Eyeballs Deep in Scarlet Emerald


Suddenly, Werewolves

This encounter will work in any busy public place, but I've found that it works best in a tavern. This establishment can be completely isolated, such as a way station in the wilderness (especially during bad weather, ala The Thing), or in a large city with tall buildings, crowded lanes and dark alleys. I've found that it works best in a city since urban areas tend to restrict weapons and armor and the population density increases the chance for panic and an alarming pandemic of lycanthropy. Such a plague should affect the setting significantly, an event that will be spoken of for hundreds of leagues or more and certainly makes history books.

The Setup

1. The adventurers go to be hired for an adventure they will never go on, accosted instead with this encounter. The DM should give a fair amount of alluring details, perhaps in a letter announcing the employer and his or her meeting. The adventurers might still go on the first adventure later, especially if they save their would-be employer.

2. This is a place the adventurers are all too familiar with (and possibly bored of), increasing the chance for surprise.

In either case, you should detail the patrons, but not too much to arouse suspicions. A young nobleman and his retinue just returned from a hunting trip, for example. This works better in setup 2 since the patrons are locals the adventurers know well and they will empathize more when the blood flows. For example, how do our heroes handle hacking down kindly Johan, the town cooper with three kids that they know, once he becomes a ravenous killing machine? This encounter now becomes a tragic psychological horror, and our heroes feel much more obliged to cure these people, or at least to avenge their deaths. However, in setup 1, just as much sympathy can be gained by pulling at the heroes' heart strings. You just have to get into your players' heads and be creative.

The Encounter

Once the adventurers have settled in at their tables, the DM picks three to five patrons. In a matter of moments, they will all transform into werewolves (or some other lycanthrope, such as werehyenas or werespiders.) This is already quite dangerous, but let's let examine some things and turn up the heat, shall we?

~ Imagine a crowd of panicking inebriated patrons in a confined space. People and objects can be pushed over, trampled and crushed. Ever been inside one of these? (It's awful). Standing on higher footing (like standing on the tables) usually helps.

~ To make things fun, place a few well-armed NPCs in the crowd and roll randomly to see how they will react. The shadier the tavern, the more paranoid everyone is likely to be, and the DM can tailor a few reactions to suit. Misfires by missile weapons, area of effect spells, wands and staves are just a few fun things that can go awry, possibly zapping a random PC.

~ Anything that obscures vision, such as excess smoke from the (doused) fireplace, or a lantern dropping and starting a fire, a chandelier falling onto a now flaming townie, a miscast fog spell...

~ The innate paranoia of being bitten. Even if the adventurers and several patrons survive, will they also become werewolves?! The Enemy Within scenario.

~ Having a werewolf almost immediately escape into the night, say, by bashing through the shutters or out of the root cellar below. This may split up the party, and now we have a chase. Do some research on wolves to understand the endurance, teamwork, and cunning of these creatures - and then imagine what a werewolf could do. Awesome.

~ Let's not forget that these creatures can summon animals! A huge pack of wolves stalking the lanes of a crowded city, overlarge spiders covering doorways and windows with webs so no one can escape, or tusked wild boars running amuck in town square. The list goes on.

As an aside, if you use wererats, a rat swarm is a lovely addition to this quagmire (this can be done by multiple vampires also.) 

Use this mechanic formula to scare even the beefiest of PCs, who can quite literally be eaten alive. The adventurers each roll 1D6 plus damage bonuses for strength (they cannot use weapons well since these rats are climbing right on them.) The rats use 1D10. Each rat equals one point of damage, and every point an adventurer does kills one rat. For example, Antony rolls a 3, plus 1 for strength, and the DM rolls an eight. Antony kills four rats, but there are four left, so he is gnawed at for 4 damage, and the DM adds 4 to the D10 roll the following round (this can get ugly quickly for bad rollers.) 

To determine swarm size, the DM should average two or three rounds of decent damage and multiply it by the number of adventurers, depending on their level. And don't forget the cumulative chance for disease. This mechanic can also be used to determine how much damage a rat swarm can do to objects, such as wooden doors, docks, and piers, vital support beams, a swollen dam, what have you, especially if these beasts are directed by a sinister intelligence such as a powerful wererat or vampire.

Background Scenarios

There can be viable reasons why this chaotic (and in some cases evil) act took place.

1. The adventurers have wronged a humanoid or barbarian witch doctor, so he has stalked them to a favorite haunt and let loose his vengeance via the kitchens. This is a great setup once the PCs find out they are (at least in part) responsible for this tragedy.

2. The young nobleman (above) brought down a roebuck and kindly offered to share the venison, not knowing the creature had been nipped by a werewolf and is a carrier. In another twist, the nobleman might transform, but when the adventurers go to attack him, his retinue moves to stop them, having sworn to protect him no matter what. This might be resolved if the adventurers agree to merely subdue the nobleman, or it might not.

3. This is a distraction for the first wave of an attack on the city by a barbarian horde led by an old witch in a silver wolf mask. She seems able to control the werewolves, a particularly large pack under cover of summoned weather at the heart of her forces.

Wolf Details

~ Male wolves can reach 130 lbs (59kg), females 110 (50kg). Imagine dire wolves.

~ Packs are typically larger in winter, averaging 8-15 in number (3-5 in summer). This former number can be used as a guide for summoned wolves, considering.

~ Wolves have subtle communications in their movements and howls, especially when hunting. A turn of head or flick of tail guides a normal pack of wolves to hunting success in the dead of winter. Now imagine what werewolves could do.

~ Wolves have a jaw crushing strength of 1,500 lbs per square inch (a German Shepard has around 750.) Again, Dire wolves/werewolves would have considerably more.

~ Wolves walk, trot, lope, or gallop. They walk at about 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) per hour and can reach speeds of 35 mph. Their usual mode of travel is a trot between 8 to 10 miles (12.8 to 16 kilometers) per hour. They've been timed at 40 miles (64 kilometers) per hour for several miles.  Wolves can run like this for hours and have been known to cross 60 miles (96 kilometers) in a night.

~ Wolves do not run at full speed until they close on their prey and then make a full on sprint to "probe" them, see if they are tired, basically. Wolves also have larger front feet, making it easier for them to run across the snow. Consider this for terrain-impeded movement rates on soft ground like snow, tundra, marsh or sand. 

~ From what I understand, most wolves do not see color. They do however register any movements, being very sensitive to any motion whatsoever and possessing superior edge perception. Spot rolls.

~ We humans have around 5 million sense receptors in our nose. Wolves have about twice the number of a domesticated dog and 40 times more than humans.

~ Wolves can hear sounds up to five miles away. If it's on flat ground such as tundra, ten miles. All I can say is, holy shitballs, that's completely awesome and scary.