Lycanthropes are humanoids with the ability to turn into animals and animal-humanoid hybrid shapes. Natural lycanthropes are born with this ability and have perfect control over their shapechanging. Afflicted lycanthropes contract this ability like a curse or disease from another lycanthrope; they sometimes change form involuntarily.
A creature that catches lycanthropy becomes an afflicted lycanthrope, but shows no symptoms (and does not gain any of the template’s adjustments or abilities) until the night of the next full moon, when the victim involuntarily assumes animal form and forgets his or her own identity. The character remains in animal form until the next dawn and remembers nothing about the entire episode (or subsequent episodes) unless he makes a DC 20 Will save, in which case he becomes aware of his condition.
A remove disease or heal spell cast by a cleric of 12th level or higher cures the affliction, provided the character receives the spell within 3 days of the infecting lycanthrope’s attack. Alternatively, consuming a dose of wolfsbane gives an afflicted lycanthrope a new Fortitude save to recover from lycanthropy.
Source Pathfinder Player Companion: Blood of the Moon
Few seek the fate of the lycanthrope. Shunned, hated, and feared throughout most of the world, these misbegotten monsters of the night live hard and often short lives.
Shame plagues the best of them for their nocturnal bouts of amnesia and any forgotten misdeeds they may have committed, while the worst lycanthropes revel in the madness of transformation. The following section explores some of the most common ways an unfortunate individual might contract and cure lycanthropy, as well as suggestions for groups seeking to play lycanthropic characters in their campaign.
Lycanthropy is a curse, and while some unscrupulous types may seek this “gift of the moon,” voluntary contraction of the disease is rare. Several methods exist by which an individual might contract the curse of lycanthropy.
There are several recorded instances of lycanthropes acquiring their curse through the fell work of an arcanist or channeler of the divine. Other spellcasters claim that the secret to channeling the curse of lycanthropy can be found in ancient arcane texts and items, such as The Bear card in the Harrow Deck of Many Things, or long-forgotten magic of the spirit world.
Oracles dedicated to the mystery of the moon tell that the key to unlocking the truest potential of lycanthropy can be found within strict adherence to the laws of the lunar cycle and the natural world.
The easiest and most common way to contract lycanthropy is by coming too close to a creature afflicted with the curse. Bites, scratches, and (in a tiny percentage of cases) ingesting blood from a lycanthropic foe may all result in the malady spreading from one carrier to a new victim. Once exposed, newly made carriers likely don’t realize the extent of their affliction until the next full moon, and without divinations it is likely that their moment of transformation is the first victims know of their curse.
Inheritance: Those creatures born with the blood of lycanthropy fully within them are known as natural lycanthropes. These individuals are every bit as accursed as their afflicted counterparts, save that they are, for the most part, capable of controlling their bestial urges. While they can transform at will and are not so attuned to the mysterious influence of the phases of the moon, the blood of the beast still burns brightly within them, and many natural lycanthropes turn toward a path of depravity and insatiable hunger. For the most part, natural and afflicted lycanthropes tend to bear children born with the curse. It remains a mystery as to exactly how far down a familial line the curse of lycanthropy runs before it manifests only as skinwalker children or is diluted to the point of non-expression.
Those cursed with lycanthropy often seek the quickest and surest way to rid themselves of their cruel affliction.
Much misinformation is spread about this curse, however, so the search for a cure to lycanthropy can be trying, time-consuming, and agonizing. The following are the most common ways an afflicted lycanthrope might remedy her dreadful ailment. Note that natural lycanthropes and skinwalkers can’t use these methods to rid themselves of their accursed ancestry—for these individuals, there is virtually no hope of curing their inherent natures, save perhaps for the power of a miracle or wish spell.
Herbalism: The most accessible true cure for lycanthropy lies within the potent and poisonous leaves of herbs such as wolfsbane and belladonna. Unfortunately for a were-creature consuming such ingredients, the effects of these remedies are as dangerous and difficult to resist as the curse itself. They are often purchased in mysterious solutions, at a significant markup, from snakeoil salespeople all over the Inner Sea region, especially in regions where lycanthropy is more prevalent.
Magic: Spells like remove disease and heal are more definitive and safer ways to break the curse, as long as they are cast by a holy person of sufficient skill (typically a cleric of 12th level or higher). However, the window of time in which such mystical treatments function is short— healers have but 3 days after a victim’s exposure to the curse to use their restorative magic before it is no longer sufficient. Since many lycanthropes make their homes far from civilization, those who are infected by such reclusive monsters usually have no hope of reaching such a cure in time. After the 3-day window has passed, a victim’s only chance of a cure through magic is a remove curse spell, cast by a cleric of 12th level or higher, during the time of the victim’s transformation. To make matters more troublesome, spellcasters of sufficient power are rare in the Inner Sea region, and even if such a prodigious cleric is found, the price of his services can be cripplingly expensive.
Other Remedies: Many folk remedies for lycanthropy exist to offer false hope—and in some cases to cause real damage—to those desperate enough to seek them. Perhaps because of the brutal nature of the were-creatures, many of these “cures” are tantamount to torture, granted an air of legitimacy by the inclusion of silver tools or a certain amount of ritual. To be sure, beating a subject unconscious on the eve of a full moon may stop her from wreaking havoc when transformed, but this is no cure. Whether or not the subject is cured, the afflicted lives the rest of her life with these shameful marks.
Most nights out of the month, an afflicted lycanthrope has little trouble hiding her curse. On those nights when the moon is full and shining, however, it behooves lycanthropes to have a plan for stifling their bestial urges or at the very least concealing their identities while their alter egos rampage. Perhaps the most reliable means of protecting oneself from accidentally running wild is to stay hidden indoors—preferably with the windows boarded and the doors locked using a method beyond the manipulation of animal paws. A trusted friend may provide silver manacles and hold the key till dawn. Getting out of town completely may be in order for some lycanthropes, though to assuage suspicion from nosy neighbors, it wouldn’t hurt to join an organization whose meetings are based on the lunar cycle; a worshiper could do worse than to make lunar “pilgrimages” to a safe-house as a way to disguise affliction in piety. Beyond these methods, powerful magic items may be capable of aiding in the prevention of unwanted transformation, though regardless of how many safeguards are in place, few lycanthropes ever feel safe from themselves.
Players hoping to play lycanthropic characters should first discuss this prospect with their GM. The powers of a lycanthrope can be unbalancing for games that assume the standard power level for PCs. In most cases, playing a skinwalker character can allow a player to evoke the flavor of a lycanthrope without throwing off the balance of the campaign. That said, a GM may decide to adjust his campaign to allow for one or more lycanthropic PCs.
Such PCs should likely be natural lycanthropes so that the players can remain fully in control of their characters’ powers throughout the course of the campaign.
Players of lycanthropic characters would do well to keep the following implications in mind.
Hunted: Although lycanthropes are powerful creatures, they are far from invincible, and a band of lycanthropic PCs might find themselves the target of dangers and threats normal adventurers would rarely encounter. Lycanthrope slayers are prevalent throughout the Inner Sea region, and were-creature PCs who make their powers known to the wrong sorts of people may end up as the targets of witch-hunts, bounty hunters, or zealous monster killers. Thus, hiding their lycanthropy is usually of utmost import to afflicted individuals.
Silver: While the defensive abilities of were-creatures are formidable, silver damage reduction can be relatively easily overcome, as silver weapons are among the cheapest and most readily available in civilized lands. Poisons and alchemical substances derived from silver also pose a constant threat to lycanthropes, as many herbalists and alchemists spend their entire lives finding new ways to capture, torment, or kill were-creatures— and they’re always looking for test subjects.