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Recently, I wrote an answer to this question: When does a character cursed with lycanthropy become aware that they are cursed?

At the end of the answer, I pointed out that the character's alignment will only change if the character embraces the curse, as outlined in the sidebar in the Monster Manual, p. 207:

If the character embraces the curse, his or her alignment becomes the one defined for the lycanthrope.

However, on p. 206, it states:

By resisting the curse, a lycanthrope retains its normal alignment and personality while in humanoid form.

I interpreted this to mean that someone resisting the curse cannot voluntarily shapeshift. However, I could not point to anything to back this up, since it seems that, according to the sidebar, they simply gain the traits of a lycanthrope, which includes the Shapechanger trait.

Can a PC cursed with lycanthropy but who is choosing to resist the curse voluntarily shapeshift (i.e. use the Shapechanger trait)?

I say "voluntarily" just to exclude the "full moon" scenario; that's not what I'm asking about here.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The reason I ask is because in my Curse of Strahd game that I'm running, the party will be facing werewolves very soon, so I'd like to know this as it may influence how we play it out should anyone get cursed... \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Nov 22 '19 at 10:26
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Such a PC cannot shapeshift at will

Some individuals see little point in fighting the curse and accept what they are. With time and experience, they learn to master their shapechanging ability and can assume beast form or hybrid form at will.

To shapeshift at will requires mastery, which in turn requires time and experience.

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

Individuals who have not accepted the curse live as they always have and only give in to their urge to transform on a full moon, which means they do try to gain mastery over the shapeshifting ability.

Moreover, individuals who have only just been recently cursed clearly lack in both time and experience with the lycanthrope shapeshifting ability. PCs will generally fall in this category.

In practice, this means a PC might try to shapeshift voluntarily and fail to do so, while in another situation the PC might shapeshift involuntarily (a full moon is an example of such a situation).

Depending on how the table likes to handle this kind of thing, the player might still have agency over the shapeshifting ability, even if the PC does not fully.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ These quotes seem to imply that embracing the curse is a prerequisite to mastering it. \$\endgroup\$ – Aetol Nov 23 '19 at 23:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Aetol This Q&A goes into more detail about that side of things, and generally agrees with you. \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Nov 24 '19 at 18:33

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