Some five years ago, I said something about my love of Gargoyles.
Still need to get to that. Why the hell are they Always Chaotic Evil, anyway…?
But for now, I think we’ll do something a little more recent for me: My newfound love of the Lycanthrope template.
For those of you unfamiliar, a brief history: When 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons launched in 2000, it brought with it a vast multitude of improvements. One of these improvements was the Template.
These would show up in creature books, and rather than being a creature themselves, they’re something you slap onto a creature, to change their attributes.
Some of these templates more or less make a new monster. Examples of this include the Half-Fiend and Half-Dragon templates.
Others simply helped eliminate a lot of duplicate entries from 2nd Edition D&D, like the Vampire and Lich template.
For a clue as to how influential Templates were to 3rd Edition, look no further than Green Ronin’s Advanced Bestiary, a book so beloved among fans that it was recently resurrected for Pathfinder. Either version contains no new monsters, simply new Templates… Over a hundred of them, to be precise. Paizo describes the current version as “force multiplier.”
Anyway, back to the matter at hand.
On the subject of eliminating extraneous monster entries, this streamlining includes the Lycanthrope template. Formerly, there were all these complex rules for who could and couldn’t catch Lycanthropy. In the beginning, only Humans could. I think if another humanoid succumbed to Lycanthropy, they died instead of becoming a werebeast.
The TSR designers must have realized this was dumb.
Unfortunately, their response was even dumber- the creation of werebeasts… unique to a particular race. The only two I remember right now are the Werefox, who were elves, and the Werebadger, who were Dwarves.
The Lycanthrope template fixes most of these problems: You take a creature with the Humanoid type (as in, something that is human or close to it, so elves, gnomes, dwarves, halflings, these all count too…), and a creature of the Animal type, do some jiggery pokery, and viola; You have a werebeast.
Despite the existence of this template, the Pathfinder Bestiaries still contain new Lycanthropes. Most of them are ones we’d want to have quick access to.
That isn’t what this post is about.
This is about finding animals you’d never want to use as Lycanthropes. The rejects. The trash.
Or the just plain weird.
What does this have to do with Gargoyles? It demonstrates the stupidity and weirdness at the center of WHY I LOVE THIS GAME.
So allow me to present the first ever edition of… The Were-Watch.
The rules are simple: It must be an Animal, and it should be any size that isn’t Tiny or Colossal. Tiny I suppose could be used by Small creatures, but Colossal could only be used by Humanoids who were already Gargantuan or Colossal themselves. We’re getting into some Attack on Titan shit with that, so yeah.
The other rule is, it should be an Animal that doesn’t have an associated Lycanthrope already. At least, not one I’m aware of. Sharks are out, because of Creatures of Freeport, for example. Weretigers and werebears return in a later Bestiary… And aren’t weird enough for this series anyway.
Let’s start with Pathfinder Bestiary 1, to whet our appetites.
Ape/Dire Ape: We start with a fun one. So much fun that I’m amazed it doesn’t exist, and frankly, it probably does, somewhere. Given its utility for jungle environs, to say nothing of being evocative of the Conan-esque fantasy some fans grew up on, these guys aren’t actually a bad idea. Wereape. Get rekt, scrub. (As an aside, I attempted to check for Were-Apes on Google and got “were apes around with the dinosaurs,” which I of course read as “Were-Apes around with the dinosaurs;” a story I probably should write…)
Dire Bat: It turns out this exists. I’m gonna talk about it anyway. I know I read at least one D&D adventure that used Werebats. I’ve known many people whose favorite Batman: The Animated Series villain was Man-Bat. I’d be upset if this thing DIDN’T exist. They’re frigging scary, because the only thing worse than a werebeast is one that can fly…
Cat, Cheetah: It’s the cheese that goes crunch? I don’t know, could take these guys seriously, kind of a sub-equatorial answer to the Werewolf empires of old…
Cat, Leopard: Turns out this thing exists. Why, I could not tell you. Wait, no. It’s because of the desire for Adventure Paths to include new monsters as often as possible. This will result in weirdness. Weird is not necessarily bad, mind you.
Dinosaurs: Okay I’m sure these have to exist. … Nope, not according to Google. In particular, the Deinonychus is an amusing option, as is the Pteranodon. Triceratops is Huge, meaning your Giants can probably make use of him. T-Rex is here but he’s Gargantuan, limiting his use, outside of Giants. Still, Giants that are Dinosaur werebeasts is an amusing and terrifying thought. I mean, why the hell not? Lost World-styled locales, ancient empires of Dinosaur shifters! It’s the kind of shit I live for.
Dog/Riding Dog: Sure. Why not? The Dog stats say they can be used for Coyotes, Jackals and other such things, meaning we get a lot of our canine werebeasts right here. Amusing at any rate.
