Monday, August 7, 2017

Unexpected Lycanthrope Rulings

Discussions on the Facebook 1st Ed. AD&D group (which has over 8,000 registered members) resulted in a surprising observation; a very large number of players/judges there rule attacks on lycanthropes like werewolves in an unconventional fashion. In particular, lots of people give lycanthropes regenerative powers which are only foiled by silver or magic (analogous to a troll's regeneration which is only foiled by fire or acid). Considering the AD&D rule that allows creatures with at least as many hit dice as an ogre to "effectively hit" lycanthropes, I was inspired to ask a few polls there, the final one being as follows:


Note that of 45 responses there, fewer than half (21/45 = 47%) picked the top answer which I'm fairly sure is the by-the-book rule. Almost a third (14/45 = 31%) rule by fiat that the lycanthrope cannot die from any such attacks (possibly remaining comatose or in stasis until such point as they can heal like a normal creature). About one-sixth (6/45 = 16%) make the rather astounding interpretation that they take damage from such attacks, but are instantly regenerated from them. A small number (3/45 = 7%) simply ignore or house-rule that mechanic out of their games.

I was surprised by the frequency of that. Of course: some commentators are aware that they're making house-ruled modifications, while others are adamant that their interpretation (like instant regeneration) is the intended by-the-book rule. Does this match your gaming experiences? Is it truly so widespread to make alternate rulings to how lycanthropes respond to damage?


13 comments:

  1. Hmm, thinking back to my 2e days (cursed newbie that I am ;) ) I am pretty sure we just went with the no silver/magic = no damage, period. I think there may have been a case of getting a boulder dropped on him, that resulted in a system shock roll.

    So, does that 4+1HD threshold count towards PC levels?

    ReplyDelete
  2. The DMG specifies that the 4+1 rule does not apply to characters at all. I have gone back and forth over the years. I have basically settled on allowing all creatures that I judge to be "of a magical or enchanted nature" to hit targets that were only hit by silver, and using the chart in the DMG to determine whether they can hit creatures only harmed by magic weapons, based on HD, but never allowing "normal" creatures with high HD to harm such beings. Such attacks are described as either being shrugged off or instantly regenerated, depending on the target.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Gah. Unexpected lycanthropes are the WORST!

    The only data point I can add is that once my brother played a berserker who killed a were-rat by holding its head under water until the bubbles stopped coming up. While this doesn't strictly bear on the 4+ HD damage question, it does demonstrate that his circa 2e GM (wasn't me) interpreted the lycanthrope rules as applying only to weapon damage, and that alternate routes to death were still viable.

    Personally, if a lycanthrope were smushed by a giant's boulder in one of my games I would be in column 2, damaged/incapacitated but not permanently dead. If the rock were lifted away the thing would slowly reconstitute and be back on its feet sooner or later depending on the rate of natural healing, or whether a helpful(?) cleric came by and healed it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. NO ONE EXPECTS THE WEREWOLF INQUISITION!

      Delete
  4. I always ignored the X-HD count as +n magic weapon for determining what they can harm rules. The rule is too abstract...it never made any sense that a Werewolf could not be hurt by a gun, or a sword, or a cheetah, or a crocodile, or even something equally magical like a Cambion, but could somehow be harmed by a Buffalo just because the latter happens to have 5HD?

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm perfectly happy with the rule as written in AD&D1E (did they drop it in 2E? I'm not highly conversant with that edition). In the unlikely event of a battle between a werewolf and a buffalo, per the above example, I'd probably just rule that purely mundane creatures don't get the benefit, since their hit dice aren't from "power" or whatever (which is how I think of hit dice, generally speaking), but instead from sheer mass. Or maybe I would keep it just the way it is, since mass is one manifestation of Polynesian mana (not the common gaming meaning of that), which is pretty much, mostly, what I consider hit dice to represent. I suppose it would depend on the setting. It seems mostly academic, though, since it's not likely that any werewolves will be fighting against buffaloes in my games anyway. I mean, what sort of a game would see that as a relatively common occurrence?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One in which the party MU has prepared Polymorph Other?

      Delete
    2. The way I read the 1E description of that spell, it doesn't change hit dice. "However, the new form of the polymorphed creature may be stronger than it looks, i.e. a mummy changed into a puppy dog would be very tough, or a brontosaurus changed to an ant would be impossible to crush merely from being stepped on by a small creature or even a man-sized one." Of course, that is contradicted earlier in the description by the section which modifies the chance of surviving the change by the difference in hit dice between the original and final forms, so you could rule however you like.

      All of that said, the intent of the spell in 1E is offensive against the target, not a method of giving special powers to it. The System Shock survival roll is part of that, as well as the multiple admonitions that NPC targets of the spell will not be willing ones.

      Polymorph Self would seem to be a better choice, but that one is pretty clear that hit dice aren't changed: "Damage to the polymorphed form is computed as if it were inflicted upon the magic-user…"

      Delta discusses the spell and how it changed from edition to edition here.

      Delete
    3. Oh, and just because a character is polymorphed doesn't change the fact that it's a character, so probably not subject to the rule about powerful creatures hitting ones that need magic/silver to be hit.

      Delete
  6. Gosh. I agree, Daniel...this is a very interesting (and weird) discussion.

    I have always tended to play "by the book." If a werewolf (or vampire or whatever) was stabbed with a weapon to which it was immune, the weapon would simply do no damage. Pull the sword back and there's no blood/wound, etc. Large creatures of the sort that can strike enchanted creatures (ogres, etc.) do damage as per the rules...but as the werewolves were only ever fighting PCs, the issue never came up.

    [perhaps I've never had the good fortune to play with clever enough players who'd use a charmed ogre or polymorph spell to such good effect]

    Yeah, it's weird. I'm not sure how there could be so many different rulings when the game rules are pretty clear cut. Maybe they've been influenced by cinema or other RPGs (Palladium's version of undead/lyncanthropes has a whole plethora of rules regarding how such creatures interact with damage, and regeneration is a big part of it).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. OH...I would also probably rule that large, "normal" animals (like buffalo) have a natural aversion to supernatural creatures and would be unlikely to engage them in combat at all (certainly without checking morale first). Don't bring your pet war elephant to a lycanthrope fight!

      Delete
  7. I do kind of like the idea of combining weapon immunity and regeneration into one kind of mechanic.
    Any physical damage not sufficient to outright kill such a creature would be regenerated (though not instantly) unless caused by silver/magic/acid/etc.
    This maintains the legends of unkillable werewolves at least as far as 0 level NPCs are concerned, but helps avoid certain oddities.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Slightly off topic, but I find this interesting. In the first printings of D&D, lycanthropes could be hit by normal weapons. The line about “Only silver weapons or magical weapons” was added after the early printings. Referring to Chainmail for special abilities (per M&T page 5) wouldn’t change that. Not that it would be easy to hit a lycanthrope with normal weapons, per CM 2e p. 30: “It takes four simultaneous hits, from either missiles or melee, to kill a Lycanthrope in normal combat. Magical weapons will kill them in a single hit.”

    Even more off-topic, and not quite as Interesting, but fun to see the evolution, I think: Chainmail has “The two main types of Lycanthropes... Werebears and Werewolves.” Then in Beyond This Point Be Dragons “There are three kinds of Lycanthropes,” adding weretigers. M&T then gives us “four kinds of Lycanthropes,” adding the wereboar. Greyhawk then introduces the wererat, and by Holmes “There are many types of were-creatures...” with his flavorful references to were-leopards and were-sharks.

    ReplyDelete