I’m still working on the article about Riedra in Fifth Edition. It’s a very long article and I still have a ways to go with it, so I wanted to break things up with a quick question from one of my Patreon supporters.
How do the multiple moons of Eberron affect lycanthropes?
The canon answer is simple: lycanthropes are affected by all of the moons equally, and this is one reason the Lycanthropic Surge was such a threat; it’s common to there to be at least one full moon at any time.
Now, that’s the canon answer. Personally, I say that the answer is more complicated and tied to the fact that we’ve never provided a canon explanation for the cause of lycanthropy. After all, if lycanthropy was created by an overlord, why are there ANY good lycanthropes? So my answer is that there are multiple forms of lycanthropy, each with a different relationship to the moons.
The most benign form of lycanthropy is Olarune’s Blessing. This is a condition that spontaneously manifests: it’s not hereditary and it cannot be transmitted by bite (or any other method). It’s primarily been observed among shifters of the Towering Wood, who believe that it is a sign of being called to service by Olarune, charged to protect innocents from the threats of the wild and to protect the wild itself from threats. Just as vampirism tends to pull someone toward an evil alignment, Olarune’s blessing draws a person toward good alignment; they feel a drive to embody the most positive aspects mortals associate with their animal form. However, this is not the absolute eradication of personality that can be seen in other strains, and those carrying Olarune’s blessing can choose their own paths. A lycanthrope carrying Olarune’s blessing is only affected by the moon Olarune. In my Eberron, most werebears are the result of Olarune’s blessing—but the blessing can be tied to any form.
The second would be Dyrrn’s Corruption. The daelkyr Dyrrn took twisted Olarune’s blessing to create this form of lycanthropy, which is both hereditary and infectious. Each strain of Dyrrn’s corruption associates an alignment (typically neutral or evil), a form, and a moon—neutral tigers tied to Rhaan—and overwrites the personality of the victim. So there may be neutral werewolves, and they will create new neutral werewolves when they spread the affliction. While Dyrrn’s corruption is infectious, it can only spread one step; natural lycanthropes can infect new people, but victims of the affliction can’t spread it themselves. So can spread, but not rapidly. When Dyrrn’s corruption fully takes hold, it destroys the personality and many of the memories of the victim; while there are neutral strains, they are alien in their outlook, and a player character overtaken by Dyrrn’s affliction would likely become an NPC. Each strain of corrupted lycanthropy is driven by its own inscrutable (and unnatural) instincts. Some pursue dangerous activities, acting as Cults of the Dragon Below; others are simply enigmatic, creating strange monuments in the wild or howling in eerie choirs. It’s also the case that Dyrrn’s while Dyrrn’s lycanthropes could be physically indistinguishable from other lycanthropes, they could be more alien in appearance or horrific in their transformations. Perhaps the corrupted werewolf transforms into a skinless wolf. Maybe only Dyrrn produces werespiders, and they aren’t actually natural spiders but rather alien, chitinous horrors. Or maybe the lycanthrope appears to take the form of a mundane wolf, but when you cut it tentacles reach out from the wound, or its blood has a life of its own!
The final form is The Curse of the Wild Heart. The Wild Heart is an archfiend, an overlord of the first age who embodies mortal fears of the wild. This is both hereditary and infectious. Regardless of the form, it enforces an evil alignment upon its victim, driving them to become predators; this is the infamous curse that will cause a werewolf to prey upon their own family and loved ones. Victims of the curse don’t embody any actual traits of their associated animal, but rather are driven to embody the darkest fears and superstitions associated with them. Victims of the curse of the Wild Heart are affected by ALL moons equally. The trick of the curse of the Wild Heart is that it fluctuates in power based on the current status of the Wild Heart itself. When the Wild Heart is dormant or distant, the curse only has the one-step affliction of Dyrrn’s corruption (natural lycanthropes can pass it, but afflicted victims can’t). When the Wild Heart is stirring—or if someone is near to its prison—the curse grows stronger. Under these circumstances any lycanthrope can spread the curse and the drive toward cruel and predatory behavior is amplified.
The behavior of creatures afflicted by the curse of the Wild Heart is extreme and predatory; this is the source of the terrifying tales of lycanthropic bloodshed. Natural-born cursed lycanthropes are still driven toward predatory cruelty, but they can learn to control these impulses. A key example of this is cursed werewolf Zaeurl, the leader of the Dark Pack of Droaam. She is a born predator and a ruthless hunter, but she isn’t controlled by the curse and doesn’t serve the Wild Heart; she chooses her own path.
