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I am planning to put my group into a scenario where they might get turned into Werewolfs. As I am not entirely happy with how Werebeasts are portrait in the rules, MM pg. 207., I.e. Hybrid forms and Werewolfs running around in armour and swinging Greatswords (I like my wolves tooth and claw, not sword and board. Thank you very much!)

I decided to try my hand on modifying them to suit my desired outcome. This is the first draft I came up with.

Lycanthropy

Once per long rest you can assume your Werewolf form, growing in size, leaving your armor and gear, or absorb them, your choice. When you do so you gain the following traits:

  • You gain resistance to bludgeoning, slashing and piercing damage from non-silvered weapons.

  • Your claws count as finesse weapons, dealing 1d4 slashing damage. Increasing to 1d6 at 5th level, 1d8 at 11th level and 1d10 at 17th level.

  • If you use the attack action on your turn you can make another attack as a bonus action.

  • Your strength score increases to 15, if not higher (Using the Werewolf as example).

  • You become unable to use any of your class features that require you to take an action. You can't cast spells or concentrate on them, or use any weapons or magical items, except your claws.

  • If you begin your turn with no more than half of your maximum hit points, you must succeed on a DC 8 Wisdom saving throw or move directly towards the nearest creature to you and use the Attack action against that creature. You can choose whether or not to use your Extra Attack feature for this frenzied attack. If there is more than one possible target, roll to randomly determine the target. You then regain control for the remainder of your turn. If you are under an effect that prevents you from concentrating (like the barbarian’s Rage feature), you automatically fail this saving throw.

The transformation lasts for 1 hour or until you end it prematurely as a bonus action.

The forced turn on a full moon still applies, and yes the last part is copied from the Order of the Lycan Blood Hunter.

The idea is to create a kind of half breed class, compatible with any existing one.

I know that by denying to use class actions or spells I favour some combinations above others, like a paladin who can still use his smite or a monk who can still use his Ki. Hexblades curse could still be used and sneak attack as well.

The alternative would be to deny any kind of overlap and basically have two different character sheets. Which is an option.

The idea behind it is simply making the experience a bit more unique and relatable to your character than just playing a boring run of the mill werebeast, there are druids for that.

Balance/usefulness wise I also considered adding the following:

Unarmored defence

Your AC equals 10 + Con mod + Dex mod

Temporary Hit points

You gain temporary hit points equal to 5 × your character level

Extra attack (at level 5 or 6)

When you take the attack action you can attack twice instead of once

Unarmoured movement

Your movement speed increases by 10.

Make the strength Score increase scale with your level

You strength Score increases to 10 + half your character level, if not higher.

My questions are:

  • Are there any exploits too great that it would completely break the game?

  • Is it too weak, that its usefulness is negligible?

  • Are there any other ways one could implement a similar system I haven't thought of yet? Traits or ability Score benefits or deficits?

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    \$\begingroup\$ First, I would limit the questions to balance. The last question is bordering a Too Broad - certainly there are many ways you could implement a similar system that you haven't thought. They might not fit 5e framework, they might be imbalanced, but certainly there are is an unbounded list of ways to implement it. \$\endgroup\$
    – HellSaint
    Jun 19, 2020 at 18:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ Second, it would be good if you could show a little more of your own work on why you think this is balanced or why you are concerned about it being broken or not. Right now the question feels like "Hey I had an idea, wrote down some stuff, please do the remaining work for me" (to be clear: I am not saying this is the case, I'm saying this is how I feel reading the question as is right now). \$\endgroup\$
    – HellSaint
    Jun 19, 2020 at 18:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ See: rpg.meta.stackexchange.com/q/9830/43856 ; rpg.meta.stackexchange.com/q/8171/43856 ; and especially rpg.meta.stackexchange.com/q/8121/43856 \$\endgroup\$
    – HellSaint
    Jun 19, 2020 at 18:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ What kind of werewolves would your players want to be? \$\endgroup\$
    – Jason_c_o
    Jun 19, 2020 at 18:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jason_c_o They are going up against Wolves, and haven't talked about it with them yet. Just wanted to be prepared... \$\endgroup\$
    – CrazyRabit
    Jun 19, 2020 at 19:38

4 Answers 4

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Frame challenge: Have you considered if these rules are necessary at all?

Keep in mind that although it's not spelt out that way in the rules the description for Lycanthropes pretty clearly spells out that a newly infected Lycanthrope is unable to control their transformations and just goes on a murderous rampage if they don't actively resist the curse. A creature embracing the curse stops resisting the murderous urges Lycanthropy gives unto them and has the personality of their transformed selves at all times (so they're at that point a wolf in human form, not a human that occasionally transforms into a wolf). Under these circumstances, most PCs who are cursed with Lycanthropy should actively work towards ridding themselves of the curse, which fortunately is really easy for characters that are powerful enough to survive an encounter with a Lycanthrope in the first place, requiring little more than Remove Curse.

