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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

After Hours - Embracing Lycanthropy - Following Up on The Brainstorm Podcast Episode 22

On yesterday's episode of The Brainstorm Podcast, we answered a letter from a DM that wanted a way to cure two of his players of wererat lycanthropy. True to my nature, I argued that instead of trying to get rid of the "curse", the DM and the players should embrace it. Let's put aside that two of the players are age 5 and 6 for the moment ;)

First, don't introduce ANYTHING into your campaign that you aren't ready and willing to deal with for the long haul. Magic items, unbalanced PCs or NPCs, curses, whatever - don't introduce it if you aren't ready to deal with it. Players rarely do what is expected, and the item or whatnot that you expected to be short lived may become a permanent feature.

Second, as I mentioned in the podcast, cursed characters generally do not want to be uncursed. Lycanthropy may or may not be a curse, but as it involves an alignment change for the most part, it is safe to assume that the character (if not the player) is embracing the change.

Player characters ARE the exception to the rules. If a player becomes a lycanthrope, I'd allow a one degree change on the alignment axis (assuming a 9 axis alignment system) in the direction of a player's choice. So, a Lawful Evil lycanthrope, as a PC, could be Neutral Evil or Lawful Neutral.

(After Hours posts are expansions and follow ups to thoughts and ideas mentioned on The Brainstorm Podcast - Join +Vincent Florio , +Glen Hallstrom and myself twice a week, thirty minutes or less at a time)


  1. One of my PCs may have contracted lycanthropy last session. I was delighted at the possibilities, but the PCs are bound and determined to cure the affliction as soon as possible.

  2. Lycanthropy presents at least two opportunities: either to have the character shift over time – I'd move the alignment gradually toward Chaotic Evil, with the shifts happening as the player character gradually became aware of, and then embraced, her condition – or two craft a questline where the character, the party, or both hunt for a way to reverse the condition. A gradual moral transformation is of a piece with my understanding of the alignment system, which doesn't shift sharply from one belief to another so much as gradually bleed over the borders, with the middle points of any given alignment shard most sharply defined. Being sick doesn't make the character evil: but the choices the character might make while sick certainly could. A character that delays or prevents looking for a solution would be increasingly responsible for the actions taken by his alter-ego, and that would shape the character's moral outlook. Assuming that cures are not merely the result of a third or fourth level clerical spell, but require something more intricate, permits the referee to 1) send the characters looking for information, and then 2) have them try to satisfy the requirements they discover (a ceremony involving holy water from a particular shrine, or belladona from a remote location, or the reliquary of a holy warrior, say). That should be plenty of questing to keep parties busy for a session or two – and if the requirements are involved enough, for rather longer.
    A great deal of that is play style: if the players are focused on a particular plot or scheme to the exclusion of other concerns, then this sort of thing will likely grate. If the players are comfortable with more organic storytelling, then a werewolf random encounter is a story branch that could occupy the campaign for at least a few sessions.