Werekin in Cobrin’Seil

Cobrin’Seil, being a magical setting of my own devising, has its own range of shape-shifting creatures known for various titles of ‘were-something.’ Werebears, weregoats, wereboars, all that kind of thing, grouped together under the community title of ‘werekin.’

The word ‘werekin’ comes from the Erd language, as do the phenomena of the werekin themselves. The actual condition is comparable to a kind of magical medical symbiosis; a bit like a long-term medical condition but not seen, generally, as a kind of illness.

Werekin transmission isn’t genetic, it’s familiar. People contract werekin status through long term exposure during developmental flashpoints – puberty is common, as is near death experiences. It’s a condition with rules that don’t really bear mentioning at this point in time, but the long and short is that you can have communities of them, you can have loners of them, and they experience reasonable prejudice from people unfamiliar with them because of their capacity to, y’know, like, turn into a monster and wreck people.

As an Erd creation, the Werekin condition does have some negative connotations – it was made by cannibal giant-mages, after all, and there’s a reasonable argument that something made with the power of such a great evil leaves a mark on all those who experience it. This isn’t true, but it’s certainly a reason to have a bias against it. Y’know, if you’re a refined magical culture, you might just not want sources of Erd Magic in your city.

Werekin types are linked; werewolf exposure makes you a werewolf. Werebears create werebears, and species jumps seem to be almost unheard of. What’s more, it does go both ways; werebears can pass the condition to bears, but notably: Bears with the condition don’t choose to shift. Even controlled ones can’t be ordered to do it, making them somewhat like carriers. If you hang around a bear with the condition, you aren’t likely to contract – but hang around a large number of them, or a wide variety of bears and werebears, and you become more likely.

That’s the vibe. That’s the lore. What about the mechanics?

First up, you can just use the Werebear, Wererat, and Werewolf themes in Cobrin’Seil if you want. I don’t recommend it, because those are essentially the beta model for this design. If you want to play a shapeshifting zoanthropic humanoid animal with a magical condition that makes you more dangerous sometimes, then I made my own theme for that.

Funny thing though: I can’t call it a werewolf, werebear, or wererat. The nature of the D&D 4e GSL means I can’t make my own things, and call them that. Don’t get me wrong, I actually think that it’d be fine if I did, because, what are they going to do, send the Pinkertons to get me? Still, one of the things I wanted to do was make a version of this shapeshifting theme that met these goals:

  • Modular. I wanted it so that you weren’t stuck with bear, rat, or wolf. A weremoose and a werebear are probably pretty similar, right? Why do I need a whole new theme for a weremoose?
  • Rebalance. I wanted it so that the theme wasn’t a clearly inferior option if you’re levelling up with it. The werewolf is pretty strong in the paragon tier, which is after when you want a theme to be at its strongest.
  • Availability. I want the theme to be useful to more possible types of character, in general. As it is, druids don’t want almost anything the werewolf offers, and the werebear is mostly useful to knights.

With that in mind, I present the structure of:

The Werekin

Werekin (pronounced ‘ware-kin’) are individuals with the ability to shapeshift regularly into animal forms, and eventually, a form that’s a mix of a humanoid and an animal. Werekin are present across all possible heritages, and they represent a wide variety of animals in whatever form they take.

Werekin Starting Feature (1st level): You gain a +2 bonus to saving throws against disease.

Choose one of Hulk, Brisk, or Frisk. You are that type of Werekin and it reflects your animal form. Hulks are large, heavy set creatures that use the bulk of their physical body, or the force of their personality, to impact the world around them. Brisks are typically nimble or fast creatures that need to strike decisively and carefully. Frisks are thorough, intuitive creatures that want to inspect everything and make sure they understand it from as many angles as possible.

Small and Large Beast Forms

What if I want to be a werekin of something that isn’t medium?

The simplest answer is you can’t. But rather, if you take a form of something that’s too large, you make a smaller version of it, or a version that despite its bulk, doesn’t command the same space. In sheer terms of volume, a moose doesn’t occupy all of the area of a large creature, since it’s tall and narrow; you can play with the same idea that your character, while a large animal, isn’t able to demand the same space, or stands in a way that doesn’t occupy that much space, like a bear on its hind haunches.

