. . . Sir Marrok, the good knight that was betrayed with his wife, for she made him seven year a werewolf . . .
-- Sir Thomas Mallory, Le Morte D'Arthur, Book XIX, Chapter 11

Among the many tales of King Arthur and Camelot, there can be found two references to werewolves. Sir Marrok and Sir Gorlagon, two knights of honor, were both afflicted with lycanthropy. Gorlagon was the victim of a unique magic item with ties to his family lineage, but Marrok was a were more along the usual lines. Through the machinations of his unfaithful wife, Sir Marrok found himself trapped in his wolf form for seven years. When he finally was able to return to human shape, he took his revenge upon her. Despite this, Sir Marrok was honored with a seat at the Round Table, where he served the king for many years, including as one of his personal honor guard.

GURPS Camelot contains a description of werewolves like Sir Marrok, but it is based more on the werewolves of Yrth and Compendium I than the actual legends, which describe a condition notably different in some ways from the "typical" gaming werewolf. The following description is closer to the spirit of the original tales, and may be used in a Camelot campaign instead of the version found in that volume.

Arthurian werewolves are ordinary wolves in their were-form except for their IQ, which is always at least 10, and usually the same as their human form's IQ. They rarely if ever suffer from Split Personality, so they are usually in control of their wolf forms. For the same reason, most quirks, mental disadvantages and mental skills from the human form will also be possessed by the were-form.

Only one source gives details on the specifics of their change: Bisclavret, a medieval lai by Marie de France (a contemporary of Chrétien de Troyes). It is the tale of a werewolf knight, the eponymous Bisclavret. Bisclavret may well also be Sir Marrok of the Round Table, given the similarities of their stories. (The fact that "bisclavret" is simply the Breton word for "werewolf" lends some indirect support to this assertion.) Therein it tells how Bisclavret is forced to leave his wife for three days and nights each week when he changes into a wolf. This is clearly a Cyclic Change with a period of one week and a Minimum Time of half that.

Before he can change, an Arthurian werewolf must remove all his clothes. This is an absolute requirement -- the were cannot change while dressed! Furthermore, he must hide and protect his clothing carefully, because unless he has the clothing he was wearing before his change to wolf form, he cannot change back! Sir Marrok's wife hid his clothing and forced the knight to remain a wolf for seven years, until he could find his clothes. The werewolf doesn't need to do anything with the clothes, just stand in the same hex with them. They must be reasonably intact --- a few holes won't affect the change, but being sliced to ribbons will! Although an Arthurian were cannot change while wearing armor, the armor is not considered part of the clothing that must be present for the change back. Arthurian weres must change at the full moon for an entire night, even when it does not occur during their usual three- night cycle; they can change at will at other times.

Unlike the traditional werewolf, the Arthurian were does not transmit its shapeshifting ability through its bite. Weredom is more likely to be the result of a curse or (less commonly) some form of penance. The GM should require PC weres to explain how they came to acquire the ability to change. Depending on the cause, it can make an excellent Secret.

Building the Arthurian Were

The Arthurian werewolf uses the Shapeshifting advantage with the "Wolf with a Human Mind" template found on p. 17, without the Bestial disadvantage. That makes the template cost 92 points, and the cost for a wereform 107 points.

The following modifiers are then applied to the were-form advantage: an Accessibility limitation for the change itself, Cannot Change to Were-Form While Wearing Clothes, -20%; Cyclic Change (Weekly), -30%; and Minimum Time: 72 hours, -20%. The clothing requirement for the transformation back makes it an item-based change. The item is generic clothing, with the following modifiers: Not Needed For Change to Were Form +25%, Awkward -10%, Breakable (DR 0, HP 2) -15%, Not Absorbed in Change -15%, Can Be Stolen by Stealth or Trickery -10% and Unique -25% (although clothes are easily replaced and different sets will count as this item at different times, once the change is made only the one set will allow the were to change back!). This exceeds the maximum limitation value of -75%, so becomes that value; the final cost for the wolf form is 23 points.

