Fur and Fangs – Lycanthrope NPC’s
This article will give you some ideas on how make interesting Lycanthrope NPC’s in your games.
What is a Lycanthrope for the context of RPG’s? Lycanthropes are humans (and other species) who can change into animals and/or hybrid forms, and those changes are influenced by the moon(s) in your settings.
Which creatures do you allow to suffer from Lycanthropy?
- All creatures? just humanoid mammal creatures (Goblins & Rodians yes, Lizardfolk & Droids no), or Humans only?
- Determining this will let you control the frequency of Lycanthropes in your games, and whether those who suffer from it are a minority or majority of the population.
What forms do Lycanthropes have?
- Can they just turn into an animal, or a humanoid hybrid also? Does either effect their mental faculties and abilities?
- Are all animal types allowed? just mammals? or specific set of creatures? (rat, wolf, tiger & bear)
- Remember if you allow Wereravens, Owls & Bats then you add the flying & aerial dimension to your game, which may hinder or enhance it depending on the campaign setting & style.
How is Lycanthropy created or transferred?
- Is it a curse, an infection, natural gift, a delusion, or any of these depending on the specific situation?
- Is Lycanthropy tied to use of arcane magic or charges in an artifact?
What sets off ‘the change’?
- The smell of blood, sight of enemies, the phase of the moon(s), a pack member charmed-hurt or-dominated?
- This will let you decide how frequently Lycanthropes change, and how these changes are linked to story events.
What things can calm down the Lycanthrope?
- Sound of running water, seeing their reflection, touch of their loved one, the smell of tulips?
- These are your options for players to avoid combat, and add depth to your NPC’s personality.
Does Lycanthropy affect the mind of the person?
- Do they become more primitive in outlook? More territorial? Struggle with the change? Completely blank out the memory? No change at all?
- Perhaps the changes damage their outlook and morality? Maybe it restores lost memories or unlocks hidden arcane potential?
How do Lycanthropes feel towards other creatures?
- Do they hunt other shapeshifters like Rakshasa or Dopplegangers? Do Lycans feel kinship with fey or nature spirits? Do they fear Elementals?
- Lycanthropes like other creatures, do not live in a vacuum. This question helps you decide how they relate to similar and opposing creatures.
Have Lycanthropes always been in this area/the world?
- Perhaps they only started occurring in the last 3 years since a comet hit the moon?
- Maybe there used to be lots of Lycans but they are being hunted by aberrations, so Lycans are the last guardians of gates to the realm beyond.
How do established nations, guilds and churches treat Lycanthropes?
- An Arcane guild may hunt them while a Druid circle sees them as brothers, a nation may use them as skirmishes in an ongoing war.
- Are Lycans a secret society trying to take over a nation or guild? Are there high paid Lycan hunters treated like celebrities?
Senses – A key to running Lycanthropes is that in any form they have excellent hearing and sense of smell. Invisibility will barely help against creatures that rely on smell first, sound second, and sight last.
When they describe their world or specific things they will focus on the sounds and smells more than the visual aspect like we do.
Cunning – Lycans are part human, they are not stupid. They will use the environment to ambush prey. Lycans will use traps to weaken groups of foes. They will wait for the right time to strike, and will rarely fight to the death when they can hunt another time.
Ways to use Lycanthropes in your stories –
- A sibling gets Lycanthropy and is hiding it because Lycans are hunted in this area. This works best if someone else the heroes know is hunting the Lycan but is unaware of their human identity. Do the heroes take them in to try to cure them or help them get away?
- Lycanthropes are fighting undead in your area. They are very effective at stopping the waves of zombies coming up from the crypts, but they are also infecting regular people in the area. Do you stop them, cure them or even side with the Zombie lord?
Lycanthropes in novels
- Anita Blake novels by Laurel Hamilton.
- Dresden Files novels by Jim Butcher.
- Bitten novels by Kelly Armstrong.
Lycanthropes in games
- Werewolf the Forsaken and Werewolf the Apocalypse by White Wolf.
- Dungeons & Dragons has Lycanthropes in every edition. Van Richten’s Guide to Werebeasts in 2nd edition has ton of information.
- Dresden Files and Dresden Accelerated RPG.
- Urban Shadows & Monster of the Week games with the Powered by the Apocalypse system.