With Halloween right around the corner, you might be keen to add a little lycanthropic fun to your 5th edition game. To shake things up and celebrate the season, you may want your adventure to feel a little more like the classic werewolf monster movies then as written in the Monster Manual. So how do you do it? Let’s examine some of the tips, tricks and tweaks that can add that full moon flavor to your game. Short term or long term, we got you covered.
Roleplay for the Lycanthropy Inclined
No matter who the werewolf is you’ll want to make sure your players are mostly unwilling to kill innocent NPCs. This could mean not killing someone they wrongly think is the werewolf; or if someone in the party is a werewolf, not letting them kill a bunch of townsfolk. If things such as alignment won’t force your PCs to avoid casual murder, you can hold them back by suggesting too many innocent deaths will bring down a major force of guards or other heroes that they can’t hope to defeat.
If you are familiar with the card game Werewolf you can also add a little intrigue by having the local and vocal townsfolk accuse the party of being the wolves. Spread the accusations around. Jump on any odd or contradictory things the PCs say. If someone really does convince the town that the party are the lycan culprits, it’s going to bump them up against some very well-armed werewolf hunters. This can be a very fun session in the right circumstances.
For the werewolves that are not PCs, you should lean into their animal side. Draw a contrast between their human guise and their much more dangerous, bestial animal forms. Howl and bare your teeth as intimidation tactics. Up their ferocity and aggression by going for the throat in combat.
Play into their pack instincts, too. Have the werewolves use literal wolfpack tactics, harassing opponents from multiple sides so they can’t focus on any one target. Try alternating the pace from slow investigation scenes to lightning fast combat. It’ll get people’s heartbeats up.
But what about the infected party route? Really the only way to do a werewolf party, fully or partially, is to allow the PCs to play out their time transformed. That is, if they don’t take precautions like chaining themselves up at night. This can be an intense roleplay challenge and some parties may simply be unwilling to take the time off from standard adventuring. If you still want to go forward having the were-PCs “blackout” when they transform it’s an acceptable tactic, but where’s the fun in that?
Tweaking the Rules
Unfortunately, werewolves as they are written into the official handbooks are not much of a challenge for higher level parties. Lycans become less of a threat once most of the group has magical weapons. However, you can tweak this by removing one of the exceptions to their weapon immunity. You can also take silver or magic weapons weapons off the table to raise the stakes.
You can increase the werewolves’ AC a little bit, but also balance this out by having them attack recklessly when they think they can win. This is a feature you can borrow from the berserker NPC in the Monsters Manual. You may also remove the transmittable aspect of lycanthropy unless you intend to deal with a werewolf party member in your game’s story.
On the subject of “catching lycanthropy,” you can tweak the way that works, too. If you’re choosing to run this adventure with PCs, disallow Reverse Curse spells or other simple spells that would cure lycanthropy. Instead, tie the cure to a specific condition. This can be anything from needing to kill the werewolf that bit them, finding some artifact that would lift the curse, or obtaining a rare spell ingredient. If done right, this can be a great driving force and roleplay tool for some of your PCs. It can also be a good reason to move the party around the map.
Werewolves and the Loss of Control
The key to a great, scary werewolf story is a lack of control. Either the PCs feel out of control because they are the werewolf or because they don’t know who the werewolf is within the game. Drop a few red herrings and misdirections into the campaign to keep them guessing. Then, set your epic final confrontation in a foggy copse of trees for maximum effect.
If you’re looking for a scary game or full campaign for the Halloween season, this might be the way to go. Even if you haven’t yet cracked open Curse Of Strahd. Werewolves aren’t just fair game for All Hallows Eve either. After all, there are full moons in every month, perfect for a howling good time.
What other movie monsters do you want to incorporate in your D&D game? Which monsters do you think could fit in within the 5th edition rules? Which are a little less than perfect? Also, are you the werewolf? You have to tell me if you’re the werewolf! Wait, maybe, I’m the werewolf!
No… NO… NOOOOOOOWWWWOOOOOOOOOOOO! AWWOOO! AWWWOOOOOOO!
Image Credits: Dungeons and Dragons | Wizards of the Coast