The Arthurian were is subject to an unusual combination of a Cyclic Change and an Accessibility Limitation that can prevent the change. This does not mean that the character can avoid changing simply by never taking off his clothes. Instead, he suffers a growing compulsive need to change that comes to occupy his thoughts completely. He must make a Will roll every hour to resist the compulsion, at a penalty equal to the number of hours elapsed since the change should have taken place. If the roll is failed, he must make another Will roll at the same penalty to avoid simply ripping off his clothing and changing on the spot, regardless of location and/or witnesses. When the victim finally changes, his cycle resets accordingly.

Note that the wolf form has no special protections or vulnerabilities; neither silver nor holy objects affect it adversely, and all manner of weapons wound it without difficulty. It is, in all ways except intelligence and behavior, a normal wolf. A cursebreak (p. 30) is implied by the source material, but no details are ever given. GMs and players may wish to skip this aspect; if not, make sure that the cure remains faithful to the original genre. Exorcism or a difficult, pious quest would be in keeping with the source material. And of course, drinking from the Grail should unfailingly expunge the curse!

Lost or Destroyed Clothing

Possibly the worst fate that can befall an Arthurian werewolf is the loss or destruction of his clothing while he is in his wolf form. By the strictest interpretation of Bisclavret and Mallory, he is then forevermore trapped as a wolf. However, the average PC wouldn't care for such a fate -- nor would his player. In the absence of magic that can undo the curse (as is the usually case in Arthurian England), the GM may be inclined to relax the conditions of the enchantment slightly.

Completely lifting the clothing restriction saps the Arthurian werewolf of his unique flavor and reduces him to an "ordinary" were; this is not recommended. However, the GM may feel free to allow other sets of clothes to satisfy the terms of the curse. These must be clothing belonging to the character and worn by him on a regular basis -- more than once or twice. A brand-new suit of clothing, never worn by anyone, would be useless, and recently-acquired or rarely-worn garb almost as bad. If the GM feels that this is still too lenient, further requirements, such as the proper phase of the moon and perhaps a Will roll, can be applied.

Campaign Use

While of course in-genre for Mythic and Cinematic Camelot campaigns, the Arthurian werewolf is out of place in a purely realistic Historical setting. If for some reason the GM wants to put weres in an otherwise Historical game, the Arthurian werewolf is both subtle enough and sufficiently low-powered so as not to seem too out of place. But unlike in other Camelot settings (see below), a werewolf character is likely to become the target of a vigorous hunt, even if his supernatural nature is never revealed.

When used in a Mythic/Cinematic Camelot game, being this variety of werewolf brings no negative Reputation or Social Stigma. It is regarded as something that is done to a person, not something the person is. Like any other evil enchantment a knight might suffer, it is a challenge to be overcome and from which to gain glory thereby. (Of course, when it is a commoner who is afflicted with the curse, opinions may differ greatly . . .)

The only exception to this tolerance would be those knights who find a dark and perverse pleasure in being a wolf and preying upon the innocent. These knights' souls are damned, especially if they have tasted human blood and/or flesh while in wolf form.

Despite all this, in the Morte d'Arthur, lycanthropy is little more than a background detail that distinguishes one knight from his brethren. GMs can continue this convention, or depart from it by making the curse and its cure a more prominent part of the campaign.

Other Settings

This variety of werewolf is suitable for any game where a touch of magic is not out of place, but where horrific prowling monsters of the movie variety simply do not belong. The Arthurian weres' simple wolf-nature, with no extraordinary abilities other than their change, allows them to blend into many "hidden magic" and similar settings. They also fit quite well into close-to-reality milieux such as X-Files-style worlds, precisely because they are, in general, so low key. A GM who wants to shake up his players' preconceptions might even work one into an ostensibly "realistic" setting -- supported with a suitable pseudoscientific explanation, of course.

