It’s the final Monster Monday before Halloween! As you know, I’m contractually obligated to highlight an appropriately-spooky creature in honor of the holiday. It was honestly a tough decision for me, but lycanthropes are such a unique group of creatures that I felt it was high-time to feature one in this series.
The werewolf is hands-down the most iconic of the lycanthropes in the 5e Monster Manual. They are ferocious hunters and terrifying monsters. However, they also have plenty of roleplaying depth. After all, not everyone afflicted with lycanthropy accepts it willingly.
Lycanthropy is a curse in 5e that can either be received by failing a Constitution save against a lycanthrope’s Bite attack or it can be passed on by your parents at birth. There are a couple of ways to remove this curse such as the Wish or Remove Curse spells, but DMs can make up their cures.
Player characters (PCs) can be afflicted with this curse, of course, meaning that they can gain the benefits (and downsides) of lycanthrope. I’m not an enormous fan of the official rules in the Monster Manual, but they work. (The Book of House has some great rules for lycanthrope by the way).
The full moon is out! Quickly, grab your Monster Manual and let’s get to work!
All lycanthropes are forcibly turned into their respective were-creature when the moon is full, despite how hard they try to not be transformed. Some lycanthropes aren’t even aware of their curse until this first full moon.
The werewolf is a specific creature in the lycanthrope family. Their personalities are, understandably, unique compared to the likes of a werebear or wererat.
Werewolves are predatory by nature. They hunt creatures and beasts so that they may feast upon their flesh. Because of this, many werewolves will form packs with other werewolves, wolves, or even dire wolves, so that they may live out their days as hunters.
Due to this thirst for blood, most werewolves will immediately flee civilization once they are aware of their curse out of fear of harming their peers, friends, and family. Those that don’t know about their curse until their first full moon are the most dangerous ones, unintentionally murdering these people due to their ignorance.
Werewolves, unlike other lycanthropes, don’t seem to care either way about passing on their curse. They simply exist to hunt. If they pass on the curse, they pass on the curse.
Werewolf Stats and Abilities
You can find the werewolf’s statblock on page 211 of the Monster Manual.
Size: medium humanoid (human, shapechanger)
AC: 11 in humanoid form, 12 (natural armor) in wolf or hybrid form
HP: 58 (9d8 + 18)
Speed: 30 ft. (40 ft. in wolf form)
STR: 15 (+2)
DEX: 13 (+1)
CON: 14 (+2)
INT: 10 (+0)
WIS: 11 (+0)
CHA: 10 (+0)
The first thing we need to establish about werewolves and other lycanthropes is that certain aspects of their statblock change based on what form they are currently in. Each lycanthrope has three different forms: humanoid, hybrid, and animal. A lycanthrope can change between these three willingly.
The werewolf’s AC is low, coming in at 11 in their regular human form or a +1 AC of 12 if they are in their hybrid or wolf forms. Thankfully their HP of 58 gives them the ability to withstand a respectable amount of damage despite their poor AC.
They have an average speed for medium creatures unless they are in their four-legged wolf form which gives them a boosted speed of 40 ft. This is a useful form to use for retreating or scouting their hunting grounds.
The ability scores array makes sense for what the creature is intended to do. They are hunters, melee combatants, and ferocious killers. They use Strength for all of their attacks so it’s nice that it’s one of their highest ability scores, but it does suck that it’s just one point shy of having a +3 modifier.
Werewolves are going to be susceptible to any saving throws requiring their Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma, one of which is a common saving throw ability. At least none of these ability scores have negative modifiers.
Resistances, Immunities, Saves, and Skills
Skills: Perception +4, Stealth +3
Damage Immunities: bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from nonmagical weapons that aren’t silvered
Senses: passive Perception 14
Languages: Common (can’t speak in wolf form)
CR: 3 (700 XP)
The werewolf is a predator, and every part of their statblock lends itself to this role. Their bonuses to Perception and Stealth checks aid in their efforts of hunting for fresh meat. It also makes them difficult creatures to ambush.
Lycanthropes all share a unique (and powerful) damage immunity, which is immunity to damage from any weapons that aren’t magical or silvered. Particularly crafty lycanthropes can seriously turn the tides of battle if they can hide their lycanthropy from their enemies until they are in combat with each other.
If you’re a martial character hunting a werewolf, you best have a trusty silvered weapon at your disposal!
CR 3 is a little low if you take their statblock at face value. The werewolf’s offensive powers are weak and their AC is lackluster at best. However, if you are a party full of martial characters without a reliable way of dealing damage to a werewolf then they’ll be a terrifying CR 3 creature.
