Savage Progressions
Half-Dragon and Wererat Template Classes
By Sean K Reynolds

In last month's installment, we established the general rules for creating template classes and converted the vampire template to an 8-level template class. This month, we tackle the half-dragon and wererat -- both 3-level template classes.

The Half-Dragon

With the creation of monster templates, half-dragons of all kinds have become so popular with DMs that some players have begun to wonder if the big lizards ever get around to mating with their own kind. But dragon-blooded beings are just as popular with players who want exotic and powerful characters as they are with DMs who want interesting monsters. The dragon disciple prestige class in the Dungeon Master's Guide offers one way for a character to take on more draconic aspects; the half-dragon template offers a different option. Both are equally viable choices, depending on what the player wants to gain. The prestige class requires 10 levels to complete, but it also advances the character's base attack bonus, saving throws, Hit Dice, and skill points. Furthermore, it grants certain powers that aren't available via the template. In contrast, the half-dragon template class presented here allows a character to gain full half-dragon powers in only 3 levels, but at the expense of sacrificing development in certain other areas.

"Half-dragon" is usually an inherited template, but it could be acquired through special magical rituals as well.

Table SP-2: The Half-Dragon Template Class

Level CR Special
1 +1 Str +2, Int +2, resistance (lesser), racial HD type increase, natural armor +2, darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision
2 +1 Str +2, Con +2, resistance (greater), 2 claws, bite, natural armor +1, breath weapon 3d8, immunities (lesser)
3 +2 Str +4, Cha +2, immunities (greater), wings, natural armor +1, breath weapon 6d8, dragon type

Half-Dragon Template Class Features

All of the following are class features of the half-dragon template class.

Ability Score Changes: The indicated ability score increases or decreases by the amount noted.

Resistances (Ex): A half-dragon has energy resistance 10 to one type of energy. The specific type is determined by the dragon kind that provided the benefits of the template, according to the following table.

Dragon
Variety
Energy Type
Resisted
Black Acid
Blue Electricity
Brass Fire
Bronze Electricity
Copper Acid
Gold Fire
Green Acid
Red Fire
Silver Cold
White Cold

At 2nd level, this resistance increases to 20. At 3rd level, the half-dragon becomes completely immune to the indicated energy type (see Immunities, below).

Racial HD Type Increase (Ex): At 1st level, each of a half-dragon's racial Hit Dice increases by one die type: d4 to d6, d6 to d8, d8 to d10, or d10 to d12. Class Hit Dice are unaffected. Rather than rerolling all racial Hit Dice, you can simply add 1 hit point per racial Hit Die to the half-dragon's hit point total.

Natural Armor Improvements: At every level of the prestige class, the half-dragon's natural armor bonus increases by the indicated amount. A character that does not normally have a natural armor bonus (such as a human) is considered to have an initial natural armor bonus of +0 for the purpose of this ability. Thus, a human's natural armor bonus would increase to +2 at 1st level, to +3 at 2nd level, and finally to +4 at 3rd level.

Darkvision (Ex): At 1st level the half-dragon gains darkvision to a 60-foot range.

Low-Light Vision (Ex): At 1st level, the half-dragon gains low-light vision.

Claws: At 2nd level, the half-dragon gains two claw attacks if she didn't already have them. For the base damage of the half-dragon's claw attacks, use the appropriate value from the table below if the base creature did not previously have claw attacks. If she did, use either the value from the table or the base creature's claw damage, whichever is better. The half-dragon's claws are natural attacks.

Bite: At 2nd level, the half-dragon gains a bite attack if she didn't already have one. For the base damage of the half-dragon's bite attack, use the appropriate value from the table below if the base creature did not previously have a bite attack. If she did, use either the value from the table or the base creature's bite damage, whichever is better. The half-dragon's bite is a natural attack.

Size Bite
Damage
Claw
Damage
Fine 1 --
Diminutive 1d2 1
Tiny 1d3 1d2
Small 1d4 1d3
Medium 1d6 1d4
Large 1d8 1d6
Huge 2d6 1d8
Gargantuan 3d6 2d6
Colossal 4d6 3d6

Breath Weapon (Su): At 2nd level, a half-dragon gains a breath weapon similar to that of the dragon that provided the benefits of the template. The breath weapon is usable once per day and allows a Reflex save (DC 10 + 1/2 half-dragon's racial HD + half-dragon's Constitution modifier) for half damage. The shape and size of the breath weapon are given by the following table.

Dragon
Variety
Breath
Weapon
Black 60-foot line of acid
Blue 60-foot line of lightning
Brass 60-foot line of fire
Bronze 60-foot line of lightning
Copper 60-foot line of acid
Gold 30-foot cone of fire
Green 30-foot cone of corrosive (acid) gas
Red 30-foot cone of fire
Silver 30-foot cone of cold
White 30-foot cone of cold

When first acquired, the breath weapon deals only 3d8 points of damage. When the half-dragon reaches 3rd level, the base damage for the breath weapon increases to 6d8.