They work less well in high fantasy and outright horror worlds, because while they are supernatural, they are far more subtle and considerably lower in power than the other creatures around them. Their small advantages over humans may give them a false, perhaps misleading, sense of confidence. Of course, if that's what the GM wants to foster . . .

Sample Character: Sir Marrok
200 Points

The Werewolf Knight of the Round Table

Male; age 35; 5'11"; 160 lbs.; a well-built man of middle age with salt-and-pepper hair and gray eyes.

ST 14 [45]; DX 13 [30]; IQ 10 [0]; HT 12 [20]

Speed 6.25; Move 6.

Dodge 6; Block 7; Parry 8.

Damage: Punch: 1d-1; Kick: 1d+1; Thrust 1d; Swing 2d

Advantages: Companion of the Round Table [15]; Knighthood [20]; Reputation +3: Goodly Knight Beloved of the King (Reaction: +3; Recognized by Britain: Large class, x1/2; 1 level free from Companion) [5]; Status 3 (3 levels free from Companion, Knighthood and Wealth) [0]; Strong Will +4 [16] (Will: 14); Wealth (Wealthy) [20] (Starting Wealth: $5,000); Werewolf (Arthurian) [23].

Disadvantages: Chivalric Code of Honor [-15]; Extremely Hazardous Duty (member of Arthur's Bodyguard) [-20]; Sense of Duty to Arthur and the Round Table [-5]; Stubbornness [-5].

Quirks: Body-shy; Distrustful of women; Kind always to animals; Gentle and courteous. [-4].

Skills: Animal Handling-10 [1]; Area Knowledge (Britain)-14 [4]; Axe/Mace-15 [4] (Parry: 7); Brawling-14 [1] (Parry: 9); Broadsword-16 [8] (Parry: 8); Falconry-10 [1]; Flail-15 [8] (Parry: 7); Heraldry-10 [1/2]; Knife-13 [1/2] (Parry: 5); Lance-15 [4] (Parry: 7); Riding (Horse)-15 [4]; Savoir-Faire-14 [0]; Shield-14 [1] (Block: 7); Survival (Woodlands)-15 [8]; Tracking-15 [8].

Languages: English (native)-13 [1]; French-11 [1].

The werewolf knight of the Round Table, Sir Marrok is mentioned twice in Mallory. The first was in Book V, Chapter 8, as part of Arthur's personal bodyguard during the war with Emperor Lucius (one of five knights so trusted -- Lancelot and Kay were two of the others). The other citation is quoted at the top of this page; it comes from the list of knights who tried to heal Sir Urré of Hungary. As noted elsewhere, given the similarities in their stories, it seems likely he is also the knight called Bisclavret in Marie de France's lai of the same name.

The exact origin of his curse is unknown, as is whether there were a cure for it or not. Oddly, this lack of information seems to have bothered nobody. It in fact delighted his wife, who used the transformation against him; loving another knight better than he, she stole the clothes Marrok needed in order to return to human shape, and forced him to remain a wolf for seven years.

His return to human form came about when the King, out hunting, was taken with a wolf who acted like a loyal servant in his presence. Forbidding his retinue to kill the beast, Arthur brought the wolf back home to Camelot with him. There, the wolf was gentle and friendly, showing the qualities of a good knight to all persons save two -- Marrok's unfaithful wife and her lover. The king, noticing this, questioned the pair until they confessed. Upon recovery of the hidden clothing by the king's men, Marrok was able to return to human form, and Arthur banished the wife and her lover.

In the years after his ordeal, Marrok devoted himself fully to the service of his king and his country, eventually earning a place in Arthur's personal bodyguard. He survived the Grail Quest, unlike so many other Companions, which points to great faith, great self-control, or both. While Mallory does not mention him after the healing of Urré in AD 462, it seems reasonable to assume that he continued in the service of his king to the very end of Arthur's reign.

This page was created on December 9, 2003.
Last modified March 12, 2011.