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Lunar Lycanthropy and PCs*

by Sharon Dornhoff

(* - The following information is mostly for the benefit of DMs who use the "Night Howlers" rules. Those who don't intend to include were-PCs in their Hollow Moon adventures can ignore topics like Transformation checks and the effects of the Hollow Moon on lycanthropes from Mystara, and should skip ahead to the next section, which describes which types of lycanthrope live on Matera and when their depredations occur during a month/lunar "day".)

Contagious lycanthropy is a relatively new phenomenon, on Mystara*. The familiar were-breeds of wolf, tiger, boar, rat and bear -- to say nothing of the more exotic strains -- have only been transmitted among Mystara's human and merrow populations for 600 years ... not long enough for lycanthropy to have been brought to the HM, with the setting's more-ancient human populations. Indeed, it was only in the last century that two of the four lunar strains of this supernatural disease arrived on Matera; and the manner in which such a moon-sensitive condition first manifests itself, INSIDE the Moon, isn't pretty. Nor will lycanthrope PCs find their first visit to the celestial body which rules their natures anything less than an ordeal ... although it may, for brave were-creatures who "tough it out", bring great rewards.

(* - While some on the MML argue that a character in the "Blackmoor" modules was a werewolf -- and that, therefore, lycanthropy must be much older than PC4: "Night Howlers" implies -- I prefer to take the module's statement that this NPC was given "the curse of lycanthropy" by enemy wizards literally ... i.e. that the character was magically Cursed (afflicted by a spell that caused him to undergo werewolf transformations), rather than bitten by a lycanthrope. By this interpretation, the only "lycanthropes" on Mystara prior to 400 AC were isolated victims of Curse-magic; their condition, though deplorable, was not infectious. Only when Alphatian experiments with the natural shapeshifters of their race imbued a quite similar condition into a transmissible virus, and the virus escaped and mutated as described in PC4, did true "were-creatures" become established as full-fledged species or begin passing lycanthropy on to their bitten victims.)

Even the initial approach to the moon won't be easy, for lycanthropic characters. Matera's influence over were-creature physiology can be overwhelmingly-powerful even at 238,000 miles, and closing that distance only magnifies the effect. Due to the building stress of the change-triggering moon's proximity every 24 hours of "moonward" travel forces a lycanthropic character to save vs Spells (at -4 during the full moon, or -2 on the nights before or after; this is IN ADDITION to the usual checks required at that time of month!), or else undergo an involuntary transformation to his or her animal form at some point during that day. (DMs should ad-lib a suitable "trigger event", such as a nasty argument with a voidship's crewman or the bear-tempting aroma of honey from the galley, to kick this off. :-D) As there is no sunrise or sunset in space, a voyaging lycanthrope who undergoes an involuntary change won't revert to human form at dawn; instead, the character will remain in animal-form until he or she succeeds in voluntarily changing back to a human, or until the animal-form character becomes worn out from his or her bestial antics and falls soundly asleep (in which case the reversal occurs involuntarily, while the character is sleeping).

Any PC lycanthropes so foolish as to set foot on the exterior moon's illuminated Nearside -- i.e. the side from which ALL moonlight shines, that beams down upon Mystara -- even after having to resist so many involuntary transformations on their journey to get there, deserves what's coming to them. Such a character immediately assumes animal form, upon contact with the lunar soil, and CANNOT change back until he or she is removed entirely (and, probably, forcibly) from Matera's surface: no ifs, ands, or buts! Contact with the Nearside's unlit outer surface (i.e. during the new moon, which is the lunar "night"), or with the crystalline ground of the Farside, is nearly as bad; an initial save vs Spells is allowed to resist the change, but at a whopping -8 penalty. In either case, the character's save vs Spells to retain his or her alignment is at a -6 penalty, for Matera's nearness calls out to the lycanthrope's beast-side and quells his or her human intellect with its instinctual, seductive power. A character who voluntarily transforms on Matera's surface, after resisting an involuntary change, suffers a net -2 saving throw penalty to retain his or her alignment. Again, the character may NOT change back -- even if the initial transformation was a voluntary one -- until he or she leaves the surface of the moon. (Oops....) As with changes during a spaceflight to Matera, those penalties listed here for resisting these involuntary changes are in ADDITION to those for a full or near-full moon, giving a possible penalty of -12 (!) for a lycanthrope who unwisely sets foot on the Farside, when the Nearside is full.