A character actively resisting the curse will be largely unaffected other than possibly a small boost in their ability scores as long as it isn't a full moon, at which point their transformation would put them out of control, at which point you could have them either run rampage themselves (which some people might enjoy) or treat them as NPCs for the duration (which others might prefer).

This way, you largely do not need to worry about the mechanical implications of Lycanthropy and what this means for player features at all, as your players will be quite motivated to rid themselves of the curse.


Meta note: This is being suggested because asker indicated the reason for their proposed changes was that he didn't like the implications of MM Lycanthropes, which IMHO makes it appropriate for an answer even if it sidesteps the literal question being asked a bit.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Actually, it is kinda spelt out in the rules. " lf the character embraces the curse, his or her alignment becomes the one defined for 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. " \$\endgroup\$
    – HellSaint
    Jun 19, 2020 at 18:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ Werewolves, in particular, are Chaotic Evil, so yeah, they pretty much become murderous crazy wolves by the rules. \$\endgroup\$
    – HellSaint
    Jun 19, 2020 at 18:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @HellSaint Point taken, though I deliberately didn't mention alignment because I have few good things to say about alignment. In particular, I have seen the example of Lycanthropy-induced alignment change and it did nothing. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cubic
    Jun 19, 2020 at 18:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Cubic One of the main reasons I treat vampirism and lycanthropy as possession. Solves a lot of issues with that pesky alignment issue while still holding true to the main idea of both. \$\endgroup\$
    – Slagmoth
    Jun 19, 2020 at 18:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, if the players simply ignore the alignment change and remain behaving as the lawful good paladin rather than the chaotic evil werewolf, I would then invoke the second sentence: "The DM is free to decide that a change in alignment places the character under DM control until the curse of lycanthropy is removed.". \$\endgroup\$
    – HellSaint
    Jun 19, 2020 at 18:52
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Here's the most obvious thing that has changed. In normal D&D lore, being a werewolf is a bad thing -- a curse! If you get bitten by a werewolf, the curse infects your body, and you might find yourself killing your friends and loved ones.

You've changed that curse into a minor buff. You've written: "...a scenario where they might get turned into werewolves", but it's not clear why that should bother them. In fact, once one of them gets turned into a werewolf, that character should say: "hey everyone, this lycanthropy thing is great, let me share it around!" and bite the rest of the group.

Personally this would bother me.

If this doesn't bother you, you should at least think about the effect this has on worldbuilding. In your world, have people commonly realized that being a werewolf is beneficial? Does everyone infect everyone else at a young age, so that basically the whole world has lycanthropy now? If not, why not?


It might interest you to know that I frequently run games in which player characters get infected with lycanthropy. Here's the rule I use:

"If you get infected, you can lead a normal life, until you try to sleep. If you sleep, the werewolf within you wakes and attacks your friends. Whenever the group tries to take a long rest, I interrupt the long rest and tell them that all the werewolf characters have become NPCs and are attacking the non-werewolf characters."

and:

"You don't get the damage immunity unless you are in werewolf form. You can voluntarily take werewolf form by embracing the curse. If you choose to embrace the curse, your character becomes a werewolf permanently and irrevocably. The werewolf is an NPC and it attacks everyone nearby until it is killed."

Using this set of rules, the curse of lycanthropy is unambiguously bad news, and the group tries hard to cure it when people get it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I like the end result. I am running a game with a corruption system, where they got boons from demonic entities and the more they embrace it the more they get corrupted until they become demons and the real bad guys... maybe something similar... \$\endgroup\$
    – CrazyRabit
    Jun 20, 2020 at 6:19
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I don't think this will break the game in itself...

...but that's largely because, as DM, you are in full control of what opposition your players will face, and can simply increase or decrease the challenge according to whether or not the PCs gain or lose combat prowess as a result of the lycanthropy.

The biggest risk I see is that, in the upcoming encounter, your players may become werewolves. That could be a problem because it means that some might while others do not. As the question notes, some character builds will be substantially hampered by these rules while others will not. As a result, becoming a werewolf might be largely irrelevant for one player and a massive improvement for another-- for example, this is not amazing for a Wizard (no spells) but pretty nice for a Barbarian (can still Rage, free low-level extra attack, and also gains lots of damage resistances). That might cause similar irritation as giving one PC a +3 weapon and another a Cloak of Billowing. The player that gets less may feel slighted.

