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I'm fleshing out a backstory for a new character in D&D, who has been bitten by a werewolf. My question essentially considers how much control a werewolf has when in wolf-form.

Is it generally accepted that a werewolf can choose to bite (and thus turn) you, rather than attack you some other way? Or does the werewolf typically have no control over how it attacks?

  • I'm not particularly thinking along actual game mechanics in terms of fighitng a werewold, more along the lines of would a backstory involving a werewolf choosing to turn be be generally accepted as viable – jonnybolton16 May 31 at 14:18
  • Agreed. I specifically didn't ask at rpg because I don't believe this has anything to do with an actual DnD game mechanic and is potentially off-topic there. I'm simply asking what the fantasy genre accepts as standard behaviour for a werewolf. Perhaps I shouldn't have even mentioned DnD... – jonnybolton16 May 31 at 15:12
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    Contrary to Valorum's claims, questions about the fantasy genre as a whole are not "very firmly off-topic" but somewhat controversial, as some users will vote to close them as "too broad" for not being about a specific story/universe, while others will welcome them as requiring real subject matter expertise on the fantasy genre as a whole. Also, questions about Dungeons & Dragons lore are perfectly on-topic here, even though Role-playing Games also exists and might also take such questions. – Rand al'Thor Jun 1 at 16:16
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A werewolf (or indeed any form of lycanthrope) has zero control over whether its bite can pass along the 'curse of lycanthropy'. Once someone has sustained damage from a "bite" attack roll (indicating that they've been bitten by a cursed creature) they roll for injury and an unsuccessful roll will indicate that they've been infected by the curse. The DM can then decide what the result of that exposure will be.

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.

DND Basic Rules V1.0 - 2018

That being said, if the werewolf is voluntarily transformed, it can choose whether to use this additional bite attack or not. If the werewolf is involuntarily transformed (as a result of exposure to moonlight) it has no control over its actions, being controlled by its baser instincts.


You may want to note that other kinds of lycanthrope are more selective in their attacks, avoiding biting things due to the danger that they'll pass along the curse of lycanthropy to other creatures.

When a werebear transforms, it grows to enormous size, lashing out with weapons or claws. It fights with the ferocity of a bear, though even in its bestial forms, it avoids biting so as to not pass on its curse. Typically, a were bear passes on its lycanthropy only to chosen companions or apprentices, spending the time that follows helping the new lycanthrope accept the curse in order to control it.

...

Weretigers grow to enormous size in animal and hybrid form, but they fight in their more refined humanoid form when they can. They don't like to pass on their curse, because every new were tiger means competition for territory and prey.

Monster Manual - Core Rulebook


You may also want to note that in the world of Dungeons and Dragons, were-creatures carry a curse that affects their physiology and alignment but they're not the undead. If you get the werewolf curse during a fight but are then reduced to 0HP (during the same fight or subsequently), the curse doesn't keep you artificially (un)alive. You're just dead.

It reverts to its true form if it dies.

Monster Manual - Core Rulebook

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  • Oh, thanks! So they (any lycanthrope) never control wether the curse is acrtually passed on, but if they are voluntarily transformed they can choose to attempt to pass it on? – jonnybolton16 May 31 at 16:29
  • @jonnybolton16 - Treat it like any saliva-borne disease. A sufferer can't choose whether or not their bite passes on the disease, but they can choose not to bite someone in the first place. In this case there's the added wrinkle that under moonlight they turn into a mad biting wild animal – Valorum May 31 at 16:31
  • Cool. I'm gonna say this particular werewolf was feeling extra chaotic evil that day and actively tried to pass on its curse... – jonnybolton16 May 31 at 17:01

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