Immunities (Ex): At 2nd level, the half-dragon becomes immune to sleep and paralysis. When she reaches 3rd level, her template-based energy resistance (see Resistances, above) is replaced by total immunity to that energy type.

Wings (Ex): At 3rd level, a Large or larger half-dragon grows fully functional wings and may use them to fly at up to twice her land speed (maximum 120 feet) with average maneuverability. A Medium or smaller half-dragon either does not grow wings or grows nonfunctional vestigial ones.

Dragon Type: At 3rd level, the half-dragon completes her metamorphosis, and her type changes to dragon. She becomes vulnerable to spells and effects that work on creatures of the dragon type but is immune to effects that target her original type. For example, a half-human/half-dragon would be subject to the extra damage from a dragon bane sword, but she is immune to hold person because that spell affects only humanoids.

The Wererat

Since most characters spend considerable time in cities, they're bound to encounter wererats at one time or another -- particularly when they make their inevitable exploration of the city's sewer system. A standard wererat's CR is fairly low, so this creature makes an appropriate encounter for a low-level party. However, such characters are more likely than their higher-level counterparts to fail their saving throws against the curse of lycanthropy and become wererats themselves. Characters who choose to keep their lycanthropic curse can progress in the wererat template class to gain wererat abilities. This template class can also be used by natural wererats who wish to start play at lower levels and develop their powers, or for characters who somehow acquire this form of lycanthropy from another source.

This template class assumes that the character is aware of his condition, whether because he was born a wererat or because he realizes he is afflicted with lycanthropy. Any ability noted as applying to all forms is available to the wererat in his natural, hybrid, and animal forms, but not forms acquired via polymorph or other means.

Note that each lycanthrope template class has 3 levels, but only natural lycanthropes can take all the levels it offers. An afflicted lycanthrope can take only levels 1 and 2, since his level adjustment is +2 instead of +3.

Lycanthrope template classes also follow special rules relating to the benefits such characters acquire from their animal natures. The template allows for a level adjustment of +3 (or +2 for afflicted lycanthropes), but that value does not include the Hit Dice from the lycanthrope's animal form. So while a 1st-level human natural wererat warrior (as presented in the Monster Manual) has a level adjustment of +3, his ECL is actually 5 -- 1 from his warrior Hit Die, +3 from the template, +1 for his dire rat Hit Die. Likewise, a 1st-level natural werebear human warrior has an ECL of 10 -- 1 from his warrior Hit Die, +3 from the template, +6 for his bear Hit Dice.

Thus, in addition to the 2 or 3 levels offered via the appropriate lycanthrope template class, each kind of lycanthrope also has a separate (optional) class progression for his animal abilities. Essentially, a character progressing as a lycanthrope multiclasses into the template class and can also multiclass into the appropriate animal class if desired.

The animal class is entirely optional. No would-be lycanthrope is required to take it, but doing so is an advantage, since a character without it is weaker than other lycanthropes of the same type. Taking levels in the appropriate animal template class (or just 1 level, as is the case with the dire rat animal class) gives the character the animal's Hit Dice and hit points (in all forms), saving throw bonuses (in all forms), skill points (in all forms), racial skill bonuses (in all forms), conditional skill modifiers (in animal form), ability score modifiers (in hybrid or animal form), natural armor bonus, and special attacks (such as the dire rat's ability to transmit disease). Levels in the animal class may be taken at any point after the character takes 1 level in the lycanthrope template class. He is also free to take levels in other classes between levels of the template class and the animal class, as desired. The animal class, like the template class, does not count when determining whether a character takes an XP penalty for multiclassing.

An afflicted lycanthrope that is cured of his lycanthropy (as described in the Monster Manual on page 178) immediately loses all wererat template class levels and dire rat class levels (if any). These levels cannot be restored with restoration or similar magic; they are simply gone. Most lycanthropes that do not wish to lose their lycanthropy in this way deliberately fail their saving throws against the spell in order to prevent this traumatic change.

Table SP-3: The Wererat Template Class

Level CR Special
1 +1 +2 Wis, natural armor +2, alternate form (dire rat), low-light vision, shapechanger subtype, wererat feat (Alertness)
2 +1 Alternate form (hybrid), damage reduction 5/silver, rat empathy, wererat feats (Iron Will, Weapon Finesse)
3 +2 Curse of lycanthropy, damage reduction 10/silver

Wererat Template Class Features

All of the following are class features of the wererat template class.

Ability Score Changes: The indicated ability score increases or decreases by the amount noted.

Natural Armor Improvements: At 1st level, the wererat's natural armor bonus increases by +2. A character that does not normally have a natural armor bonus (such as a human) is considered to have an initial natural armor bonus of +0 for the purpose of this ability. Thus, a human's natural armor bonus would increase to +2 at 1st level.

Alternate Form (Su): At 1st level, the wererat can take the form of a dire rat, and he undergoes this change involuntarily on the nights of the full moon or in times of stress, as described in the Monster Manual. Unless the wererat is a natural lycanthrope, he does not automatically have control over this ability and must attempt a Control Shape check to intentionally change form or to resist an involuntary change. For an afflicted lycanthrope, Control Shape is a class skill for all classes as well as racial Hit Dice, if any. Natural lycanthropes have full control over when they change shape and do not need to take ranks in this skill. Changing form is a standard action that can be attempted once per round.

