Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I’ve never been entirely comfortable with mundane weapon immunity in D&D. (Silver to hit, magic to hit, etc.) I appreciate the intent, and there’s definitely something special about the palpable dread an experienced player group experiences when they realize that they can’t even scratch the things they’re fighting. However, it tends to result in cartoonish situations, especially with lycanthropes. Having these creatures be just flat immune to damage seems to conjure images of two-handed sword blows just bouncing off without messing up their fur – even if you accept the abstraction, it tends to nag a bit. For me, at least.

That said, I do want to maintain the nastiness of these creatures, and a certain degree of invulnerability is inherent in their nature. The rationalization I’ve always made for were-creatures’ immunity to mundane weapons is that the wounds simply close as fast as they’re inflicted, rendering the blow moot. This line of thinking has usually led to the conclusion that, if you get one of these creatures pinned and have a big hacking blade handy, you can still remove the head and kill it. Not strictly within the letter of the rule, but it’s always seemed like an appropriate sop to fantasy realism.

I’ve wrestled with these issues somewhat while working on my current campaign, but I didn’t expect anybody to run into a lycanthrope for a good long while, and so had put them on the back burner. Last night, sure enough, the party ran into were-rat territory and I was obliged to think about them pretty damn fast.

What I’ve come up with, as a (tentative) compromise, is this: Non-silvered weapons do only half damage to lycanthropes (well, were-rats, at least – I’ll deal with the other types individually), and the wounds from these weapons heal at 1hp a round (even past the point of “death”). Their skeletal structures are also remarkably resilient, so that a player attempting to decapitate a downed rat-man must bring it down to a full -10hp (while getting past the resistance and still regenerating) before the head can be fully removed. Otherwise, the foul creatures will continue to regain 1hp a round, regaining consciousness (and mobility) at 1hp.

In practice, this worked pretty well. A bit more book-keeping than I usually like to do with a monster, but were-creatures should be pretty rare, so it’s not like it’ll come up all the time. You end up with a 3HD monster that has (effectively) the hp of a 6HD monster, and regeneration on top of that – pretty damn survivable, but possible to overcome with a concerted effort. 3 ratmen ambushed a fighter-heavy 6-man party (all 1st level), and it was a pretty close thing – one ratman permadead, one downed but escaped, and one never below half hp, only breaking off combat once the other had fled. The party had one member incapacitated and lost better than half their total hp – they definitely learned to respect the little grey bastards. This was against only 3 of them – I’m hoping that, after this experience, they’ll know enough to run should they bumble into a full-sized patrol, but if not, their next PCs might. ; )

Speaking of were-creatures (and RE: this post’s title), this morning I found myself sick to death of the Slough Feg CD I’ve been OD’ing on, and all the other metal stuff in my car besides. I randomly dug out the one mellow CD in the car at the moment: Ulver’s “Lyckantropen Themes.” Laughed at the appropriateness considering last night's session, and gave it another spin. Without going too much into Ulver’s career-long musical self-reinvention (check them out on Wikipedophile if you’re curious), this is the original soundtrack to Lyckantropen, a Swedish werewolf movie. It’s 10 tracks of dreary, dreamlike atmosphere based around a single 3-note piano riff, and (since it’s an Ulver release) it’s damn near perfect. In addition to being a good listen on its own merits, this CD makes an amazing dungeon soundtrack – it’s alternately laid-back and tense, with lots of barely-heard background sound. I use it on the regular.

Give it a listen, why don'cha?


1 comment:

  1. You could think of it as "their hide can not be pierced by a normal edge" as per the Nemean Lion. Hercules' arrows were useless so he strangled it (PETA are still investigating). So perhaps a rule like "sharp weapons do strength bonus only; blunt do half normal" would be simpler and get the same idea across.