This week’s encounter is Werewolves on the Warpath, a frantic chase through an alpine forest that ensues when the characters stumble right into the middle of a werewolf hunting party. Their accidental interference allows the werebears to escape—but it puts the characters directly in the werewolves’ path. These werewolves were looking forward to eating bear flesh tonight, but the promise of tender human meat—or more converts to their pack—is too delicious to pass up. They break off their chase and leap upon the characters.
Lycanthropes Hunting Lycanthropes
The lycanthropes presented in the Monster Manual can’t be injured by physical weaponry unless those weapons are either magical or silvered—that is, either made from solid silver or alchemically coated with silver. This has the unfortunate side effect of making all lycanthropes immune to the natural weapons of other lycanthropes. You can approach this problem one of two ways:
- Treat it as a worldbuilding element. What happens if lycanthropes can’t be harmed by one another? Do they form uneasy truces? Do they always fight nonlethally and bring ropes and chains to bind foes they’ve grappled? Do lycanthropes keep silvered weapons on their person to defend against other lycanthropes, or is that too dangerous? Do lycanthrope clans instead keep a single silvered dagger locked away in their camp, and use it to ritualistically slaughter the enemies that they drag back to camp?
- Create a workaround. Simply declare that lycanthropes’ natural weapons bypass their immunity to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage. Or, declare that lycanthropes natural weapons are magical, and thus overcome any creature’s resistance or immunity to nonmagical weapons.
This encounter presumes the second option, in order to make this encounter more broadly usable. However, if you want to customize this encounter to your campaign setting, it may be more interesting to choose the first option and start creating werewolf lore for your setting.
Combat Encounter: Werewolves on the Warpath
This combat encounter is suitable for a party of 5th-level characters, but it can be scaled up to challenge a higher-level party. Parties without magical or silvered weapons will have a harder time in this encounter.
While traveling through a darkened forest at night, the characters hear the footfalls of a pack of animals. Branches snap, paws stamp the ground, and the weary panting of exhausted animals echo through the trees. If you want to grant your players a bit more agency in this encounter, you could ask them to make a DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) or Intelligence (Nature) check when they hear these sounds; on a success, they discern that it’s the sounds of one group of large animals chasing another. If they want to try to stay away from this chase, they must succeed on a DC 17 group Dexterity (Stealth) or Wisdom (Survival) check.
Once the characters hear the sounds of the oncoming hunt, it is already too late. The path they are walking along is suddenly swarming with snarling, slavering werewolves and a fleeing group of—apparently—humans. These humans flee from the scene as the werewolves decide to fight the characters instead.
It’s not immediately obvious why the werewolves would rather fight a group of well-armed adventurers rather than continue pursuing a caravan of helpless travelers, but that soon becomes clear. At the mid-point of the fight, the werewolves’ pack leader enters the fray—and the humans that he was hunting return, as well. These humans are actually werebears, and their consciences prevent them from allowing these adventurers to meet their doom because of them.
When the characters are traveling through a darkened forest at night, or settling down for a long rest in a forest clearing, read or paraphrase the following text:
The forest is quiet in the evening; only the chirping of cicadas and the occasional rustling in the bushes of an inquisitive chipmunk disturbs the silence. Then, a sound catches your ear. It’s distant at first, but growing louder every instant. You hear branches snapping, then dozens of heavy footfalls, trampling through the undergrowth.
The characters only have 12 seconds before the hoard of lycanthropes falls upon them. If they’ve set up camp, there’s definitely not enough time to pack up and move. If they’re still traveling through the pitch-dark forest at this hour, then they might be able to make Dexterity (Stealth) checks by diving into the bushes.
The Werewolves Arrive
Once the characters have decided how they react to the oncoming sounds, the werewolves burst onto the scene. Read or paraphrase the following:
The sounds of snapping branches and pounding paws are joined by roars of pain and yelps of confusion as a group of humans bursts through the undergrowth—pursued by a pack of massive wolves! The humans’ clothes are tattered and their eyes are wild with fear. One of the humans—a silver-haired woman with a powerful build—glances towards you for a split-second, and then puts her head down and keeps running into the overgrowth.
The wolves stop, and one turns its nose upward, and sniffs at the air.
A group of four werewolves in wolf form have just arrived a mere 20 feet from where the characters were at the start of this encounter. The werewolf sniffing the air makes a DC 13 Wisdom (Perception) check with advantage; it automatically fails this check if the characters are more than 120 feet away from where they started this encounter. On a failure, it turns back towards the fleeing humans and the entire pack runs. On a success, it detects the characters and turns to its companions. Read or paraphrase the following:
The massive wolf turns to its companions and stands on its hind legs. What transpires before your eyes is a horrifying transformation. The wolf’s body elongates and its back straightens with a series of cracks like walnuts being cracked against stone. Its front legs become gray-furred arms with fingers tipped with claws, and its face shrinks and softens until it is halfway between that of a man and a wolf. It barks at its companions and says in a low growl, “There are others here. Let the other prey go, we shall dine on bearflesh another day. I smell softer meat… easier prey. Follow me. Let us claim the bloodiest meat for ourselves before our leader returns.”
The werewolves—two human men named Fyodor and Ryalkus, and two female half-elves named Tatiana and Zoya—rush at the characters and attack. They attack as if they are invincible—until they learn which characters possess magic or silvered weapons, or which can cast spells. They then target spellcasters first, then characters with weapons that bypass their damage immunities.
The werewolves flee squealing on their next turn after being reduced to 10 hit points.
At Higher Levels: If the characters are at least 11th level, the werewolves use NPC stat blocks modified by werewolf traits (see “Creating Stronger Werewolves,” below). One is an assassin, two are gladiators, and one is a mage. The mage can’t cast spells while in wolf form.
