they resemble. Gestation period is unchanged; thus, a female werebeast whose primary aspect is human will carry a child for about nine months. Many other characteristics of procreation are different, however.
For example, werebeasts reach sexual maturity earlier than most members of their "primary species". This difference is not so great as to be remarkable (as it would be if a young werewolf were sexually mature at age three, for example). However, if this early maturity were allowed to become known, it would qualify the offspring as sexually precocious. True werebeasts also tend to be more fertile than members of the race they resemble. And they have a slightly higher incidence of multiple births. However, none of these differences is great enough to alert any but the most meticulous (and suspicious) researcher.
The offspring of a male and female true lycanthrope will always be a true lycanthrope of the same phenotype, whatever conditions apply. I have heard strange tales of werebeast societies in which males and females only seek out their mates in hybrid form, but I cannot confirm such reports. Such behavior may be ritualistic. Or perhaps it reflects a societal perception of sexual attractiveness. (Do not normal men and women put their best face forward to attract the opposite sex?) At any rate, I know of no reason why any aspect of the true lycanthrope should be infertile, since each form is but a natural extension of the same being.
As dreadful as it may seem, true lycanth ropes do sometimes court normal, uninfected humans or demihumans. Such a union can lead to the birth of a child. (It is for this reason that I have characterized each variety of lycanthrope as a phenotype rather than a species.) The lycanthropic condition of their offspring is discussed in Chapter One.
Those who are well acquainted with werebeast lore have no doubt heard an occasional tale of the union between two distinct phenotypes - a wererat and a werewolf, for example. I have seen scant evidence of such aberrant pairings; fortunately, true werebeasts appear to have an aversion to such behavior. I firmly believe, however, that offspring will be produced only if the corresponding animal species - in the example above, a rat and a wolf - would produce young under normal circumstances. Thus, only similar phenotypic species can reproduce, werejaguars and weretigers for example, or werejackals and werewolves. The offspring of such a union would reflect a mixed heritage in all three aspects. Note that such offspring would themselves be infertile; they could not produce young of their own.
Gestation and Birth: During the first quarter of the gestation period, female true lycanthropes are free to transfigure into any of their three aspects without any risk to their unborn child. After that, however, they will not change into animal aspect unless the only other alternative is death. (I do not know categorically what effect this change would have on the unborn, but I suspect that it might lead to a stillbirth.) During the latter three-quarters of pregnancy, the female limits her transfigurations to human and man-beast aspects exclusively. Dietary needs change as the pregnancy progresses; after the second month, the mother's appetite is increased by one-quarter to one-half.
True lycanthropic mothers usually give birth in the same form in which their children begin life: human. However, I have heard tell that the pain of labor may induce a spontaneous transfiguration into the man-beast aspect. [The lycanthrope must save vs. paralysis to prevent this.] Perhaps for this reason, many true lycanthropes prefer to bear their offspring in private, lest a midwife learn of their true nature. (On the other hand, they may simply slay the midwife after the birth.)
Lycanthropes recover from the rigors of birth much faster than do normal humans. They could be up and around, fully functional, within minutes of the birth, if this were necessary. Most lycanthropes will feign the post-partum weakness (and sometimes depression) exhibited by humans, however, merely to maintain their masquerade.
Rearing Young: True lycanthropes show a somewhat schizophrenic outlook with regard to their young, if they can do so without personal risk or significant hardship, they will usually nurture their young until the offspring have reached puberty and can control their transfigurations. At this point, all contact between parents and offspring usually comes to an end. Before puberty, the parents - predominately the mother - will protect and educate the children. Most werebeasts are stricter, more severe parents than are the majority of humans. The difference is rarely great enough to attract overmuch attention, however.
It is important to note that few lycanthrope parents will tell their offspring the "facts of life" until the children are old enough to understand the importance of concealing their true nature. Since the parents are hunting throughout this period, it is not uncommon for lycanthropic children to be orphaned before they learn what they are.
