5e Supplement Review: Build-A-Were Workshop

While the Monster Manual has rules and mechanics for lycanthropy in 5e, I’ve always felt it was missing something. They get the job done, players and NPCs get some stat bonuses, basic traits, shapeshifting, and attack options, but much of the flavor and interesting features rely entirely on the DM.

That’s why I was so elated when The Book of House by Willy Abeel and co. came out with a fantastic set of supplementary rules that beefed up 5e’s lycanthropy mechanics. It added depth to lycanthropy as well as brand-new forms. It was a fantastic addition to my favorite 3rd party supplement.

However, the werefun didn’t stop there! Enter the Build-A-Were Workshop which takes these lycanthropy mechanics and expands upon them. It’s 52 pages chock-full of lycanthropy goodness that enables you to, as the name implies, create your own were-creature. You know, if the dozens of included options don’t tickle your fancy.

At $7.95 on the DM’s Guild, it’s a solid pick-me-up for both players and DMs itching to scratch their furry/scaly/feathery hides.

Let’s sink our teeth into this fantastic supplement and see what’s in store at the Build-A-Were Workshop!

The cover art does a fantastic job of setting the fun and out-of-the-box approach to lycanthropy that Build-A-Were Workshop strives for. Credit: Lia CuqBuild-A-Were Workshop.

Layout and Editing

As with everything involving Willy and Leon Barillaro, Build-A-Were Workshop has a flavorful and stylized layout that still maintains the essence of the 5e style. The stylized layout helps the reader feel like they’re reading Sir House’s (or more accurately a Sir House’s) notes on lycanthrope, rather than a TTRPG supplement.

It’s fun, effective, and unique.

Leon’s phenomenal editing ensures that even the most in-depth mechanics are effectively conveyed to the reader. There are a lot of complex mechanics in here that build the lycanthropy rules, but I never felt that I had a hard time grasping any of them.

I adore the fill-in-the-blank style templates for both PC and NPC werefolk. These templates helped streamline the creation process as I was building out were of my own. I knew where each trait or action needed to be slotted in thanks to the guidance the templates gave me.

Artwork

The artwork is top-notch. From the wacky, yet absolutely fitting, cover art by Lia Cuq to the gorgeous interior artwork by BlindVoid, Jay H. Holloway, Prem, Tommi Rasila, and Gui Sommer I was treated with gorgeous artwork of the various werecreatures created in the Build-A-Were Workshop.

I was also pleased to see my absolute favorite piece from The Book of House the Wereshark Pirate Captain make an appearance too! As well as many other weres from The Book of House.

New and In-Depth Lycanthropy Mechanics

Lycanthropes (or Therianthropes – we know that’s the proper name, but lycanthrope is used in the supplement for flavor reasonsare shapeshifters. They’re people who can shift into a specific animal form or hybrid humanoid/animal form.

While the classic example of a lycanthrope is a werewolf, Build-A-Were Workshop provides tons of other animal options for you to pick and choose from. It also enables people to have multiple forms of lycanthropy, however controlling the beast(s) within becomes more difficult with each additional curse.

Lycanthropes are either born with the curse or are cursed by being infected by another lycanthrope. The former is only curable by a Wish spell, but the latter can be reversed with the use of a Remove Curse spell or similar effects.

Both types of lycanthropes can learn to control their affliction, though it’s certainly not an easy feat to accomplish. Those who overcome their feral urges and impulses are rewarded with enhanced reflexes and thick hides granting them superior defenses to their ungifted counterparts.

This is shown in the various movement improvements, traits, unarmed attack actions, stat bonuses, and AC bonuses given to lycanthropes. They’re a beefy bunch, but these perks aren’t without their trade-offs.

Lycanthropy is High Risk, High Reward

The reason I loved Willy’s take on lycanthropy from the get-go was that there is always a consequence for becoming a lycanthrope. Sure, there are ample rewards for becoming more powerful thanks to the gifts of the curse, but it’s still a curse.

Drawbacks are important. They create hurdles for a PC to overcome or a weakness for an NPC that the party can exploit. Drawbacks make the game more interesting, provided there’s a reward involved to offset them.