Things are marginally better, Inside the moon. At least, lycanthropic PCs who actually enter the Hollow Moon setting will always have a chance to save vs Spells -- assuming they want to, of course -- to avoid transforming involuntarily. For Mystaran lycanthropes, whose bodies are accustomed to transforming on the 14th, 15th, and 16th of every month, their time of involuntary change will continue to be the same ... except that, since there's no sunrise to undo the transformation, it will last (as above) until the animal-form character either changes back voluntarily or falls fast asleep. If it's still "full moon time" when the character wakes up, he or she must save vs Spells immediately upon awakening, or else revert to animal shape, yet again! Because being surrounded entirely by the Moon has a VERY powerful, compulsion-generating effect upon the PC -- Matera's siren-song echoes in the lycanthrope's head and pulses enticingly through his/her oh-so-flexible bones -- there's an initial -6 penalty to the save vs Spells to resist transformation, over and above the usual -4/-2 penalties for the time of month. The moon's proximity also imposes a -4 to all saves to retain one's alignment, after an involuntary change, in the HM setting.

Thanks to all these factors stacked against them -- both lack of control over their bodies, and the far-more-frightening loss of control over their intellects -- lycanthropic PCs who visit the Hollow Moon are almost guaranteed to spend their first "fulldark" in animal-form, and quite possibly out of their right minds! The reason is simple: even for high-level lycanthropes who have long mastered all their special abilities, Matera's influence over were-creatures is potentially far, far stronger than what is seen on Mystara, where the moon's light and power is attenuated by those 238,000 miles of distance. For a lycanthrope to actually GO there, and experience this potent lunar influence DIRECTLY, is like taking an overdose of a stimulant which one has grown to tolerate in small quantities only. For a "normal monster" or better were-creature, who had gained total mastery over where and when he/she will change, this loss of equilibrium will be a shock; to cubs, whelps and scamps -- who aren't even much good at suppressing the moon's influence, on Mystara! -- the effect is overwhelming.

The only way for a lycanthrope to begin adapting to the "overload" of Moon-influence which he or she encounters, inside Matera, is to practice changing voluntarily until he or she becomes acclimatised to the moon's siren-song. Of the various levels of were-creature, only cubs are limited in their time of transformation -- they cannot change voluntarily during "skybright", aka the Mystaran "new moon"* -- while every lycanthrope of whelp level or higher may attempt a voluntary change, in the HM setting, at any point during the month/lunar "day". A Mystaran lycanthrope in the Hollow Moon makes Constitution checks (or Transformation skill checks) to assume animal-form** at +4 during Mystara's full moon, +2 at any other time except the Mystaran new moon, and with no modifiers during the new moon. Changing back to human form is MUCH more difficult; for that, the character suffers a -2 penalty during Mystara's full moon, a -4 penalty any other time except Mystara's new moon, and a -6 penalty during Mystara's new moon. Saves to retain one's own alignment are unmodified, with neither bonuses nor penalties, for voluntary transformations in the HM setting.

(* - As long as we're on the subject, I just thought I'd voice a criticism which many others have also expressed, regarding TSRs bogus "Moon Cycles" tables. They're not just wrong, they're physically IMPOSSIBLE ... or at least, they're impossible within the heliocentric model of Mystara's solar system, which numerous products have also described! It just CAN'T be true, that a full Matera rises at 7:15 am every third month, or that it stays visible until 9:45 am in others. In order for Matera to appear full, the sun must be shining straight down at it, from the opposite side of Mystara from the Moon; therefore it HAS to be night, on that side of the planet which faces toward, and can SEE, the moon! The only way in which the sun could illuminate BOTH the near face of Matera, AND the side of Mystara from which a person looks up to see the full moon, is if the sun were to pass BETWEEN Matera and Mystara. Granted, Mystara IS a fantasy setting ... but for crying' out loud, it's not THAT fantastic! (So... one of those PWAs had a typo, IMO, that slipped past ol' Prospero's editing room. Isidore d'Ambreville fought Henri at 7:15 pm, NOT 7:15 am. :-))