The attitude of werebeast parents toward their children seems directly tied to the parents' own security. Most true lycanthropes I encounter are living within (or at least on the outskirts of) human civilization, masquerading as normal humans. Typically, no one suspects their true nature. Cunning lycanthropes can maintain this facade for years or even decades - possibly not in the same locale, but by moving on to a new village or town when the focus of suspicion turns in their direction. However, if suspicion does start to focus upon them, true werebeasts with young children will, without a qualm, arrange it so that their offspring are the next victims of the "mysterious monster". This will usually divert suspicion, at least for a time, since few humans want to believe that parents of any species could so cold-bloodedly sacrifice their children. Such is the nature of werebeasts, however.
Even if children merely represent a hardship, true lycanthropes are quite likely to abandon or sacrifice their young simply to make their own lives easier. This may occur if the presence of children hinders the parents' ability to hunt or otherwise feed themselves, or - if traveling is necessary - when offspring would limit the parents' mobility. This willingness to contemplate and perform infanticide is perhaps the most horrifying facet of the lycanthropic personality, and the fact that most distinctly sets these beasts apart from humans.
The preceding paragraphs focus on lycanthropes that masquerade as humans and thus infiltrate society. Within the limits of my personal experience, such creatures are in the majority. However, there are also werebeasts who prefer to exist in the shadows beyond normal human society. These creatures spend much of their lives in man-beast or animal aspect, assuming human form only temporarily-when it would benefit them on the hunt, for example. How do creatures of this feral ilk handle their offspring? Remember, such offspring are born in human aspect, and they cannot change form for more than a decade.
Based on my personal knowledge, lycanthropes of this kind use two main strategies. One is simply to raise their offspring themselves, carrying them around in the wilds, succoring them and educating them in the ways of their own savage lifestyle. I believe that immature lycanthropes raised in this way are at the heart of many legends of children who were raised by wolves or other creatures.
The second strategy is simply to abandon the offspring on the outskirts of human settlements. In most cases, of course, the foundlings will be adopted by members of the community who are unaware just how feral such children really are. I have no doubt that the true parents of these monsters enjoy many a cruel laugh at the humans who behave so generously. For that generosity will, in all likelihood, eventually be rewarded by a savage and lethal attack.
If the lycanthropes choose not to follow either of these options, they seem no less willing to practice infanticide than true werebeasts who lead (or feign) a more civilized existence.
As I have hinted earlier, many true lycanthropes dwell within human or humanoid civilization or on its outskirts, acting as societal parasites. Some, however, choose to live in the wilds, or perhaps in secret lairs beneath the streets walked by unsuspecting humans. And even werebeasts that do reside within human society may maintain secret haunts elsewhere; lairs to which they can retreat should their true nature be in danger of discovery, or simply because they need time alone. Infected werebeasts do not typically alter their habitat once they have acquired lycanthropy, but they maintain a home in the fashion of others of their race. Thus, the following discussions relate primarily to true lycanthropes.
Although they are not what most people think of as lairs, the houses or apartments occupied by werebeasts within human society are worthy of some attention. In general, a lycanthrope's personality will be largely influenced by its phenotype (see the following chapter for further detail). Since an individual's home will usually be an outgrowth of his personality, it follows that a lycanthrope's town lair will reflect its phenotype.
In large part, or at least symbolically, a lycanthrope's town lair will resemble the kind of lair the phenotypic animal would have in the wild. (In other words, the town lair of a werebadger will symbolically resemble the lair of a real badger.) Other facets of the creature's psychology might also be reflected. For example, a wererat will almost certainly have one or more secret escape routes. And, if at all possible, it will also have arranged access to the sewers or the local equivalent.
Despite such nuances in individual taste, several characteristics are common to werebeast lairs regardless of the owner's phenotype. First, most lycanthropes create at least one concealed access to their town lair. Werebeasts must frequently go out to hunt. However, few are daring enough to use the front door of their homes each time they leave and return. At any time, an observer might correlate the creature's late-night jaunts with killings or disappearances and suspect the werebeast's true nature. A secret passage helps eliminate this risk. However, even a cautious lycanthrope will sometimes leave by the front door to embark on a hunt - quite openly in fact, with some believable excuse. In this way, it will avoid suspicious patterns.
