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I'd like to clarify whether were-creatures need to do damage in order to have a chance of inflicting the lycanthropy curse.

Considering the creature stats in isolation it would appear the answer is no.
E.g. For the werewolf (all other lycanthropes are similar):

Bite ... Hit: 6 (1d8 + 2) piercing damage. If the target is a humanoid, it must succeed on a DC 12 Constitution saving throw or be cursed with werewolf lycanthropy.

From the above, the possibility of being afflicted applies whenever the bite attack hits. So if damage reduction or immunities kick in, and the target takes zero damage, there's still a possibility of getting the curse.

However, page 206 of the MM also states:

Curse of Lycanthropy. A humanoid creature can be afflicted with the curse of lycanthropy after being wounded by a lycanthrope.

The keyword here is wounded, which implies that the attack must actually deal damage. The problem though, is that as far as I can tell: wounding isn't established in game terminology. Can we assume it really is synonymous with damage > 0? Or am I reading a little too much into the explanatory text?

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    \$\begingroup\$ This question raises a related question about damage reduction (-3) from Heavy Armor Master Feat and this same question. If a wererat were to hit for 3 or less damage, does the "hit" still pass the infection? Perhaps that is a part of this question. Your call. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Apr 17 '16 at 15:40
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No. They need to Hit.

I think you're reading too much into wounding. There's no reason I can think of, in terms of defined game terms, to think that wounding refers to damaging vs. hitting. In other words, the rules don't tell us to prefer one over the other. In general.

However, flip back a few pages: "Player Characters as Lycanthropes" says, in part

A humanoid hit by an attack that carries the curse of lycanthropy must succeed [on a save]... or be cursed. (MM. p.207, emphasis mine.)

There it is, as you first described: the save against cursing is part of the "Hit" clause and comes into play whenever a bite hits, even if it hits for no damage.


Some have expressed concern about what hit points represent, and whether a zero-damage hit is an injury or not. That way lies madness, I think, and we don't need to go there as Hit is a defined term.

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