The drawback to lycanthrope’s awesome powers is twofold. The first is that a lycanthrope has a -2 ability decrease which offsets their +2 increase. The second drawback is more abstract, yet just as impactful.

When a lycanthrope is stabilized after being dropped to 0 HP and knocked unconscious, they must make a Wisdom saving throw against their Primal DC. The more powerful the lycanthrope is, the higher their Primal DC is.

Upon failing the saving throw, the lycanthrope’s Compulsion Level (base 0) is raised by 1 up to a maximum of 3. Each level has a different drawback incorporated in it. For example, level 1 compulsion gives the PC a short-term role-playing flaw.

However, the real danger happens when a lycanthrope hits Compulsion Level 3. When this happens, they lose control over their character, either becoming hostile towards their allies or fleeing. Until they or their allies can calm them or knock them down to 0 HP they’ll be uncontrollable and a real danger to even their closest friends.

a wereshark pirate captain with a tricorn hat
Captain Latch is back and she’s as deadly as ever! Credit: Jay H. HollowayBuild-A-Were Workshop.

A Template for AnyWere

While there are plenty of pre-built weres for the choosing, the major selling point of the supplement is that you can, as the name implies, build your own were. This is doing by utilizing the templates I fawned over earlier in this review in tandem with the list of traits and movement options provided in the supplement.

While it may seem intimidating to whip up your own homebrewed were, Willy has made it super accessible for anyone to create the were of their dreams… or nightmares.

Each were has +2 to an ability score of your choosing and -2 to another one. You can also choose to forego this portion of the creation process. You’ll also choose which ability to use for the were’s Natural Weapon, either Strength or Dexterity.

Next, you’ll choose the size of your were. Keep in mind that the larger the were, the more powerful their Natural Weapon attack is. However, this comes at the price of increasing their Primal DC which in turn makes them harder to control if they’re knocked unconscious.

The final step is to spend up to 5 points on various traits and mobility features. The more powerful the trait or mobility feature, the more points they’ll cost. Also, if you wind up with leftover points, you can subtract 2 from your were’s Primal DC.

It’s both a fun, yet streamlined and highly accessible process for creating custom werecreatures.

Going All-In on the Curse

There are also a handful of feats for PCs who wish to enhance their feral senses. Some feats help you both control your lycanthropy or throw caution to the wind and enhance your lycanthropy at the cost of losing control of yourself easier.

My favorite, however, is one where your were becomes more powerful under a full moon. I thought this was both super flavorful while also providing a unique win condition for combat encounters. It also gives the were the ability to cast Moonbeam to create their own moonlight, making it much less niche than you’d first imagine.

Plus, there are a couple of race options for players who wish to make lycanthropy a focal point of their character’s background. There’s even a family tree breakdown for those who wish to trace the origins of their family’s curse back a few generations.

There Are New Toys for DMs Too!

While the player options are definitely the focus of the supplement, there’s plenty of fun stuff for DMs in here as well. DMs can build weres of their own as well thanks to a quick build template catered to DMs in the form of an NPC statblock.

Plus, there’s an included creature statblock for every lycanthrope introduced in the module. Allowing you to slot in powerful, and more interesting weres on the go.

Bring the whole table to the Build-a-Were Workshop! There’s something there for the whole family table!

Final Thoughts on Build-a-Were Workshop

Build-a-Were Workshop is a phenomenal supplement that spices up the bland RAW lycanthropy rules. There are no holds barred in this supplement. You can truly make a were out of any animal you can imagine.

Which is both terrifying and on-brand for the out-of-the-box magnificence that Willy pushes out onto the DMs Guild.

The streamlined creation process is a great tool for beginners and a fantastic resource for speeding up homebrew creature/character generation for seasoned veterans of the hobby.

Build-a-Were Workshop does a fantastic job of showcasing why lycanthropes are so amazing. Yet it’s also not afraid to show us why they’re so terrifying to the friends, allies, and acquaintances of one. A lycanthrope’s power comes at a cost, but if you’re willing to pay the price, you’ll be gifted with unimaginable power.

If you enjoyed what you read be sure to check out my ongoing review for all of the official D&D 5e books!

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