Storage is a common concern. Those creatures who subordinate their preference for fresh meat to the convenience of having a supply must create a larder. This larder must be concealed; otherwise a visiting busybody, with no suspicion of the werebeast's true nature, might find the half-eaten remnants of a vanished neighbor. The werebeast also must make provisions to prevent the supplies from spoiling, which would both render the food inedible and give the werebeast's secret away with the smell of corruption.
A town lair will typically be laid out so the lycanthrope can negotiate the doors, rooms, and hallways regardless of what aspect it currently holds. (This is more important for creatures like werebears than for wererats, of course.)
Allow me to describe the lair of a werebeast I faced in Port-a-Lucine, a town in Dementlieu. This individual, a wererat, had resided in this town for almost half a decade without anyone growing wise to his true nature. In fact, he held a position on the town council. (Readers from Dementlieu may well recognize the individual of whom I write, although for personal reasons I will not refer to him by name.)
Compilers' Note: And against my better judgment, I'll accede to the wishes of the good doctor arid my sister and leave this vermin anonymous despite later events the doctor describes herein.
This individual had commissioned his small house to be built on the Widow's Walk, the wide thoroughfare that ringed the natural harbor. Although the werebeast's human aspect was slightly above average size, the house's doors and corridors were surprisingly narrow, and the ceilings unusually low. The heads of most visitors would brush the ceiling, while the owner himself had to stoop. I believe the reason for this was psychological. As a wererat, he was innately used to cramped, labyrinthine warrens. Perhaps he even relished them. Thus, the wererat built his house in a fashion that made him feel most at home.
Although the individual was relatively wealthy, he had little interest in the finer things of life. His house was far from empty, however. Instead, it was full of knickknacks, predominately small and shiny things, items that were of no discernible monetary or aesthetic value. While the individual seemed to enjoy being surrounded by these items, he evinced little emotional attachment to specific objects.
Unbeknownst to the builders, the individual had located his house directly over an abandoned branch of the storm-drain system that ran beneath much of the town. In his private chapel, he had installed a concealed trap door that gave him direct access to this network of underground drains. It was via this route that he left his home to hunt. It was also this storm drain that he used as his larder.
Although the wererat had no true religion, he had persuaded the townsfolk that he was a fervent follower of a particularly introspective religious tradition. This tradition, he explained, required him to practice long hours of meditation and self-examination in the chapel included in his house. He would always make a big show of returning home for his devotions as soon as the sun had set. In fact, of course, he was preparing to hunt.
For most individuals, this alibi would have been sufficient, but this wererat's cunning took it one step further. He constructed a mannequin that resembled himself, kneeling in prayer. Every time he left his house at night to hunt, he placed this kneeling mannequin before the altar in his chapel. Should any of his neighbors spy in his window, they would see a reverent man in rapt devotion.
Although I hesitate to boast, I must admit that it was I who discerned this individual's true nature. On the request of certain townsfolk, I agreed to seek out the source of the mysterious depredations that had been bedeviling the place for years. After much research, I determined that the only way the ravening creature could have reached its prey was through portions of the storm-drain system thought to have collapsed. Returning to ancient records describing the system, I found where the unused section ran. Lo and behold, the only building that could possibly have access to that section was the house of the council member. Proud though I am of my detective work, the story did not end well. I found myself in a face to-face confrontation with the werebeast, one which I survived only through good fortune. The beast escaped with its foul life, and could well have since set up housekeeping elsewhere.
Lycanthropes that eschew human society make their lairs in the wilds. "Socialized" werebeasts may choose a wilderness setting as well, albeit for other reasons (such as pleasure, a place to hunt, or a place to mate and raise offspring).
Like town lairs, wilderness lairs reflect the nature and psychology of the phenotypic animal. The psychological element is frequently more pronounced in wilderness lairs, since the werebeasts are most commonly in animal or man-beast aspect while using them.
We had ridden forth, my friends and I, for an enjoyable day of hunting boar. We had our horses, we had our beaters to drive the quarry before us, and we had our weighted spears.
The weather was perfect, and luck seemed to be with us. We had been in the saddle for less than an hour when the beaters called that they had seen signs of a fine boar in the woods ahead of us. My companions and I readied for our sport.
