Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Werebats are creatures of contradiction.  Resembling vampires but loathing them (especially because they are so often forced to serve them).  Social creatures by day and savage by night.  Communally minded and ordered in their dealings with each other, but chaotic and unpredictable in combat and in their dealings with outsiders (for an overall net neutral evil alignment).  And to top it off, many are as blind as…well, you know.

So maybe your werebats are the go-to henchmen for a vampire…or maybe they’re the unpredictable allies who might team up with the PCs to take him down.  But if you’re good at creating an atmosphere of mystery and paranoia, where werebats really shine is in “Everyone’s a monster but us!” adventures—where the PCs suddenly realize that everyone, quite literally everyone around them is a lycanthrope…that the townsfolk are all in on the ruse together…and that the jig is now up and moonrise is coming…

By the way, more on werebats can be found in Pathfinder Adventure Path #45: Broken Moon, where they were introduced to Pathfinder, and Blood of the Moon, which also delivers their bloodmarked werebat-kin.

A crucial bridge lies between the territories of a werebat clan and a strix aerie.  Both groups resent travelers passing through their domains, often exacting tolls in the form of gold, magic items, or blood.  Notable encounters include the Siphus, the bloodmarked toll agent who marks likely victims for his clanliege, and Vermizus, a strix newly afflicted by lycanthropy who bitterly fights the change.

Adventurers are well paid to escort their wealthy patron’s daughter to her new school, an academy for the blind.  But they are still in town making preparations to leave when the daughter’s fox familiar (that she typically uses as a guide animal) arrives with a note tucked into his collar.  The school for the blind is not what it seems: All faculty and students, save for the very newest enrollees, are werebats in service to the vile headmaster.

Their most recent army having disbanded, wereboar mercenaries move into town and begin wreaking havoc among the locals.  The burgomaster asks adventurers to help bring the wereboars to justice.  But in the course of the investigation, the party discovers that the attacks suffered by the sizable Paleck population in town are quite different in nature from the harassment and assaults being inflicted by the wereboars.  It turns out every Alatian in town—more than half the citizens, including the burgomaster and the town council—are werebats who resent the wereboars moving into their territory.

Pathfinder Adventure Path #45 88–89 & Pathfinder Bestiary 4 188

First off, holy crap.  I hit send on the Wendigo entry right before bed last night, and woke up to a wave of support.  Thanks everyone!  Special mention to the comments of ohgodhesloose and majingojira for pointing us to more great wendigo stories and Native American tales.  Meanwhile fortooate was surprised I didn't say more about the whole legs-burning-into-stumps transformation (that’s what I meant by “creepy”, I promise!) and posits a kinship between wendigos and oni.

And now on to today’s entry: 

Truthfully I’ve been dreading this section of the alphabet.  Because werecreatures…guh.  Sure, they're a crucial part of modern folklore, but for me they’re just…whatever. 

Actually, a lot of my antipathy may be reserved for werewolves.  I like wererats because they’re the quintessential urban monster (and a nice stand-in for Skaven), werebears because of their connection to Norse berserkers, and wereboars just because they're so weird (I’m guessing they arose more from Gygax & Friends’ love of wordplay (bear → boar) than any mythological foundation) and because Expert Rules-era D&D’s devil swine were awesome.  Weresharks and werecrocodiles seem appropriate in the right settings, especially since they tend to have ties to cool evil gods/cults.  But werebats/weretigers/werewolves/wereimpalas/werethree-toed sloths…?  Meh.

Then again, overcoming that antipathy—giving every monster its moment in the sun (or full moon)—is the point of this blog, right?  So we shall forge ahead.

(Interestingly, I dug werewolves back when I was playing Vampire.  A werewolf showing up always meant s--- had gotten real.)

I also have to give a shout-out to Ann Dupuis’s Night Howlers, the only D&D Creature Crucible supplement I didn’t own as a kid (somehow it never showed up in my hobby shop) and finally got a hold of a few years ago.  It even had werebats! (So did the Master Rules, which I never did get around to getting…yet.)

Speaking of which, if any my readers are from Baltimore there’s an incomplete copy of the first Creature Crucible, Tall Tales of the Wee Folk, sitting over at Collectors Corner right now.  (Yes, it’s missing the cover and the DM book, but you should go buy the hell out of anyway as a salute to Awesomeness in Supplements.  (That’s a real Oscar Category.  I just created it.  Neil Patrick Harris will sing about it next year, you just watch.)

1 comment:

  1. Lycanthropes imply (to me) a whole other sentient world in the wilderness populated by intelligent beings that split the difference between the sympathetic human and the alien mindset of an animal. Of these, the werebats are amongst my favorites, ever since I was a kid and saw the great illustration in the AD&D2 Monstrous Manual. Werebats (and their nicer counterpart, the wereraven) strike me as the mysterious informants, the creatures "in the know" about all kinds of occult and monstrous goings-ons, while at the same time being a threat in themselves. They also feel more primal and monstrous than a vampire. Think of them like a frontier secret society, living ordinary lives, meeting in conclaves, murdering anyone who threatens to reveal them to their "herd" and generally interested in maintaining a dark status quo. Just my thoughts, of course, but great work as always!

    For great werebat action, check out the Gaoul from Titan AE and the Elseworlds Man-bat graphic novel. Neither are "true" werebats, but they give a good idea.