A wererat who is aware of his condition retains his identity and does not lose control of his actions when he changes. Each time he involuntarily changes to his animal form, however, he must make a Will save (DC 15 + number of times he has been in animal form) or permanently assume the alignment of his lycanthrope type (chaotic evil for wererats) in all forms. Any voluntary change to dire rat or hybrid form immediately and permanently changes the character's alignment to chaotic evil.

Until the character has taken the optional 1 level in the dire rat animal class (see Dire Rat Abilities, below), changing shape to dire rat form does not give him the abilities of a dire rat -- he simply is able to take that creature's shape, as if he had a perfect disguise. Since this ability is of limited use, most characters taking levels in the wererat template class choose to take the optional 1 level of the dire rat class as well in order to gain the full abilities of their animal forms.

At 2nd level, the wererat gains the ability to assume a hybrid form -- a shape between his humanoid and his dire rat forms. As with the dire rat form, this change is purely cosmetic unless the character has taken the dire rat class to gain the appropriate abilities.

Natural Armor Improvements: At 1st level, the wererat's natural armor bonus increases by +2 in all forms. A character that does not normally have a natural armor bonus (such as a human) is considered to have an initial natural armor bonus of +0 for the purpose of this ability. Thus, a human's natural armor bonus would increase to +2 at 1st level. The wererat also gains additional natural armor increases in his hybrid or animal form if he takes the dire rat class.

Shapechanger Subtype (Ex): At 1st level, the lycanthrope gains the shapechanger subtype.

Wererat Bonus Feats: At 1st and 2nd level, the wererat gains the feats indicated on Table SP-3, assuming that he doesn't already have them. If the wererat doesn't meet the prerequisites (if any) for a bonus feat, he gains the feat but cannot use it until he does meet the prerequisites.

Low-Light Vision (Ex): A 1st-level wererat gains low-light vision.

Rat Empathy (Ex): Starting at 2nd level, a wererat in any form can communicate and empathize with normal or dire rats. This ability gives him a +4 racial bonus on checks made to influence the attitude of rats or dire rats. It also allows the communication of simple concepts and (if the animal is friendly) commands, such as "friend," "foe," "flee," and "attack."

Damage Reduction (Ex): At 2nd level, the wererat gains damage reduction 5/silver. At 3rd level, a natural lycanthrope gains damage reduction 10/silver. An afflicted lycanthrope's damage reduction does not improve beyond 5/silver.

Curse of Lycanthropy (Su): At 3rd level, a natural lycanthrope can infect other creatures with lycanthropy. Any humanoid or giant hit by the bite attack of a wererat in animal or hybrid form must succeed on a DC 15 Fortitude save or contract lycanthropy. Afflicted lycanthropes do not transmit lycanthropy.

Table SP-4: The Dire Rat (Lycanthrope) Class

Class
Level
Hit
Dice
Base
Attack
Bonus
Fort.
Save
Ref.
Save
Will
Save
Skill
Points
Special
1 1d8 +0 +2 +2 +2 2 + Int mod. +6 Dex, +2 Con, natural armor +1, bite, dire rat abilities, disease, scent

Bite: The dire rat animal class gives the wererat a bite attack. The bite is a natural weapon that deals 1d4 points of damage plus disease (see below).

Dire Rat Abilities (Ex): Upon taking a level in the dire rat animal class, the character gains the dire rat's Hit Dice (in all forms), base attack bonus (in all forms), base saving throw bonuses (in all forms), ability score modifiers (in hybrid and animal forms), skill points (in all forms), and natural armor bonus (in hybrid and animal forms), as well as the special abilities indicated on Table SP-4.

In dire rat form, the wererat's speed changes to 40 feet, and he gains a climb speed of 20 feet and a swim speed of 15 feet. Class skills for the dire rat racial Hit Die are Control Shape, Hide, Listen, Move Silently, Spot, and Swim. A wererat in rat or hybrid form uses his Strength or Dexterity modifier (whichever is greater) for Climb and Swim checks. He has a +8 racial bonus on Climb checks in dire rat form and can always choose to take 10 on Climb checks, even if rushed or threatened. He gains a +8 racial bonus on Swim checks in all forms.

Disease (Ex): As a 1st-level dire rat, a wererat in rat or hybrid form transmits filth fever (Fortitude DC 10 + Con modifier, incubation period 1d3 days, damage 1d3 Dex and 1d3 Con) with his bite attack. Upon gaining this ability, a wererat in any form becomes immune to filth fever (that is, he is a carrier of the disease but is never subject to its effects).

Scent (Ex): As a 1st-level dire rat, a wererat in any form gains the scent ability.

About the Author

Sean K Reynolds spends a remarkable amount of time on trains, where he defeats bandits, solves complex mathematical equations, and shushes noisy children. Then he wakes up. Check out his website.


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