Posted by : David Guyll February 26, 2013

Why is it that, despite lycanthrope supposedly being viewed as a curse, it was just oh-so awesome in 3rd Edition?

I am not saying that I or anyone I knew actively sought it out, but if a werewolf just happened to bite you, and that bite resulted in, among other things, a boost to your Hit Dice (which also boosted your attack bonus, saving throws, and skill points), a Wisdom and natural armor bonus, damage reduction, a bonus feat, and so on, is that really so bad?

Sure, afflicted lycanthropes transform during the full moon and perform actions dedicated by their animal's alignment, but half of them are Neutral, and werebears are even Lawful Good. I guess the only real drawback, in the case of the wererat and werewolf anyway, is that you can end up with the animal's alignment, which in both cases is Chaotic Evil. On that note, why does your alignment change at all? Why are werebears Chaotic Good? Eberron gave some interesting and conflicting history to lycanthropes, which would be a lot better than "because this is how it was in an older edition".

It is because of this that I liked how 4th Edition handled lycanthropes: if you got bit, you might contract moon frenzy. No animal form, no extensive stat boosts, just a penalty to Will and/or the chance of randomly attacking your allies (and it did specify allies, despite how silly this might seem). Sure, it did not keep in with the folklore by causing you to involuntarily transform and go on a murder-spree, but then Dungeons & Dragons has always selectively chosen which parts of which mythologies it adheres to, and more importantly there was no silver lining.

I also preferred how 3rd and 4th Edition handled harming them: the former gave them a combination of fast healing and damage resistance against non-silvered weapons, while the latter gave them regeneration, which could be shut down for a bit when they were hit with a silvered weapon. In both cases this made silver weapons useful, but not necessary, which is what I would prefer, especially since against the typical commoner they are still pretty potent.

I think that an animal should affect one physically and mentally, why do werebears tend to live in cabins in the woods? Why do they act as wardens for an area? I am all for defining some physical and personality traits, especially when they are thematic to the animal (like wererats being thin, wiry, and sly), but without a compelling story reason giving, for example, werebears a global preference for specific types of buildings and self-appointed roles does not make sense to me.

I am also confused as to how doppelgangers, broadly described as "parasitic shapechangers that live off the efforts of others," are Neutral. At the least adopting the identity of someone else in order to acquire wealth strikes me as Chaotic Neutral, if not outright Chaotic Evil, particularly for the ones that like to mentally plunder prisoners on a daily basis. Also, what is with immunity to sleep and charm effects? Likewise reading minds it is not really explained, but I guess that it is at least immediately useful to their agenda.

{ 4 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. Werebears live in cabins and ward areas of wilderness because Beorn pretty much acted like that in the Hobbit. At least that is the only justification i can imagine. And as you said in your Turned to Stone entry, D&D takes the bits of mythology it likes, no explanation provided.

    Dopplegangers are nuetral, posibly because they are not always nasty about what they do. Steeling to eat sort of thing. I think the mind rapey, mental plunderers could be Lawful Evil, depending on how they go about their business.

    If you think something should be a bit different to how it is written then just change it for your game. Have a chaotic evil mind rape doppleganger or a city dwelling weerebear...

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  2. Don't forget Eberron doppelgangers. They are a diverse and misunderstood race that just happens to have a skill that can be used for criminal activity.
    I don't understand why everybody gets immunity to stuff while in 4e
    it was just a +5 saving throws against said effect.

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  3. @Palocles: That is a kind of odd thing to base a creature off of, and while I know I can change it, but I also think that it should not be the assumed standard. If were-critters do not instill a specific alignment (or housing preferences), then the DM has more (implied?) freedom to invent a clan of werewolves that protect an area, and an evil werebear that is consumed by the beast, slaughtering anyone that enters its forest.

    @Anon: Oh yeah, I forgot about Eberron and changlings, which were also really awesome. I also dislike complete immunity to an effect, and think that creatures should have bonuses and scaling resistances, so that an elf can still be put to sleep by, say, a god.

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  4. True, that may not be where they got the idea from but it seems a pretty obvious source, Hobbit and LOTR being such genre defining works.

    I think it's better for a publications to include a sort of "standard behaviour" type thing for inexperienced or uncreative DMs. Then any DM who wants to can change whatever they like but the noobs can run the stock fluff.

    Don't the authors always say, "do what you want with these books"?

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