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Lycanthropy in Ravenloft is intended to be a curse rather than a blessing, but it's a curse that is notoriously hard to lift. According to the official guide to the subject, once the progenitor is dead, there’s a ritual involving a number of high level spells cast on the afflicted person in their beast form, with saving throw penalties reflective of how deeply the beast has taken hold. If the afflicted doesn’t have the means yet to kill the progenitor, obtain the spells or make the saves, their life becomes a matter of managing the dread disease. Here are a few suggestions to make that easier.
1. Get Informed
Do you change with the phases of the moon, or the tides? What about violence, hunger or the smell of blood? Use redundancies, such as manacles inside a locked and barred room. Not only is this safer, but it will give you a rough idea of how strong it is by what doesn’t work. Read up on cheap STR/DEX poisons, such as whiteshoot root. The worst they can do is paralyze, and they can make other precautions more effective. Learn about the laws wherever you go, especially smaller offenses that warrant jail time. Getting thrown in jail for unpaid fines may prevent manslaughter. If anyone knows of your condition, they may lock you up longer than you intend, but that’s still more manageable than running free.
2. Get Help
Many champions of the Mists are familiar with precautions against lycanthropy, but some are more helpful than others. George Weathermay may take pity, especially if he sees a connection to his nieces. Ivan Dragonov might be convinced to assist in hunting down the progenitor, with strict warnings as to what will happen if they delay in a cure. Carnagan Wolfe may not know about being infected, but might share some insight of his life on the fringes of werewolf society. And an infected lycanthrope in truly dire straits might learn a lot from Vjorn Horstman, even if they have to escape his lab after learning it.
3. Get Magic
Finding a relic like the Hands of the Dawn Healer might be a bigger quest than getting cured, but it’s certainly worth following up on rumors, especially if you’ve hit a dead end on your bloodline. Anyone wearing a Wolfspaw Amulet can trap the beast in any corner, alcove or pit on very short notice. Some shared party items like magic manacles, a bag of holding or portable hole could keep the beast in check for a few days and then turned to other uses the rest of the month. A Silver Amulet of the Beast is a comprehensive solution, but it’s not a shared item, and may work best financed through a sponsor or on temporary loan from an ally. Finally, if you start to transform, buy yourself a little time by drinking a spiritual purgative. It may only hold off the curse a few rounds or minutes, but that may be enough time to get someplace more secure.
4. Get Hunting
Even if you don't have all the ingredients for a cure, tracking down the progenitor is a great way to gain needed experience. If you were lucky enough to be infected by a true lycanthrope, this means only one hunt, but occasionally it means tracing back through any number of infected to find the original. As Celia Whitmoor and her companion Argent can tell you, the danger and logistical difficulty of a long bloodline hunt belie the fact that this is an emotionally grueling journey, with any number of false ends where you find not the object of your quest, but another hapless reflection of what you are turning into. It may be best to lay out some rules for how long you will hunt, and how much you will tolerate, until you decide to try for control instead of cure.
5. Get Control
Taking control of the beast is no easy choice; even attempting will make it more difficult to be cured in the future, and success will prevent it entirely. Van Richten’s Guide had no rules for it, but John W. Mangrum wrote up some pretty good rules in the Book of Shadows (“Wild at Heart”). The Duskpeace Outcasts are the obvious ones to turn to for this kind of help, but the Keepers of the Black Feather might offer some small assistance to other kinds of werebeasts, if you’ve proven yourself a worthy ally.
BONUS: Get Re-infected
As a third option against control or cure, some might consider re-infection. Only the most recent phenotype takes effect, so why not replace your slavering wolf with a more fastidious panther, or less hungry rat? The ideal might be to join a flock of wereravens, but there are also outlander varieties of tigers, bears or boars whose beast-selves are not evil. It’s up to the DM how a “reboot” against a different phenotype interacts with ranks in control shape.
Managing an afflicted PC requires a tricky balance; if lycanthropy is too easy to lift then it loses its gravitas, but it shouldn’t be so harsh as to make the PC unplayable or derail the rest of the campaign. By making plans and taking precautions, you can make lycanthropy an ever-present part of the life of a character while still allowing them to have as productive a life as an adventurer in Ravenloft can have.
Leyshon Campbell has been playing and writing for Ravenloft for over twenty years, from the Kargatane's Book of S series, playtesting D&D 3E in a Ravenloft campaign, to the ill-fated Masque of the Jade Horror. He married his wife on Friday the 13th after proposing to her on Halloween. By tradition, the first story read at birth to each of their three children was The Barker’s Tour, from Ravenloft’s “Carnival” supplement. He is currently running the “Queen of Orphans” Ravenloft campaign on Discord.
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