(** - Lesser wererats are the exception. They transform into humans involuntarily, at the same times other HM lycanthropes are transforming into animals, and vice versa. Technically, I wouldn't even call lesser wererats (i.e. giant rats which can assume a man-rat form) "wererats" at all; they are were-HUMANS! My own theory is that one of the Alphatian CDC's attempted cures for lycanthropy was a kind of "negative-lycanthropy" virus they'd hoped to release, which would cancel out the previous strains and turn already-infected lycanthropes into humans during the full moon. Like any other pack of health researchers, they used rats as their test subjects, and they found their new "anti-virus" did a great job, turning lab rats into humans once a month (plus, it made them smarter and let them walk upright!). Unfortunately, long before the Alphatians were ready to release this "cure", they discovered that the virus reverted to just another (rat) strain of conventional lycanthropy, as soon as it infected a human host. Nothing they tried could correct this, so the ACDC staff ordered for the infected rats to be destroyed ... but Kaladan stole one and turned it loose in Thyatis City, where a hungry giant rat attacked it. The giant rat was nipped severely, by his intended prey (it was immune to non-magical attacks), until he succeeded in choking the lab-rodent to death in his jaws (which it wasn't immune to). Twelve hours (and one rat-supper) later, the giant rat -- Mrikitat -- had a whole new life ahead of him.)

Clearly, even voluntary transformations in the HM are likely to leave a lycanthropic PC lost in his or her bestial side, snuffling for truffles or stealing sheep, and powerless to change back to human form until he or she takes a nap, an awful lot of the time. That's only what PCs should expect, when the moon's influence is magnified so greatly. But this condition of extreme susceptibility isn't permanent; the longer the character remains in the Hollow Moon, and the more successful transformations he or she manages to execute, the more his or her body will acclimatise to Matera's nearness. For every three months a Mystaran lycanthrope spends in the HM; and for every three times he/she transforms there -- voluntarily or not, though the former is much easier -- without losing control of his or her faculties (i.e. retains alignment), all of the HM-specific penalties I've mentioned, in the text above, become 1 point less-severe across the board. Thus, eighteen months or eighteen successful transformations -- or any combination of the two, which adds up to 18 -- will negate the -6 penalty to resist involuntary transformations; the additional -4/-2 penalties for moon-phase still apply, as these are imposed against lycanthropes even on Mystara. That much time would also raise the Hollow Moon penalties for voluntarily assuming human form (-2, -4, or -6, as moon-phase dictates) to the same bonuses/penalties (+2, 0, -2) normally experienced on Mystara. The bonuses for voluntarily assuming animal form do not change, but the -4 penalty for retaining one's alignment will be corrected by degrees (making it much easier to perform successful transformations, in the process!), until saves are normal for involuntary changes and at +4 for voluntary ones. Improving one's saves beyond the normal values for Mystaran lycanthropes, as given in "Night Howlers", is not possible, no matter how long the PC stays in the moon or how many successful transformations he or she undergoes.

This may seem like a LOT of trouble for a PC to go through, merely to get back to the same level of control he or she already had, home on Mystara! But there's a reward to be had, that makes such a long struggle worthwhile ... one that the lycanthropic character will only realise, once he or she gets back to the home planet. Because -- having spent such lengthy periods within the "overloaded" environment of the moon, ITSELF -- a lycanthrope who returns from space, to good ol' Mystara, will find that the now-distant Matera's effect upon his or her nature has been permanently reduced. In building up a tolerance for direct contact with lunar influences, lycanthropes who visit the moon first-hand may cut back on their susceptibility to the full moon, and to the loss of their alignment, as Matera's power suddenly doesn't seem so strong to them by comparison. For every two points by which they'd managed to reduce the penalties they suffered in the Hollow Moon, to transformation and self-control saves, the returning were-creature receives a permanent +1 to the appropriate saving throws (or skills, if applicable). Thus, a novice werewolf who remains in the HM setting for 12 months, and reduces his penalties by four points, could gain a permanent +2 to saves vs Spells for involuntary transformations, and to Constitution checks for voluntary ones. A highly-skilled werebat who stays on Matera for six years would "top out" after reducing her -6 penalty to resist transforming, and her -4 penalty to retain her alignment, to "no penalty"; upon returning to Mystara, she'd have a +2 on all her future Self Control checks, and a +3 on Transformation checks.

