Lycanthropes, or werecreatures, are actually humans that have gained the ability to alter their form into that of a specific type of beast. This power occurs as the result of having been afflicted with a disease known as lycanthropy. The most common and well documented of such individuals are werewolves but many variations exist including werebear, wererat and weretiger.
In human form these creatures appear to be the same as a normal human, although they may inherit subtle physical and behavioural traits in connection with their associated animal.
Contrary to popular belief, lycanthropes are not ruled by the cycle of the moon. While a full moon may increase the calling of the animalistic side of their nature, it's merely a heightened awareness of an innate sense that exists in all living creatures.
A lycanthrope can assume animal form as required. After the change it retains the thought processes of its human state but can no longer speak in its human tongue. Werecreatures can, however, communicate with other animals of their weretype as well as being able to perform any abilities normally associated with them.
In addition to assuming human and animal form some lycanthropes are able to halt their transformation before it is fully complete. This is usually a skill practiced by more aggressive individuals because it utilises the advantages of both forms. The strength, reflexes and heightened senses of their animal side combined with the manual dexterity of a human makes for a dangerous adversary. Add to this combination such likelihoods as: a short temper, a craving for fresh meat or even a headache and you could be faced with a frenzied mass of fur, fangs and claws.
Slowing down a lycanthrope that may have taken a disliking to the colour of your shirt is a less than straightforward process. When not in human form, these creatures can only be harmed through the use of silvered weapons or magic. Another useful piece of knowledge in these confrontations relates to a lycanthrope's intolerance to a plant known as wolfsbane. Facing a creature that's out for your blood may not seem the smartest course of action when brandishing nothing more than sprig of vegetation, but contact with the plant is enough to stop a lycanthrope in its tracks and may even send it at full tilt in the opposite direction.
A lycanthrope has no use for weapons and all attacks are made with teeth and claws. If killed, these creatures will revert back to their human form. Surviving an encounter with a lycanthrope may, at first, seem like a cause for celebration but, as you tend to your wounds, be wary of the creature's legacy and the chance that it may have shared it with you. Whether you killed the beast or merely sent it packing is of no consequence. If it wounded you deep enough during the confrontation, it may well have infected you with lycanthropy.
An infected human will become a lycanthrope (of the type encountered) in anything from a couple of days to a few weeks. This duration depends on the depth of the infected wound and the victim's general level of health. In most cases symptoms do not usually begin to appear until half the time has elapsed. It is possible to have the infection removed through magical healing, but only if sought before the disease has fully taken hold.. The treatment can be extremely expensive, but first someone with knowledge of the correct procedure must be found. This can be tricky - especially when you're pushed for time.
It is perhaps worth noting that lycanthropy is a disease that only affects humans in this way. For dwarves, elves and other such beings, once it has run its course the infection proves to be fatal instead of turning them into a werecreature.
For some, a lycanthrope's condition is not seen as a curse but as something to embrace. Druids (members of a religious sect that worships nature) aim to achieve and maintain a balance with all natural life. Their devotion to this cause allows them to use spells to further their work and to communicate with plants and animals. Some druids, however, strive to get even closer to nature and, seeing lycanthropy as being the tool for the job, they purposefully infect themselves with the disease.