The term therianthrope refers to humans that can change into animals. Werewolves, also called lycanthropes, are just one member of this category, though they may be the most familiar. Here we may also refer to them as “weres”, or a were-creature, when speaking about more than just werewolves.
Types of Therianthropy
In Shadowgate there are three forms of therianthrope.
These weres occur when a mortal is cursed. Fortunately, it’s also the rarest form of therianthropy. Delivering the curse requires a complicated magical ritual that binds the spirit of an animal to a mortal, and few beings have the power to execute the ritual. Because this is an unwilling and disharmonious binding, it’s usually intended as a punishment.
Once cast, the curse cannot be undone, yet it can be passed on. Should the victim die, the now-insane animal spirit will invariably attach itself to another victim — the nearest mortal. Should that mortal be unsuitable for the this feral spirit, then the mortal invariably dies and the spirit moves on to the next host.
While the curse cannot be ended, it can be contained through use of a binding ritual that affects the feral animal spirit. This is a magic ritual on the same scale as the magic used to place the curse.
These are the most common form of therianthrope. All ferals are lycanthropes (also called werewolves or lycans). Ferals suffer from a kind of virus that is spread through the exchange of body fluids. While most humans have a strong enough immune system to resist infections, those with a weak immune system are vulnerable. Less common are those that don’t resist infection, but yet do not succumb to the virus. These people can become carriers for the feral disease.
The mechanic for this is simple. If there is reason for concern, as in when an exchange of bodily fluids occurs, then a infection roll is called for. This is a Physique roll against a Mediocre (+0) difficulty for a person that is healthy. If they are sick and have an aspect regarding their illness, that is cause to bump it up by +2. If the character has physical consequences, they could be invoked against them to also increase the difficulty of the infection roll. In the spirit of keeping things simple, we recommend just invoking any consequences against the character and adding +2 to the difficulty for each one.
Shadowgate Research on Feral Infection
In the 1980s, the founding members of Shadowgate researched the origins of the feral infections. They never found a cure, and theorized that the virus had supernatural origins. Because it was as much a mystical infection as much as it was a physical infection, a cure might never be found.
Shadowgate followed legends passed down from one generation of feral weres to the next. They discovered many origin stories, but the one that came up most frequently was the legend of Komcal.
Komcal was a primal (see below) cursed by a powerful Sidhe Lord. Jealous of his love for another, a mortal, she cursed him and his lineage, decreeing that his brood would become a plague upon mankind. From Komcal and his descendants, it is said, the disease spread within the realm of Faerie.
These feral lycanthropes lived up to their feral name. In time, their numbers were so great they posed a terrible threat. The elder Sidhe Lords of the Unseelie Court ordered a great hunt regardless of the disposition of individual ferals, handing down orders to execute all ferals. War broke out between the primals, with their feral brothers and sisters, and the Sidhe and their fae allies. It lasted a century and decimated both the primals and ferals. In the end, those ferals that survived were banished to the Mainland (the name the fae give for the world of mankind).
Beings that shift between the shape of a man and a beast at will, primals are thought to be the original shape changers. They consist of many more breeds than just werewolves; there are therianthropes of many kinds. Primals are the only shape changing folk to pass on their ability through inheritance alone, as opposed to via a curse or viral infection. However, since Faerie is the home realm of primals, little is really known about them or their origins.
Option: Primal Offspring
If you need to know what the results of a primal and human mating might be, consider simply basing it upon who births the child. If a mortal male mates with a primal female, then her child will be a primal. If the mother is mortal, then so will be the child. In this option, there is no such thing as a half-breed primal.
What is known is that not all children of primals shift. Some never do, though most still will have some otherworldly powers. Others shift only when forced to by an attack or violent accident. Because of this, it is sometimes hard to prove the primal is not a feral shifter.
Next: Shape Changer Characters