We heard the cries of the beaters, then a crashing from the underbrush before us. The boar burst into the clearing where we sat - a fine, muscular creature, larger than any I had ever seen. ft lowered its head and charged directly at the legs of my horse. Calming my mount with whispers of encouragement, I steadied my spear.
ft was a perfect thrust, I swear it. The keen point should have sheathed itself in the beast's flesh, Just behind its shoulder - a killing thrust indeed.
Yet, for some reason, the spear point turned on the creature's pelt, with the shaft wrenched from my fingers by the impact.
And then the terror began...
- From the journal of Lord D'Arcy Penspot
Finding a suitable location for a wilderness lair is often an exercise in compromise. It must be at least somewhat removed from human habitation. (Otherwise, why have a wilderness lair in the first place?) Yet it must also lie close enough to suitable sources of food (that is, near humans or humanoids, for most werebeasts at any rate). Wererats seem to have the easiest time in meeting both these criteria. They often make their wilderness lairs beneath the streets of a town or village, in the sewers or storm drains. Despite the fact that they are within the limits of a town, I qualify these as wilderness lairs anyway because they are distinct from human habitations.
Security is also a major concern. Most lycanthropes have little to fear from normal hunters. If an unfortunate woodsman encounters a werewolf, it will probably be the last creature he ever sees. Yet one day such an interloper may survive and inform others that a werebeast is close at hand, and those others may be quite capable of harming the lycanthrope. Even within the most depressed and fatalistic cultures, few villages would shy away from taking action against a lycanthrope that had constructed a lair nearby. For this reason, most iycanthropes seek to conceal the entrances to their wilderness lairs in some manner. This is obviously much easier for werebeasts with relatively small animal aspects (wererats, for example). White the interior of the lair could welt be large enough to accommodate the creature in human aspect, the actual entryways may block anything larger than the phenotypic animal itself.
Some iycanthropes, it seems, build their tairs to resemble the lairs of natural animals of their phenotype. (Thus, a werebear's lair might, at first glance, be indistinguishable from the den of a real bear.) This has both advantages and disadvantages for the creature. On one hand, it will draw little attention from adventurers or investigators who may be looking for evidence of lycanthropic activity. On the other, it might draw unwanted attention from hunters who would normally track and slay the phenotypic animal, either for food or sport. Many werebeasts disguise their lairs as something else entirely - an overgrown cave entrance, for example.
An easy means of entering and escaping the lair is very important. Most lycanthrope lairs have a main entrance, which is large enough to admit the beast regardless of its aspect. In addition, the lair features several other escape routes, usually well concealed. Depending on the phenotype in question, some of these routes may be accessible to the creature only when in certain aspects. Obviously, creatures with animal aspects that are smaller than man-sized can benefit the most from this technique.
The interior of a lair can vary dramatically. Some that I have seen are bare of any adornment and free of any humanlike comfort. They are nothing but bare-walled caves, resembling the dens of ordinary bears. Other lairs look almost like human homes in their decor - at least when one is beyond the concealed entrance. Such lairs may have simple furnishings and carpets made of woven grass. Only rarely does a wilderness lair have more elaborate furnishings, such as ornately carved woods or artwork on the walls. Lycanthropes who enjoy such human-style luxury usually establish it in town rather than in the wilderness.
Like town lairs, many wilderness lairs have some sort of storage area for food. However, most wilderness lairs have no provisions that can preserve raw flesh for any significant length of time. Thus, even the best-stocked larder will not significantly decrease the frequency of a lycanthrope's hunting.
Certain self-styled lycanthrope hunters claim that traps of unsurpassed cunning and lethality protect all wilderness lairs. Judging from my experience, such claims are nothing but self-aggrandizement, designed to make the hunters' own actions seem more dangerous and hence more valuable. This is not to say that traps are never found, however. I have personally visited lairs that were protected by deadfalls, concealed pits, and other rudimentary traps. Only one was protected by anything more sophisticated - in this case, mechanical and magical traps of disturbing efficacy. However, the werebeast in question was atypical, having learned the rudiments of the mage's art. Just as few humans have the skill to set up complex tricks and traps, so too do few Iycanthropes. A few werebeasts with greater proficiency have somehow learned the skills of the thief, the mage, or the priest (which is discussed further in the following chapter).