On "Native" Lycanthropes

Luckily for Matera's own native-born lycanthropes -- there aren't many, but there's some -- the penalties which "immigrant" were-creatures from Mystara suffer aren't imposed upon those who originate in the Hollow Moon. Any Materan who inherits lycanthropy from his or her parents, or anyone who is bitten by a lycanthrope and contracts its condition in the HM, starts off as a were-creature already habituated to the "overdose" of lunar influence typical of the setting. For lycanthropes who originate inside the Hollow Moon, such intensities of Materan influence are normal: it's Mystara, that's got too WEAK a supply of lunar energies! (A moon-born lycanthrope who travels to Mystara will, in fact, suffer a comparable loss of control ... but it's a loss of the power to ASSUME an animal-form as the character wills, not to change back to a human or to resist the full moon's power*.) If a character was infected by a lycanthrope in the course of a journey between the two settings -- e.g. if a voidship traveller gets bitten, while subduing a shipmate who's succumbed to an "in-transit" transformation -- he or she will follow the pattern of whichever world he or she first transforms on.

(* - The Materan lycanthrope suffers an across-the-board -4 modifier to all Constitution or Transformation checks, when transforming voluntarily into animal form. Voluntary transformations to human form are at a +4 bonus. These are in addition to ordinary bonuses/penalties which are applied to such checks, for the time of month. As with Mystaran were-PCs on Matera, a Materan lycanthrope can gradually adjust to conditions on Mystara and learn to transform at will under the planet's "weak" moonlight, reducing his or her penalties by 1 point per three months or three successful transformations (which in this case means voluntary transformations only). Materan lycanthropes are affected by the full moon just like Mystaran ones, so far as involuntary transformations are concerned: although they are receiving less total moonlight and can't "feel" the moon's energies as much, their condition responds to the cyclical nature of lunar influence on Mystara and how that influence "peaks" during the full moon ... fluctuations that doesn't happen on Matera, and to which they haven't built up any special resistance. Lycanthropes from Matera have an extra +3 bonus to their saves to retain their alignment, whenever they assume animal-form on Mystara.)

In their own blue-lit, lunar world, Materan lycanthropes have exactly the same bonuses and penalties to their chance of transforming, and of retaining their human minds when they do so, as Mystaran were-creatures have on Mystara. (The HM's super-high level of lunar influence is "normal", for them). Like all were-creatures, they experience involuntary transformation into their animal forms on a regular, monthly basis. Lycanthropes of Matera AREN'T tied into the cycle of the full moon/"fulldark", however; that's something which is only true of planet-born or -bitten lycanthropes, or of Materans who visit Mystara (whose "internal clocks" temporarily reset for a moon-cycle, while planetside). While Mystaran lycanthropes bring their transformation-cycle with them to the moon, those who've only known Matera don't experience the same monthly fluctuations in lunar energies that Mystara's are used to. Located at "ground zero" for moon-influence, their transforming bodies aren't compelled to synchronise themselves with Mystaran were-creatures'... or with each others', for that matter! Remember: the Moon's ALWAYS full in SOME direction, so changing with "the full moon" makes no sense if you live there.

