Warpwolves are humans who are capable of unleashing the predator within them to transform into a murderous beast, taking on a massive, powerful, bipedal wolf-like body. They are mad predators who feel the pull of Caen’s moons Calder, Laris and Artis over their minds and spirits, empowered by a mystical elixir jealously guarded by the blackclads. For some, becoming a warpwolf is a curse, but there are those who undergo this horrific transformation voluntarily to assume a shape closer to that of the Devourer Wurm.
A transformed warpwolf is bipedal, at least three and a half metres tall, with a lean, muscular form, a coat of thick fur, extremely powerful jaws, strong arms and rending claws. A warpwolf's body can change in seconds to adapt to its needs, whether thickening its muscles, growing leaner and longer legs, or erupting in bony spikes. The influence of the moons has an impact on a warpwolf’s form, with the creature’s might and speed increasing with the fullness of the moons. Each moon holds a special sway over the body and spirit of the warpwolf, calling up latent talents within it and granting it abilities beyond its normal limits.
During transformation the warpwolf’s body undergoes a series of brutal changes. The skin stretches grotesquely as muscles rapidly enlarge and bones snap, elongating and twisting into new configurations. Long barbs of bone erupt from beneath the forearms, shoulders and brow, while the jaw dislocates and distends to accommodate elongated, sharp fangs. As the creature transforms, the tortured screaming of a man mingles with the deep-throated growls and snarling of a wolf, taking on a deep, resonant tone as the chest cavity grows ever larger.
A warpwolf returns to its human form in wracked throes as bones, muscles and tendons snap back into their original shape and size, and body mass drops. With time warpwolves become accustomed to the process of shifting and are eventually able to do so within a moment.
As the warpwolf transforms, its body is remade thanks to the supernatural regeneration bestowed upon the beast. Despite this, shapeshifting is both physically painful and destructive to the internal organs, causing accelerated ageing. Warpwolves typically do not reach more than forty years of age, usually falling in battle or succumbing to heart failure after years of pumping at an accelerated rate and enduring scarring from transformation.
Warpwolves were first created by a degenerate Devourer cult seeking a closer connection to the Beast of All Shapes. They unlocked a potent mystical formula that combined the bestial essence of man with the madness associated with the shifting moons. After a cabal within the Circle learned the secret of the formula, the blackclads have since used warpwolves for war.
Individuals who ingest the warpwolf elixir are forever changed. Once the elixir is administered, the condition is irreversible. Over time they find the transformation happening more naturally, and eventually they completely lose the will to resist changing into their bestial form. Transformation can be triggered by a variety of circumstances, including heightened stress, violence, or certain phases of the moons.
A man who is made into a warpwolf pays for the power of his transformations with his sanity. In beast form, warpwolves are filled only with a desire to slaughter and feast, perhaps connected to surrendering one’s identity and self-control. The influence of the moons appears to amplify a warpwolf's unpredictable and violent behaviour. Even in human form, warpwolves are deranged and violent. Those who have been warpwolves for years generally avoid interacting with other people and can stomach only the company of their own kind.
All warpwolves are generalist hypercarnivores. Even while in human form a warpwolf eschews other food. When transformed, a warpwolf pursues any prey, even men. It relishes nocturnal hunts, chasing quarry through forests or dragging victims screaming from their beds.
Most warpwolves are solitary, although those among the Circle Orboros are drawn into a structure like a wolf pack. Long-transformed warpwolves live in small communities and hunt in packs, laying waste to any living things in their path. They seek mates from among their own kind, and males fight to compete for females in behaviour akin to that of wolves.
Warpwolves not accompanied by a blackclad have typically escaped, fleeing in human form while still able to call upon whatever human intellect they have left. Those who seek to limit the damage done by the beast within often dwell far from other people, living as hermits in their human form and hunting at night. Some others return home upon their escape, only to cause devastation the first time they cannot contain their transformation. The blackclads sometimes let such men go willingly, knowing the horrors they will visit upon a settlement.
The process of turning a man into a warpwolf sometimes goes wrong. The reaction of the host to the elixir and the changes it wreaks is not perfectly predictable, and sometimes the creature breaks away and escapes before it can be bound. Without the blackclads, the warpwolf cannot control itself and gives in to the desire for wholesale slaughter.
The secrets of warpwolves' creation lie with the Circle Orboros who oversee the rituals that use a magical elixir and correspond to the complex triple lunar cycle of Caen. Druids had long avoided using Tharn in these rites, as their inborn connection to the Wurm combined with the draught’s effects invited disaster. The blackclads create warpwolves primarily to serve as weapons of terror and destruction. They have been known to inflict this transformation on noteworthy enemies, timing the victim’s first change to maximise destruction on particular settlements. Should the new warpwolf survive its initial rampage and escape to the wilds, the blackclads will cautiously approach and recover it in order to train it as a warbeast. Feral warpwolves that become warbeasts are trained to remember their actions while transformed so they can report on them in human form afterward, but their memories tend not to last beyond a week or two.
Warpwolves whose minds remain mostly intact through their transformation can undergo training to become a stalker. Rigorously conditioned to suppress a portion of their fury, warpwolf stalkers are shaped as much by their training as they are by their transformations. Trained to fight with the great sword, stalkers are suited to prowl in the shadows, only to emerge in a bloodbath of unleashed savagery. Some druids have speculated that warpwolf stalkers were originally touched by the wilding. Though they couldn't have become true blackclads, their transformation gives them access to a font of primal power.
Outside the Circle, warpwolves are deemed both abominations and dangers to society, hunted down and killed as quickly as possible.
Generations of breeding among warpwolves have resulted in purebloods who are free of the taint of man. The only indication of their humanity lies in their intelligence; though they lack the restraints of conscience, they are cunning beyond any simple beast. Purebloods do not need a human form to speak, though their voices are rough and difficult to understand. They possess surprising insight and are capable of adaptive tactical brilliance and bold, ruthless courage. With fur as white as the moon Calder, pureblood warpwolves can call upon the supernatural essence of their blood to become as insubstantial as fog. They can unleash this same primal power in a howl that bleeds flesh and can even shatter stone.