Abilities and Traits
Shapechanger. The werewolf can use its action to polymorph into a wolf-humanoid hybrid or into a wolf, or back into its true form, which is humanoid. Its statistics, other than its AC, are the same in each form. Any equipment it is wearing or carrying isn’t transformed. It reverts to its true form if it dies.
Keen Hearing and Smell. The werewolf has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on hearing or smell.
Shapechanger allows us to swap between our three forms, slightly changing out statblock in each form. It’s important to note that Shapechanger is unlike the druid’s Wild Shape or the Polymorph spell in that these forms do not have separate health pools. The werewolf’s HP is consistent between all three forms.
Keep in mind that while the humanoid and hybrid forms can use weapons and shields, the wolf form cannot hold anything in its paws. The wolf form, however, does gain the perk of 10 ft. of extra movement speed to help balance this out.
Keen Hearing and Smell circles back to my observation about werewolves being notoriously difficult to ambush. This trait also assists them in becoming the terrifying predators that they are.
Multiattack (Humaniod or Hybrid Form Only). The werewolf makes two attacks: one with its bite and one with its claws or spear.
Bite (Wolf or Hybrid Form Only). Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d8 + 2) piercing damage. If the target is a humanoid, it must succeed on a DC 12 Constitution saving throw or be cursed with werewolf lycanthropy.
Claws (Hybrid Form Only). Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5ft., one creature. Hit: 7 (2d4 + 2) slashing damage.
Spear (Humanoid Form Only). Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 20/60 ft., one creature. Hit: 5 (1d6 + 2) piercing damage, or 6 (1d8 + 2) piercing damage if used with two hands to make a melee attack.
This creature’s Multiattack can be used only in the werewolf’s humanoid or hybrid forms. These will, therefore, be the two forms you’ll want to use 90% of the time in combat. Here is the damage per turn breakdown for each of the creature’s forms:
- Humanoid (one-handed spear): 11 piercing damage
- Humanoid (two-handed spear): 12 piercing damage
- Hybrid: 13 piercing damage
- Wolf: 6 piercing damage
While it’s certainly close, we’re going to want to be in hybrid form if we wish to deal optimal damage. Especially since the creature gains +1 AC when they’re in their wolf or hybrid forms!
Claws and Spear are similar, basic attacks, though they deal slashing and piercing damage respectively. Claws deals slightly-higher damage coming in a 7 per attack, but Spear gets the benefit of becoming a ranged weapon attack on the fly.
Bite is a staple ability for all lycanthropes. You may want to read up on the creature’s lore before spamming this move during an encounter as some lycanthropes are very selective about who they choose to infect. However, werewolves genuinely don’t care so feel free to Bite to your heart’s content!
The DC 12 Constitution saving throw isn’t high, but this is a low-CR creature. Lycanthrope is also a major potential plot point so it makes sense that werewolves shouldn’t be able to infect people willy-nilly. It’s high enough that a random commoner would probably be infected, but not a powerful adventurer.
Can Take a Lot of Punches
Despite their low AC, werewolves still have 58 HP. This is certainly an above-average amount for a CR 3 creature. For reference, this is roughly over 10 Eldritch Blasts worth of HP if we use their average damage.
This is assuming that you can even damage a werewolf in the first place! If your weapons aren’t magical or silvered, then you’re shit out of luck as a martial character. The best you can do is grapple and shove the werewolf to help your spell casters slowly chip away at them.
It’s not going to be easy to take down a werewolf, especially if you’re a low-level party hunting one or two of them.
The best part about being a creature with different forms is that you have a bunch of extra tools to assist you in niche scenarios. Sure, most of the werewolf’s power comes from its hybrid or humanoid form, but the wolf form still has its uses.
Provided it’s not a full moon out, the werewolf can disguise themselves as a regular person. They can blend into society and use their supernatural powers to achieve what they desire. They can also use this form to trick the party into thinking they’re a regular joe if need be.
The hybrid form is the werewolf’s most powerful in terms of its combat prowess. It simply deals the most damage and has the most AC. If a confrontation causes the party to draw swords, you best bet the werewolf will shift into its hybrid form.
The wolf form is useful for either blending in with the natural environment or tracking. Werewolves are predators, and while not super smart, they have average intelligence and would know to stalk their prey and lunge when the time is right. Oh, the extra movement speed is also great for retreating from the party if things go sour!
Their Bark is Worse Than Their Bite
For such a fearsome predator, the werewolf is not offensively-gifted. Their power comes from their massive amount of HP and their exceptional damage immunities, allowing them to out sustain their competition.
Even in hybrid form, the werewolf’s absolute best damage turns out to be an average of 13 damage. This is not all that great for a CR 3 creature, but I understand why it is what it is from a design standpoint.