Thus, instead of changing "in sync" with a known celestial event, Materan were-creatures who contract lycanthropy by being bitten by others of their kind will change form involuntarily -- just like a Mystaran lycanthrope does, under the full moon -- during times that recall periods of extreme traumatic stress. To be specific, they change to animal form during the SAME 48-hour period, each month, as that in which they'd originally become infected with the disease! (A traumatic event, by any standard, and one that magnifies a lycanthrope's fears, stress, and bestial impulses, every month, until he or she "loses it" and the change sets in.) The monthly "anniversary" of a Materna's exact instant of infection lies right in the middle of this 48-hour period, so that the character transforms to animal guise 24 hours before the anniversary, and finally regains a human form for good, 24 hours after that instant.

During this period of transformation, the character should be treated exactly like a normal, Mystaran lycanthrope under the full moon -- an involuntary change to the animal form occurs, unless it can be resisted successfully; a human alignment and mindset may yield to the animal's; Chaotic phenotypes who lose their wits become ravaging, bloodthirsty killers. A Materan lycanthrope who falls sound asleep while involuntarily locked in animal-form will revert back to human form, in his or her sleep. Upon awakening, such a character who fails his or her saving throw against a second transformation will change back to animal form, if the 48 hours have not yet passed. (There are cautionary folk tales, among Toroldorskis, about careless, would-be voyeurs who lasciviously "peeped" at unarmed, unclad, sleeping maidens in the depths of the forest... only to be caught and torn to pieces, when they made some accidental sound, and the "sleeping maidens" awoke and became vengeful she-wolves. ;-D) Lycanthropes who inherit the condition from their parents experience this kind of uncontrolled transformation on the monthly anniversary of their first "change", which is typically set off by some unpleasant, stressful, but routine travail -- a nasty fistfight with peers; a parental beating; being stood up for one's date with the village's most eligible maiden/bachelor -- of adolescence.

Because it's more probable for a given lycanthrope to infect others during his or her own "Wild Times"*, this means that Materan lycanthropes of a given 'outbreak' will tend to transform in roughly the same time-frame -- namely, that of whichever individual first brought lycanthropy into the community. This isn't an unshakeable rule, however, as lycanthropes may choose to transform "out-of-phase" for a variety of reasons, potentially infecting others outside their usual Wild Time; and the longer a given epidemic of lycanthropy spreads unchecked, the more the collective time-frame of its "recruits" will expand, rendering a larger and larger portion of the month unsafe. Were-hunters in the Hollow Moon feel an even greater pressure than others of their profession, to contain such outbreaks quickly, lest the overlapping Wild Times of their lycanthropic foes grow so prolonged that the usual methods of identification (i.e. checking whom in the community was unaccounted for, during hours when a quarry is known to transform) become useless. On the positive side, there's often clues available in the local gossip of a region newly-beset by lycanthropes: if the village cobbler's son had a quarrel with his playmates that ended in bloody noses, and stumbled off into the woods making whining sounds, in the middle of skybright last month, then the boy's a likely suspect if the recent were-attacks also took place at skybright, and is exonerated of possible suspicion if they didn't.

(* - That's what Materan lycanthropes call these out-of-control monthly periods of their lives. Heck, there's already Storm, Fire, Doom and Lull Times; why shouldn't Matera's were-creatures copy a pattern of terminology that already exists, on HM calendars? :-))

Of the dozen varieties of lycanthropic infection (counting HW subspecies) known on Mystara, only four have yet appeared in the Hollow Moon. Their descriptions and histories follow:

As already mentioned, werewolves are present on Matera, nearly all of them in the "High Traladaran" lunar nation of Toroldorsk, having been sent there -- mostly by accident, but also (so claims Zirchev, who likes lycanthropes) as a legitimate "cultural element"* of its people -- along with some covert additions to the human population of this young, beleaguered HM kingdom. These werewolves aren't the forest-haunting loners of their Karameikan cousins, however: they are active, secret participants in Toroldorsk's power structure, particularly the military. (They aren't out to grab themselves a legitimate domain like Glantri's Prince Malachie did, though; they like the army, because nobody notices if a few enemy corpses are more tooth-ripped than sword-cut. ;-) )

(* - Nyx snuck one of her nosferatu in by the same avenue, using much the same argument ... but that was the LAST post, not this one! ;-))