Importantly, as currently written, this adaptation of lycanthropy is almost entirely highly beneficial. You can choose to transform or not, whichever would be most useful to you in a given situation. There aren't really any drawbacks, largely because the transformation is optional and the only "out of control" feature (attacking the nearest creature when HP is <50%) will often be trivially defeated with easy-to-achieve combat positioning and may not be so impactful if other party members end up as targets (because of the damage resistance to the only kind of damage the werewolf can deal, if they're also transformed). Any problems that might be caused by a full moon transformation are likely to be obviated by players' preparations in advance.

So altogether, this is essentially giving your players a large stack of free bonuses that will make them more effective in combat, especially at lower levels. And they get all that for free, without much in the way of meaningful consequences or obstacles. That's totally OK! As I mentioned above, you can easily scale challenges to suit. But if only some of your players become werewolves, there will be an immediate divide in their efficacy versus their more ordinary party members, and with no offsetting penalties.


A couple of specific things that might cause issues:

  • It's a free class

Getting special class features related to being a werewolf, and which increase with character level, gives some multi-class benefits for free. Every werewolf PC will gain the option to be a decent melee fighter at need, and this may change the way they develop in their actual classes. Particularly effective would be to de-emphasize the melee-relevant traits of their actual class, since the werewolf benefits are automatic and replace many of the martial class features anyways.

  • Combat may change, especially for spellcasters, in ways that will really benefit the party

A Wizard who is out of spell slots has some problems in a fight, and is no longer as effective as when they had those slots available. Now, though, running out of slots is not such a huge deal because they can immediately become competent melee fighters. That may or may not be better than falling back on their cantrips, but providing more free options generally means that PCs will be more effective in a wider variety of circumstances. This can make it harder to balance combat encounters.

  • It's not clear how large these werewolves are when they "[grow] in size"

If that's jut flavor text, then it doesn't matter. But if they go up one (more more) size class, there will be some implications for how fights progress and what tactics are worthwhile.

  • The changeover from their actual class to werewolf form makes it very likely that your players will essentially be using two character sheets

Because so many class features depend on Actions, it can be tricky to find synergies between the werewolf template and a standard class. The damage resistances are nice, but for a Fighter the lower damage output (claws vs. most weapons) or loss of superiority dice (in the case of a Battlemaster) might outweigh them. So instead of a Battelmaster Fighter who is also a werewolf you'll end up with a PC that has to decide if dealing damage or resisting damage is more important, and will be a Battlemaster Fighter or a werewolf to suit.

Players can identify the optimal form for their character in a given situation pretty easily. Because the overwhelming majority of combat encounters will not take place during a full moon, they'll generally choose the well-defined best choice. Contracting this form of lycanthropy is strictly better than avoiding it.

  • The value of lycanthropy will decrease as PCs develop, and so is likely to eventually end up ignored

The exact point will vary by character, but eventually the werewolf traits will become undesirable and transformations will become rare. When a physical fighter gains a third attack, the werewolf form's maximum of two attacks becomes much less attractive even when the damage dice are the same either way. Classes that don't develop a lot of HP may find the damage resistances less useful at higher levels when enemies hit harder (they can't tank well enough to bother getting into melee combat). More spell slots mean that the benefit of becoming a werewolf-style melee fighter comes later in a fight, if at all.

The bottom line is that I would expect players to transform less and less often as the campaign progresses.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you. Your answer has actually been very helpful. It at the very least made me realise that I need to rephrase and clarify some of it... and that the price to pay for this is too low... which is what I was afraid of... \$\endgroup\$
    – CrazyRabit
    Jun 20, 2020 at 6:30
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There are already some answers stating this, but adding some kind of drawback will probably make it more interesting. A drawback could either be reduced control or some kind of negative properties of the werewolves.

Some specific issues:

  • The original lycanthropes gain immunity against all damage of these types except from magic or silvered weapons. You have resistance instead which seems to be reasonable. But you also removed the part about magic weapons. It is unclear if this was done on purpose. Also it is rather powerful. Of course it has no interaction with fire, lighting etc. But for opponents which have bludgeoning / piercing / slashing it means those attacks are reduced in efficiency a lot. It is unrealistic for many opponents to have silvered weapons. Also it is a bit like rage for everyone.

  • Why would the claws be finesse weapons? From a thematic perspective this runs counter to the frenzy part - the lycanthropes should not finely control their attacks. From a mechanic standpoint, it is mostly unnecessary since you give them a strength bump.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I did consider to split the Wisdom check into, when your in your original form and below half your hit points, make a wis safe of x and on a fail transform into your beast form, and then at the beginning of your turn make checks to keep control... the finesse was in consideration to sneak attack, but making it dex or str which ever is higher might be fine as well \$\endgroup\$
    – CrazyRabit
    Jun 20, 2020 at 6:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @crazyrabit sneak attacking in werewolf form makes no sense at all, it is wild rabid slashes not precision attacks. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Jun 20, 2020 at 10:47

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