If you make something smaller than medium, then even if you’re a creature like a rat, you’re still a very large example of it, and able to move around in the space of a medium creature, striking at all edges of that controlled space.

It would be nice if there was no reason to refer to enormous rats or undersized bears, but werekin tend to normalise to the size of their base form.

Choose an animal that you feel represents the type of werekin you are. You don’t have to limit yourself to obvious associations – it’s possible to be a Frisk werebear, for example, or a Hulk wolf. This animal choice does not make any mechanical change to your character’s abilities.

You have the shapechanger subtype. As such, you are subject to effects that affect shapechangers. In addition, any enemy has combat advantage against you when attacking you with a silvered weapon or implement. Also, you are immune to moon frenzy.

Finally, you gain the Werekin Shape power and the Werekin Strike attack power.

Werekin ShapeWerekin Utility
With a surprising suddenness, your body warps and transforms into a form like unto an animal, fit to fight on the battlefield.
Encounter ✦ Polymorph
Minor Action • Personal
Effect: You change from your humanoid form to a beast form that lasts until the end of the encounter. Alternatively, you can end the form as a minor action and shift 1 square. While you are in beast form, you can’t use weapon or implement attack powers that lack the beast form keyword, although you can sustain such powers.
While in this form, you have low-light vision. The form is your size, and it doesn’t otherwise change your game statistics or movement modes. Your equipment becomes part of the form, but you drop anything you are holding, except implements you can use. You continue to gain the benefits of the equipment you wear, except a shield.
You can use the properties and the powers of implements as well as magic items you wear, but not the properties or the powers of weapons or the powers of wondrous items. While equipment is part of the form, it cannot be removed, and anything in a container that is part of your form is inaccessible.
Werekin StrikeWerekin Attack
Animal forms have animal attacks.
At-Will • Beast Form
Standard Action • Melee
Target: One creature.
Attack: Highest ability modifier +3 vs AC
Level 11: Highest ability modifier +6
Level 21: Highest ability modifier +9
Hit: 1d10+ highest ability modifier damage.
Level 21: 2d10 + highest ability modifier damage.
Effect: Get the following additional effect.
Hulk: The target is marked.
Brisk: If the target is bloodied, they take ongoing 5 (save ends), or their current ongoing damage is increased by 5.
Frisk: The target is slowed until the end of your next turn. If they’re already slowed, they’re immobilised until the end of your next turn.

Werekin level 5 feature (5th level): When interacting with your chosen animal type, similar creatures, and other werekin of the same type (Hulk, Frisk, or Brisk), you get a +2 bonus to Bluff, Diplomacy and Intimidate checks.

In addition, while in beast form, Hulks get +1 bonus to AC and Fortitude, Brisks get +2 bonus to speed, and Frisks get a +1 bonus to Reflex and Will.

Werekin Level 10 feature (10th level): When you use the Werekin Shape power, you can assume the form of a humanoid-animal hybrid, instead of the animal. While in hybrid form, your equipment does not become part of your new form, and you are not forced to drop any items you are holding. You are also not limited to using implement and weapon attack powers that have the beast form keyword.

Werekin Utility Powers

Now I’m running out of time for this post, and I don’t want to hold you up for a fourth post about shapeshifting beastkin. The final version of this when it goes up (probably on Square Fireballs) will have a specific list of utility powers that’s smaller and more manageable. For now, the werekin utility powers, simply put, are the utility powers for all three of the other types, recontextualised to either be agnostic – Pack Attack, for example, doesn’t need to belong to any one of them – and all ability score requirements are centered on, instead of where they currently are:

  • Hulks: Strength or Charisma
  • Brisks: Dex or Intelligence
  • Frisks: Constitution or Wisdom

And there, that’s the basics of the fix! With more time I’d probably go through and be more thorough about the utility powers, but this is what you get for now!