Dolphin/Orca: Sure. Why not? I remember reading some Cthulhu Mythos stories that held the Dolphins were some breed of servant to Cthulhu. Indeed, they’re not the happy, cheerful creatures New Agers like to think they are. The stat block mentions dolphins killing sharks with their snouts, so I imagine battles between Weredolphins and Weresharks. Keep your players off balance and they’ll never know what to expect.
Eagle/Giant Eagle: These don’t seem to exist either. Their utility to Native American folklore and a general concept of, you know, being a freaking EAGLE SHIFTER forces me to wonder why. I’m realizing this post is quickly becoming less “Ha ha, this is stupid!” and more “Wait, why doesn’t this exist?”
Electric Eel/Giant Moray Eel: I was afraid this existed but Eagles did not. Well, as it turns out, though I’ve found evidence people have made homebrew stuff involving were-eels, but nothing official. Thank Mima. I’d need to reconsider this whole topic…
Elephant/Mastodon: Could be a good companion to were-dinosaurs. I mean, stampeding elephants are scary. Giants are scary. So, stampeding giants would be even scarier! … We think.
Giant Frog/Posion Frog: Okay. Now we get silly. I mean, Boggards and stuff already exist so why would you ever use these? because sometimes, silly is what you want. Also, much like with the were-dolphin, confusing the hell out of your players is what you want too.
Goblin Dog: Has anyone noticed this? The Goblin Dog has the Animal type. Goblins have the Humanoid type. This makes them good- if not necessarily ideal- candidates for Goblin Were-Goblin Dogs. They’d keep the Allergic Reaction ability, and generally would be absolutely horrifying low-level werebeasts. … This game has been out since 2009. I can’t be the first person in six years to have noticed this, can I? Please, tell me I’m not…
Herd Animal, Aurochs/Bison: MESS WITH THE BULL AND YOU GET THE HORNS! Admitted, Minotaurs already exist, but hey. Could use both. Again, people are expecting wolves and rats. They’re not expecting Bison…
Horse/Pony: I don’t recommend it. I mean, sure, you always COULD, but at that point, why wouldn’t you just play Ponyfinder instead…?
Hyena/Dire Hyena: Though they’d have a decent amount of utility, I noticed something: For some bizarre reason, Gnolls have the Humanoid type, when they really ought to be a Monstrous Humanoid. This means you can have a Gnoll Were-Hyena. There’d be no way to tell when they shifted into Hybrid form. They’d look exactly the same! There could be generations of Gnoll tribes, suffering from Lycanthropy and nobody ever actually noticed! You have no idea how much I am laughing as I type this out. Seriously, that’s some funny shit.
Lion/Dire Lion: Frankly, I’m surprised this one doesn’t exist. I’m aware of one from Kobold Press, sure. But nothing from Paizo, it seems. Really, this one just makes too much sense, especially considering how many cultures revered lions. Also, who doesn’t like lion-men? I’m surprised at how many of these ideas I’m digging…
Monitor Lizard/Giant Frilled Lizard: Confession time. About seven years ago, when I was on Wizard’s own message boards for 3.5e, I was a Character Optimization (CharOpt for short) regular. I was the natural weapons master- one of them, anyway- and the old Soul Eater thread? That was mine. Anyway, later, someone did a thread on optimizing Lycanthropes, and listed the Monitor Lizard as one of the best options to play as. It’d be bloody hilarious to play as one. The looks on people’s faces… That whole episode is likely what most inspired this post. And to think, I’m still crazy, after all these years…
Octopus/Giant Octopus: Hehehe. This would look silly, until one grabs the party Wizard and drowns her. In particular, the Giant version’s eight tentacle attacks would be bad news for any young adventurer- Regardless of gender.
Rhinoceros/Wooly Rhinoceros: See Elephants above. Also, Rocksteady says “Hi.”
Roc: I was looking forward to this one, because it IS an Animal… But it’s Gargantuan. Eh. You know what? Attack on Fucking Titan it is. The true rulers of the Eagle empire were the Roc Lords! … Damn, that actually sounds like a good idea…
Constrictor Snake/Venomous Snake: More shades of Conan here. I don’t know. I kinda like this idea. Horrible servants of the Yuan-ti/Serpentfolk? Hmm…
Squid/Giant Squid: Octopi were a go, why not squids? Still no fun for either gender though…
Wolverine/Dire Wolverine: You got a problem, bub? Yeah I don’t know why you’d use this, except to make a lot of really bad jokes/pop culture refs.
Well… This was interesting. I was expecting more lulz but instead discovered actual good ideas here. I’m surprised, honestly.
I may return to this topic soon. Until then, take care, and beware of Werefrogs.