Sharing the familial loyalties of Traladaran culture, on top of wolves' usual pack instincts, the first werewolf immigrants fast established themselves as ordinary Toroldorskis of the same four "clans", though they were actually brethren in fur, not by blood. Like the werewolves of Glantri, they police their own numbers and forbid 'recruitment' of anyone but spouses and blood kin. Unlike Malachie's "Wolf Law", their self-regulation DOESN'T prohibit preying upon humans or demihumans ... only the failure to cover it up effectively, when one does so (this is punishable by death, if it endangers the clan). Among themselves, the werewolves of Toroldorsk refer to their intertwining families and covert society as the "Dire Clans", having taken the dire wolf -- a common predator in the Toroldorsk woodlands, and one their kills are often blamed upon -- as their public heraldic symbol and private mascot.

A single werebat entered the Hollow Moon by a remarkable coincidence in 862 AC, after being captured by Glantri's Prince Morphail. Its messy depredations in Glantri City had incited some awkward personal questions, compelling him to hunt it down; more amused than angered, once he realised he didn't have yet another renegade vampire to deal with, the prince offered the terrified creature to Alphaks as a gift, and Alphaks -- equally amused, as he was bored and it grovelled nicely -- plunked it down in the Hollow Moon with vague commands to cause trouble.

The joke was on Morphail: the "miserable" creature was actually Desdemonda Ayvaer, a high-level mage from Blackhill, who utterly despised her Alphatian kin for stigmatising her infection, and who'd only been vulnerable to capture because she was yet new to her lycanthropy and hence, had forgotten all of her spells when she transformed. She has since mastered her lycanthropy, learned a great deal about the Hollow Moon's magics and environmental quirks, and done an excellent job of selecting only the best and brightest HM mages and crystallomancers to join her 'flock' of Chaotic werebat followers. Mistress Ayvaer currently resides in an ornate pagoda in Vedal's second largest city, where her Cypri skin colour is easily mistaken for that of the locals -- at least, under lunar light -- and where her indifference to the city's omnipresent religious icons and wards against undead baffle those who hunt the spell-casting "vampires" which prey on hapless citizens.

Desdemonda is now well over 200 years old, and -- since several of the traditional ingredients of Alphatian "Potion of Longevity" formulas are unavailable on Matera -- has extended her lifespan using the late Volospin Aendyr's longevity-spell ... an ancient Alphatian ritual-magic which requires a living wolf's heart as a material component, and the secret of which she stole from Silverston before she fled the principality. However, the SoR interferes with the spell's youth-restoring functions; if not cloaked in an illusion, Mistress Ayvaer's human body is every bit as decrepit and hideous as her true age implies, and even her bat-form is bald and horribly wrinkled. Recently, she has hit on the notion that it's her lycanthropy which has caused the spell to fail in part, and is considering sending adventurers to the Toroldorsk forests with snares, to see if the heart of a living werewolf will be any more effective.... ;-D

To date -- though he'd initially found the thought of sending an outcast from Blackhill up against the Alphatians entertaining -- Alphaks has never called in any favours from his HM pawn. Indeed, Desdemonda suspects the malign Immortal has forgotten all about her, and is glad of it. She should be so lucky: Alphaks knows that she and her flock will be much more powerful on Mystara, where both the moon's weaker influence and the SoRs absence will be on their side; once he's recovered from his setbacks in WotI, he intends to start sending them to Mystara as assassins against NACE and the Flaemish. (If he ever comes up with a way to use a bunch of night-flying bats in the sunlit Hollow World, he'll sic them on Floating Alphatia, too.)