The final catch is that the power of the Wild Heart trumps that of Dyrrn or Olarune. During the Lycanthropic Surge, the Wild Heart was close to breaking its bonds. And at that time, it co-opted ALL lycanthropes as its thralls. Even good-aligned champions of Olarune and neutral carriers of Dyrrn’s corruption became cruel predators bound to serve the Wild Heart. These lycanthropes returned to their previous states when the power of the Wild Heart was broken, but the threat remains.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to identify the form of lycanthropy you’re dealing with when you meet a lycanthope, aside from letting them bite you and see if you become infected. The short form is that if a lycanthrope seems to embody the noble aspects of the beast it’s bound to it is likely one of Olarune’s blessed; if it embodies the worst superstitions and acts in a predatory manner it carries the curse; and if it just acts in an unpredictable manner, it’s one of Dyrrn’s. Olarune’s blessed do not spread the curse of lycanthropy. Those cursed by the Wild Heart can currently spread it freely (using the standard 5E rules for lycanthropes!)… which suggests the power of the Wild Heart is again on the rise! Only natural-born corrupted lycanthropes can spread the curse.
Can shifters contract lycanthropy?
Yes, shifters can contract any of the forms of lycanthropy described above. The Towering Wood is a nexus for all forms of lycanthropy, and one reason it was so easy for the servants of the Wild Heart to turn the templars against the shifters during the Silver Crusade is because the vast majority of the lycanthropes in the first wave of the surge were cursed shifters. The shifters had been fighting the cursed lycanthropes well before the templars even knew of the danger. With the arrival of the templars, the servants of the Wild Heart knew they couldn’t allow shifters and templars to become allies, so they staged events and spread lies. Imagine that a werewolf leaps into a village and starts slaughtering people. When it’s finally brought down by templars, it reverts to its natural form—the form of a shifter. A local hunter swears that she’s seen whole villages of these things roasting farmers and howling at the moons. The hunter’s a wererat or a rakshasa, and the story is entirely untrue—but this was a time of sheer terror, when ANYONE you knew could secretly be a murderous lycanthrope waiting to strike, and it was all too easy for fiends to sow fear and hate. This in no way excuses the deaths of innocents; but it’s an example of the fact that in Eberron stories aren’t supposed to be simple. Innocents suffer. Stories end badly. If not for the Silver Crusade, the Wild Heart would have risen and destroyed civilization; but that’s cold comfort to the innocents who suffered and died.
So which type of lycanthropes escaped to Lamannia?
You could find any of the three forms of lycanthrope as refugees, though I’d say that it would be Olarune’s blessed who would have been most keen to find a sanctuary that would keep them from having to fight or kill innocents. I’ve said here that Olarune’s blessing is NOT hereditary; one interesting possibility would be to say that it IS hereditary in Lamannia, so that there are communities of blessed lycanthropes in the Twilight Forest.
Is there any geographic basis for the different forms of lycanthropy?
Any form of lycanthrope could be found anywhere in Eberron. Olarune’s blessing is the rarest of the three but could manifest in any place where primal magic is especially strong; this is often tied to manifest zones connected to Lamannia. Again, though, even in such regions the blessing rarely occurs. Dyrrn’s corruption typically spreads from a passage to Khyber connected to Dyrrn’s realm (while we haven’t suggested it, it might well be an issue in the Mror Holds!). Because of the nature of Khyber and demiplanes, this could be found anywhere. Likewise, while creatures afflicted with Dyrrn’s corruption can’t spread the curse, a natural-born lycanthrope can start a cult and spread the corruption to their followers. The curse of the Wild Heart is strongest above the Wild Heart’s prison—which is presumably in the Towering Wood of the Eldeen Reaches—but it is the most contagious curse and could easily spread. The Wild Heart also has rakshasa and other fiendish servants, and its more powerful servants may have the power to spread its curse. So all three forms are especially prevalent in the Towering Wood of Khorvaire, but lycanthropes can be found anywhere.
Do you see these as the only forms of lycanthropy?
Not at all. Of the top of my head, I can immediately imagine two more forms. I could see a form of lycanthropy tied to Thelanis, literally based on the STORIES of people becoming beasts. Beyond that, we’ve called out the existence of a cabal in House Vadalis called the Feral Heart (no relation to the Wild Heart!) that strives to create living weapons; I could easily see them developing their own strain of lycanthropy. In each case, I’d probably add a unique twist based on the strain. It could be that Thelanian lycanthropes are vulnerable to cold iron instead of silver, or that Vadalis lycanthropes aren’t tied to the moons at all. And that’s just what I came up with now; I’m sure I could develop other interesting options if I put my mind to it. Perhaps House Ghallanda has a secret line of lycanthropic blink dogs! Don’t be limited by the idea that all lycanthropes have to share a common origin and identical abilities; if you have an interesting story, change the rules to match it!
And to be clear: none of these ideas are canon. Within a particular campaign you might decide that it is only the Wild Heart who is responsible for lycanthropes, or only the daelkyr. I like having both out in the world, but there no reason not to just pick one form of lycanthropy and leave it at that.
That’s all for now! Next up: Riedra! Thanks again to my Patreon supporters, who make this blog possible!