This is a low-CR creature. The designers assumed that this means that most martial characters will not have access to magical weapons, and they may not have had a reason to silver a weapon before confronting a werewolf. The creature needed to be tuned to the assumption that possibly 50%+ of the party can’t deal damage to them.
A werewolf is one of those creatures that’s going to vary in difficulty based on how much loot you give out, how well-informed the party is, and what the party composition is.
Easy to Hit
Depending on the werewolf’s current form, they’ll either have 11 or 12 AC. Neither of these is a particularly great amount of AC, but when push comes to shove you’ll take the 12 AC. Sure, their damage immunities and HP will sustain them for quite some time, but a werewolf is pretty much going to constantly take damage in combat.
What’s more, werewolves are not the best candidates for avoiding any sort of saving throw attack or effect. Their best modifier is a +2 which is in Strength and Constitution, so as long as your spell doesn’t require a save from either of those, you have a chance.
Their ability scores aren’t bad, but none of them are great either. They’re a prime candidate to be crowd controlled as they have only a +0 or +1 in two of the three most common saving throw abilities.
How to Play a Werewolf
They Can’t Cast Spells Without Jugulars!
No resistances or immunities to magical damage, no Magic Resistance, low AC, and mediocre ability scores? Yep, it’s caster time!
Spellcasters are the most obvious threats to a werewolf. They can shoot these furry monstrosities from afar and deal full damage to them. They can also use nasty crowd control spells to stop the werewolves in the tracks.
Werewolves are reasonably intelligent creatures compared to most “beasts”. Sure, they’re not winning any Nobel Prizes, but they’ll know a) who is hurting them the most and b) who is a spell caster that can hurt them the most. Once the person or people have been identified, they’ll become the pack’s first target.
This is why it’ll be important for the party’s frontline to do their best to prevent the werewolves from actually reaching their spellcasting allies. If they can’t deal damage with their unsilvered weapons then they can grapple, shove, or use the Help action to assist their allies in any way possible.
Play “catch me if you can” with the party’s burly frontline and dash straight toward those pesky spellcasters. Once they’re dead (or turned) it’ll be easy to mop up the rest of the party.
Use the Environment to Your Advantage!
Werewolves are certainly creatures that would be tuned-into the forests or other locales in their area. After all, they probably spend plenty of time hunting there.
My point is, if they choose to engage the party, they’re going to do it on their terms. They are going to select the best location to ambush the party. They’re going to take the best position at that location. And they’re going to wait to strike when the party has their guard down.
If things are looking bleak for your werewolves then they’re going to try and find the nearest exit. They’ll Shapeshift into their wolf form and use that extra movement speed to zoom through the brush and overgrowth to safety.
Use your environment to stalk, ambush, and escape the party as required!
5 Werewolf Plot Hooks
- A Suspicious Visitor – A big city merchant has recently set up shop in the town. While they’ve been friendly to the townspeople, some are suspicious of the fact that they never see them socializing in the tavern, or anywhere at night.
- Quell the Infestation – The local wildlife has been found brutally slaughtered and eaten. Rumor has it that a pack of lycanthropes have migrated to this forest, and it’s becoming an enormous problem. Drive them out or cut them down!
- Reversing the Curse – Unfortunately, you have been given the curse of lycanthropy. Also, you don’t know any powerful spellcasters to lift this curse. It’s rumored that there are other methods for reversing the curse, but none have been confirmed.
- Defending a Village – A town of lycanthropes has lived peacefully for generations. However, the newly crowned king of the humans has decreed that these people be executed. The king refuses to be reasoned with.
- The Ranger’s Secret – A hero of the forest has been protecting the surrounding wildlife for decades. Many are suspicious of how, despite their age, they still have the vigor and strength of their youth. Have they made a pact with a demon? Are they a genetic anomoly?
All in all, werewolves are solid creatures despite their power being in their defenses and dragging on a fight for as long as possible. However, that power is dependent on the party’s composition and skill level.
Due to their unique statblock, they’re going to be terrifying and practically immortal to a party full of martial combatants, while only a moderate threat to a party full of spell casters. Know your party before you you make a whole adventure full of lycanthropes, only for them to be dumpstered like any other creature.
The werewolf is a fearsome predator. They don’t have ulterior motives like other lycanthropes. They simply exist to hunt, kill, and feed.
Yet that’s just a typical werewolf. A very intelligent person who is cursed with lycanthropy (willingly or otherwise) will have other aspirations in their life and will be able to use their newfound power to meet these goals.
The werewolf is the perfect choice for a fun Halloween one-shot or adventure. They’re creepy, they’re scary, and also hairy!