Another bit of Immortal busy bodying -- albeit an innocent one, this time -- indirectly introduced werefox lycanthropy to the HM setting: in the second of his several lives, the Polymath Leo Variantia was challenged to locate an artifact which had been lost with the destruction of the KW Doulakki city of Cynidicea. Searching the city's ruins, he discovered a portal (opened by his Immortal sponsor) to the HM version of Cynidicea ... a thriving, expansionistic city-state perpetually at war with the puppet-kingdoms of the kopru Dominarchy. In the several months it took him to overcome Matera's greater influence over his were-changes, and to investigate the artifact's last known location, Varentia infected several of the Materan inhabitants of Cynidicea with werefox lycanthropy, as well. If Leo Varentia ever attains the Immortality he's sought, there'll be several hundred descendants of those first lunar werefoxes -- descendants, both by blood and by infection -- who'll be eager to take up his worship.

(* - And infecting a tiny handful of the Cynidicean Undercity's degenerate, subterranean inhabitants with lycanthropy, in the process; check B4: "The Lost City", if you want to see the first appearance by werefoxes in an OD&D module. :-))

Although werefoxes in the Hollow Moon first started out among the Cynidiceans -- indeed, more than 60% of Materan fox-lycanthropes are of that human subrace, and boast infravision (in either form) as a result -- they have since migrated east, away from hostile werewolves and were-hunters in Toroldorsk, and into the region of Mare Foecunditatis ... a far more hospitable climate, both in its weather and in its society. Indeed, Materan werefoxes took to the trade-cities immediately, enjoying the trickery and economic treachery which prevail there. The wit and prankish habits of werefoxes have endeared many individual werefoxes to the eastern cities' gnomish citizens; a few are even welcome to live openly, without concealing their lycanthropy, in the gnomes' homeland in the Taurus Mounts. The bird-like Cacklogallinians, on the other hand, consider foxes of any sort to be evil, egg-eating, chick-devouring monsters every bit as savage as werewolves (!); they hunt vulpines ruthlessly in the countryside of their own nation, and harass or even assassinate known werefoxes in cities which they control, rather than risk their dear pullets' safety. :-)

The last type of Materan lycanthrope which is definitely known to exist, as yet, is greater wererats; in yet another twist to the lycanthropic cliché, there are no lesser wererats in the Hollow Moon! Furthermore, the greater wererats all trace their origin back to a single KW family: the disgraced Rodemus noble house of Thyatis, which was disentitled for embezzlement in 968 AC and disappeared from its barony in the Duchy of Machetos, immediately thereafter. While Imperial court rumours alleged that the shamed ex-Baron Nikolaus Rodemus had hidden his family for two years, then quietly emigrated to Traladara as henchmen in the entourage of Duke Stefan Karameikos -- settling, rumourmongers whispered, in the vicinity of a certain crumbling Keep* believed to be haunted by a vampire ;-) -- rumour was sadly mistaken.

(* - When I start dropping names from the thumbnail "sample dungeon" in the old Basic red book, you KNOW I've been spending way, way too much time on this HM project! ;-D)

In fact, the entire Rodemus family had been infected with wererat lycanthropy in a massive wererat-invasion of their castle in 961 AC, as a part of a scheme by Mrikitat to gain a voice for his fellows in Thyatis' court. (Before his disgrace, Baron Rodemus had been an up-and-coming courtier with important contacts.) The Big Boss Rat had chosen the wrong family, unfortunately ... one that proved even more Chaotically-inclined and fractious in human form, than they were as wererats! Several years of infighting over who would be "top rat" in the clan left the Rodemus family worse than useless to Mrikitat's plans, the more so when Nikolaus got caught with his fingers in the cheese and lost all his court privileges. Giving up his first batch of greater wererats as a bad job, Mrikitat exiled them to the Hollow Moon -- a nocturnal setting which he hoped might help them get a handle on their "rattishness", and stop acting like *&%#@^ PEOPLE all the time! :-D -- from which he could recall them if they ever learned their lesson. ("Us rats can't jest go roun', fightin' each udda, till we gots sometin' ta fight OVER! Ya wanna kill yer buddies, do it 'bout lunch or yer den or da ladies, NOT yer full-o-garbage EGOS, ya fleabit rag-ears!")

