Friday, October 30, 2015

No, They're NOT All "Lycanthropes"

I flipped a coin to see whether I was going to write about weresharks or Batgirl and weresharks won.

[I'm still sick by the way...miserably so, though not nearly as bad as yesterday]

Until a few years ago, if you'd asked me to name my favorite "classic movie monster," I probably would have said werewolf, hands down. This despite never having watched a werewolf film approaching anything close to "good" in quality. Really...I've seen plenty of vampire films that I enjoyed over the years, but aside from (maybe) Brotherhood of the Wolf, I've just been "eh" with all the wolf-man films I've seen...and that one didn't even HAVE a werewolf (in itself disappointing).

Hmm, actually An American Werewolf in London is fairly good (memorable for certain). It's just that there's so many other things going on in the movie, it distracts a bit from the wolfish parts. And I remember being less than impressed with the actual "wolf" of the film.

[oh, and I haven't seen Silver Bullet, based on Stephen King's Cycle of the Werewolf. I quite enjoyed King's book, but most of the films based on his work have been a little underwhelming]

I don't know why werewolves...I can't seem to recall any distant childhood memories of my formative years that would have been an influence. I have always liked (and been fascinated with) wolves...have always gotten along well with canines in general.

But who cares. I like werewolves. Like 'em in the horror genre, like 'em in gaming (though, thinking back, I think I've only had one opportunity to play a werewolf...however, I did run an exceptionally hairy gangrel character back in my Vampire days). And it's time for someone to set the record straight about werewolves: despite what D&D has been telling you for decades, ONLY werewolves can be properly called lycanthropes.

That's because "lycanthrope" is Greek for "wolf man."

Shapeshifters, were-creatures, folks who turn into animals...they're all properly called therianthropes. Yes, it's a thing; go look it up. Plenty of animal-human shifters appear in various cultures throughout the world. They all go in the therianthrope category; lycanthropes are a subcategory.

Anyway, all thanks to Cameron DuBeers for hipping me to the appearance of King Shark on the recent Flash episode (which I haven't seen, by the way) as a beautiful example of what a "were shark" might look like in D&D. The thing definitely looks to be about 5 or 6 hit dice, quite in line with James Maliszewski's version, which was based on Holmes's description. For my money, I'd probably reduce the number appearing to D4 and make its attack damage 2D8 as those teeth give it some nasty potential (a low damage roll would just indicate a thumping/knockdown while a high roll indicates a grab-rip-tear style move). Still a bit smaller/weaker than the Gygax version found in the MM2 (his version is HD 10+3, AC 0, with damage of 5-20)...but that version only shows up as an (evil) great white shark, never the man-shark hybrid, and is statted as such.

Probably at least HD 5+5; no more than 6.
BY THE WAY...while I do like the idea of hybrid-forms when it comes to aquatic-style therianthropes  (since otherwise its easy enough for players to stay out of the water), my default preference when it comes to these creatures is to stick with an animal form and a human form without the in-betweens. For the most part, I think its cooler to savage player characters with a giant wolf or rat, rather than have them attacked by the claw/claw/bite of a movie monster (or, worse, a sword-wielding rat-headed humanoid...couldn't you simply adapt skaven to the game?). Limiting were-creatures to animal form provides some nice limits to the creatures (like the lack of opposable thumbs) that creative players can use to their advantage...even more so if the creature's intelligence is also limited to a close-to-bestial level. Always nice to be able to hide behind a bolted door when you've run out of silver arrows.

Batgirl later.

[by the way, if you'd like another person's opinion of the Flash's shark-man...and would like to see video of the character, here's a link]

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