Things Get Worse
On initiative count 20 after two rounds of combat, a victorious howl rings out from the nearby overgrowth. A hairy, musclebound brute of a man with a sharp, hungry face strides from the trees with two more werewolves in wolf form by his side. He emerges from a patch of forest about 60 feet away from where the characters are currently fighting. This man is Andryusha, and he is the leader of this pack of werewolves. He uses gladiator statistics, with werewolf traits (see “Creating Stronger Werewolves,” below). He enjoys fighting in his humanoid form while he toys with his prey, and slowly plods towards the beleaguered characters, while commanding the werewolves beside him to charge.
The man laughs as he walks towards you. “You are like a rabbit, struggling in my jaws. Even though your hide is pierced, your legs are snapped, and your blood dribbles down my chin, you kick and scratch. Don’t fight! You suffer so much more when you fight. Just let me tear you open.”
He turns to the wolves beside him, and jerks his head towards you. “Get them.”
At Higher Levels: If the characters are at least 11th level, Andryusha is a blackguard, and his plate armor is magical; it transforms to fit his hybrid shape, and melds into his wolf shape when he transforms.
The Bears Return
On initiative count 20 after one more round of combat, the werebear woman and one of her companions return; the woman is named Ticasuk, and her companion is named Nanouk. They shout to the characters, “We couldn’t just leave you to die here! Stay strong, we’ll take these mangy beasts!” Then, they transform into their hybrid form and attack the two werewolves that accompanied Andryusha.
Any werewolf attacked by a werebear stops attacking the characters and focuses its attacks on the werebear. Andryusha snarls and stalks towards the characters, drawing his spear and shield as he approaches. He bangs his spear against his shield and howls as he approaches, trying to intimidate the characters. If they flee, he takes on wolf form and charges after them.
If the characters and at least one werebear survived, either Ticasuk or Nanouk, she approaches the characters and transforms back into her human shape. She asks if the characters are injured and apologizes for involving them in this hunt. She explains that she is part of a caravan of traveling werebears that rove throughout the forest and the surrounding lands. They came into these woods, not knowing that they were the hunting grounds of Andryusha’s werewolves.
As an apology, she offers the characters a weapon she took from a werewolf hunter in these woods several days ago, a silvered flame tongue longsword. Its silvered edge scared her and the rest of her caravan, and so she never used it, but she thinks that it may help the characters within these woods.
At Higher Levels: If the characters are at least 11th level, the werebear’s gift is a silvered frost brand longsword, instead.
Creating Stronger Werewolves
Some of the werewolves in this encounter are based on an NPC stat block found in appendix B of the Monster Manual rather than the standard werewolf stat block. In order to modify an NPC to create a werewolf, take the following steps:
- Choose your starting stat block, hereafter referred to as the “base creature.”
- The base creature’s alignment changes to chaotic evil, and it gains the shapechanger subtype.
- The base creature’s walking speed increases by 10 feet while in wolf form.
- The base creature’s AC increases by 1 while in wolf or hybrid form. This bonus counts as natural armor, and the base creature can’t benefit from more than one type of armor at once.
- The base creature gains immunity to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from nonmagical attacks that aren’t silvered.
- The base creature gains proficiency in the Perception and Stealth skills.
- Increase the base creature’s Strength score to 15 (+2), if its score isn’t already higher.
- The base creature gains a Bite attack (wolf or hybrid form only) and a Claw attack (hybrid form only). These attacks use the same bonus to hit as the creature’s other melee weapon attacks. The Bite attack deals damage equal to 1d8 plus the creature’s Strength modifier, and the Claws deal damage equal to 2d4 plus the creature’s Strength modifier.
- The base creature gains the Shapechanger and Keen Hearing and Smell traits of a werewolf.
- If the werewolf hits a living creature with its Bite attack, the target must make a Constitution saving throw with a DC equal to 8 + the creature’s proficiency bonus + the creature’s Constitution modifier, or the creature’s spell save DC, whichever is higher. On a failed save, the target is cursed with werewolf lycanthropy. If you don’t know the creature’s proficiency bonus, you can compare the creature’s challenge rating to the Monster Statistics by Challenge Rating table in the Dungeon Master’s Guide to determine it.
Did you like this adventure? You can pick up more adventures I've written on the DMs Guild, such as The Temple of Shattered Minds, a suspenseful eldritch mystery with a mind flayer villain (for 3rd level characters). My most recent adventure is in Dragon Heist: Forgotten Tales, a book by the Guild Adepts which gives you a new beginning, middle, and end to Waterdeep: Dragon Heist. It's the perfect way to give this adventure even more replay value! My new beginning is a great way to introduce a campaign focused on either the drow or devil cult factions causing trouble in Waterdeep.
If you want Adventurers League-legal adventures, take a look at The Cannith Code, set in the magic-punk Eberron campaign setting, All Eyes on Chult, a high-stakes adventure set in Port Nyanzaru included in Xanathar's Lost Notes, or Fire, Ash, and Ruin, a demon-filled dungeon delve in an active Chultan volcano! This post contains DMs Guild affiliate links, which means that I—James Haeck—get an extra 5% of the sale if you buy anything from the DMs Guild using these links. You don't pay any extra, but your purchase helps support my work. Thank you so much!
Also, for more free encounters, take a look at the other encounters in the Encounter of the Week series!
James Haeck is the lead writer for D&D Beyond, the co-author of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist and the Critical Role Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting, the DM of Worlds Apart, and a freelance writer for Wizards of the Coast, the D&D Adventurers League, and Kobold Press. He lives in Seattle, Washington with his partner Hannah and their feline adventurers Mei and Marzipan. You can usually find him wasting time on Twitter at @jamesjhaeck.