It didn't work worth a damn. To date, the HM Rodemus family has fragmented into dozens of tiny clanlets, each with a half-dozen or fewer members. When they aren't feuding with each other, the groups find new excuses to break up even farther ... usually over personality-clashes or stolen wealth. The latter is more common than the former, as thievery -- not the cheery trickster-play of the laid-back werefoxes, but a brutal, profit-driven criminality with no care for who gets hurt -- is the primary enterprise of the Rodemus-clan lycanthropes. The clan's secondary industry is thuggery: Quite a few unsolved murders on record in the Hollow Moon were committed by assailants who burrowed their way to their targets through holes that seemed far too small to accommodate a human being, then shrugged off the blows of victims' bodyguards as if they were nothing but a nuisance. The least reprehensible of the Rodemuses are those whose stock-in-trade is information -- blackmail, espionage, fencing of forbidden spell lore -- anything that will fetch a good (astronomical) price.

(Intermittent sightings of a fifth, undocumented weretype -- a miniature breed of weretiger, with a reputed fondness for leaping down on its prey from great heights -- have been reported in the heart of the Taurus Mounts. However, these stories are not given credence by rational HM thinkers: the only inhabitants of the deeper Taurus highlands are gnomes, NOT lycanthropy-susceptible humans... and who ever heard of a gnomish weretiger? ;-D)

Alphatian Shapeshifters

There's one more group of Materans who live in hiding among other humans, and change to animal-forms on occasion... but they're NOT victims/carriers of lycanthropy. They're living descendants of the original Alphatian and Flaemish clans -- Padfoot, Woodwarder, Bruin, and War-Tusk -- which carried the genetic shapeshifting trait that modern lycanthropy is a permutation of. When the lycanthropy-plague first broke out on Mystara in 401 BC, Koryis -- the Alphatian Immortal patron of peace, and a member of the Bruin clan in his own mortal life -- realised that it would mean the end for a peaceful existence of the shapeshifter-bloodlines: their abilities, once lauded, would be suspected and fears for as long as the plague's memory lingered.

Not wanting to see his former clan OR its counterparts driven to extinction by humans' blind terrors and hatreds, he discreetly rescued a few select members of each shapeshifter-family from the plague-fearing lynch mobs of the day, and -- since three of the four clans' animal-forms are active primarily at night, and he didn't want his own Bruin-clan to lose touch with the other three -- set them down in the Hollow Moon.

Koryis made sure to place the few shapeshifters he managed to save among HM cultures that weren't hostile to strangers, and in close enough proximity to each other so that they could meet, and maintain their own, Alphatian culture, among themselves. He also altered their body-chemistry slightly, so that HM shapeshifters (which were too few to sustain a viable gene pool, on their own) could intermarry with humans of Mystaran* descent, yet not lose their special powers. Instead, when a shapeshifter and a Materan native were wed, one child in each generation thereafter would be born with the Alphatian parent's gifts. Only if both parents are shapeshifters (of any type) will all children share the ability to transform; in marriages of "mixed" shapes, daughters inherit the mother's animal-form, and sons, the father's.

(* - Although Niccolo Galateo's remarks in PC4 imply that the old shapeshifting clans could only marry "pureblood" Alphatians, I see a problem with this notion: Galateo also claims that the bear and boar variants were found among the Flaemish. From everything we know about the Flaem, they are Cypri, not "purebloods"; and the first to arrive on Mystara would not have put up with "pale ones" among their number, even if they WERE shapeshifters! Thus, I argue it was only necessary for a non-shapeshifter parent to be descended from EITHER Alphatian ethnic group, not that they be of the "pureblooded" (pale-skinned) one. Galateo's misconception that Cypri could not be hereditary shapechangers probably arose because his Padfoot mother -- who WAS a "pureblood" -- was a bit of a bigot and took it for granted that only the "superior" pale-skinned Alphatians could develop such an ability.)

So... that's what happened to the old shapeshifters. As a unique human "subspecies", with codes of conduct and a history distinct to themselves, they warranted preservation every bit as much as any other fascinating culture, and so have their place in the museum-settings: the HM setting, in this case.

Not that I've actually got any plans for the Alphatian "familial" shapeshifters, at the moment. I just thought it might give folks some new ideas for adventures, having them be there. :-)