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Lycanthropy is described in the Monster Manual as a curse. Some members of our party contracted it from a pack of werewolves in a recent session, and we consulted the infobox in the Monster Manual to see what effects it has.

The infobox "Player Characters as Lycanthropes" on Monster Manual page 207 states:

A character who becomes a lycanthrope retains his or her statistics except as specified by lycanthrope type. The character gains the lycanthrope's speeds in nonhumanoid form, damage immunities, traits and actions that don't involve equipment. ...

... If the character embraces the curse, his or her alignment becomes the one defined by the lycanthrope. The DM is free to decide that a change in alignment places the character under DM control until the curse of lycanthropy is removed.

...

Werewolf. The character gains a Strength of 15 if his or her score isn't already higher, and a +1 bonus to AC while in wolf or hybrid form (from natural armor). ...

To me, this sounds like a very positive curse to have. A player who chooses to resist the curse gains a passive buff to Strength (unless their Strength is already 15 or more) and some very potent damage immunities. The alignment change and the associated loss of PC control is conditional on the PC embracing the curse, and as such it's not really an issue. One can even remain in humanoid form to avoid socially awkward situations using the Shapechanger ability.

So, is there any mechanical reason to not contract lycanthropy, or a reason get rid of it after contracting it? What makes it a curse?

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    \$\begingroup\$ You ask two different questions — "is there any mechanical reason" is not the same as "what makes it a curse". A curse might be a curse due to a non-mechanical reason as well. \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Jul 18 '18 at 11:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ My immediate response to the title question, in my head, was "hangnail" but I was only thinking of werewolf ... \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Sep 18 '20 at 18:34
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The infobox makes it seem that loss of character control only happens if the PC embraces the curse and the DM chooses to take control of the character, and therefore simply not embracing the curse would suffice to keep the character as a lycanthrope complete with powerful boons like damage immunities but without any drawbacks. However, the lore earlier in the lycanthrope chapter suggests that the condition is impossible to resist during full moon:

A lycanthrope can either resist its curse or embrace it. By resisting the curse, a lycanthrope retains its normal alignment and personality while in humanoid form. It lives its life as it always has, burying deep the bestial urges raging inside it. However, when the full moon rises, the curse becomes too strong to resist, transforming the individual into its beast form --- or into a horrible hybrid form that combines animal and humanoid traits.

(from Monster Manual, page 206, under Curse of Lycanthropy)

Even a character that resists the curse is unable to control their bloodlust during full moon, as is traditional to werewolves in fiction. Ask your DM to keep track of the phase of the moon while you're infected so you know how fast you need to get a remedy or other countermeasures.

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    \$\begingroup\$ 'while you're infected' makes it sound like this is something you'd want to get rid of. Your answer makes it pretty clear the downsides are more or less completely negligible, yes? It seems like it would be more in keeping with the rest of the answer to say "... so you know when to take precautions against involuntary rampages" \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Jul 18 '18 at 10:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer The MM consistently describes lycanthropy as a curse, it's not exactly my input that it's supposedly a nasty condition. How serious issue the full moon thing is varies a lot from table to table, of course. \$\endgroup\$ – kviiri Jul 18 '18 at 10:44
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Some of the time, someone else controls your character

If you choose to resist the curse then during the full moon your character transforms into a beast and someone else (usually the GM) controls their actions. After that time is finished you get control of the character back.

Worse than that...

During that time, they make your character do really bad things

While transformed, your character rampages - attacking, killing, and feeding. These are not the actions of a normal beast, however. A werewolf is a supernatural, evil creature. It kills for fun, not for food.

At the end of the transformation you get your character back but you then have to deal with the consequences of their actions.

In traditional monster movies, these consequences usually involve townsfolk with torches and pitchforks. :-)

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The Grey Wolf Tribe of lycanthropy Barbarians that see to it that lycanthropy does not spread to those unworthy. I would think a DM that didn't support the use of a player's using the curse would send in groups of this tribe to make valiant efforts to destroy the player and his cohorts.

Being hunted by barbarians seems like a down-side.

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    \$\begingroup\$ While this is a good answer as far as the Forgotten Realms setting is concerned, this question is about D&D 5e. \$\endgroup\$ – mech Jul 19 '18 at 19:18
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I would see that it is a multi personality with the player as one half and the dm/player only if the dm sees fit. either way you will inevitably change to the 'beast' during the full moon, and on the remove curse way of getting it wont help those who have contracted lycanthropy from a parent it is in the phb, that it is very hard to get rid of the "blood line" form of lycanthropy requiring more then a 3rd level spell the combat the curse, and if I was the dm I would make it close to if not impossible to get rid of the curse, and those that have contracted it are few and far between due to people "hunting" those who have it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. Note that all answers on RPG.SE should be supported by citing evidence/experience. The parts of your answer that touch on official mechanical downsides should be supported by citations to the relevant rules/material. Furthermore, the last part of your answer seems to be unsupported by the rules; have you actually done this in your own games, or seen it done in someone else's game? How has it worked out? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Sep 18 '20 at 7:28
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Well your not going to like this one.

Mechanically speaking in Vanilla D&D 5e all you need is the spell remove curse. which is a 3rd level spell to my knowledge. Cast once, and you are cured... If you would like an idea of how it could be a curse I would check out Dwarf Fortress videos.

As for Drawbacks. When the full moon comes out the person Transforms. Now if you play it they are a mindless beast than this is only a drawback if they cant lock themselves up for the night. (if they are being chased for instance) However as the DM you would have to more or less keep meticulous track of this for it to matter... Which honestly you will probably give up at some point.

However if you instead play the Full Moon Transformation as an Intelligent, and evil (exception to were ravens, and bears) beings that are trying to fulfill their ambitions. They want you to embrace the curse. To become a true animal, and carry out your desires on these lesser creatures. As a result though you more or less become that evil entity you just have more control over it. Because it is no longer in a rush to commit crimes.

You are also carrying a curse that can rapidly infect entire villages. especially if they dont have any silvered weapons. As a result you can end up having entire countryside's become ravaged by cursed individuals with either no control, or malevolent control over their curses which activate every month on a full moon. The setting implications for if this ever got out of control is actually pretty cool.

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