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Old Screeds

Beastly Wemics [25 Feb 05] Part three of three

One of my biggest peeves is that so many people represent wemics as beastial monsters.

As originally pictured, wemics were no more beastial than, say, centaurs. That is, as centaurs are equine from the waist down and human from the waist up, wemics were leonine from the waist down and human from the waist up.

That started to change in the second edition of the Dungeons and Dragons rules. From the 2E Skills and Powers book, the description of wemics includes this: "The leonine body is covered with dusky golden fur, with a white underbelly, while the human half tends toward a tawny skin tone and a slight catlike cast to the face and eyes." This is more catlike than the first edition description, but not by much. Just skin tone and a "slight catlike cast to the face and eyes."

While the second edition rules were in effect, Dragon Magazine published an "Ecology of the Wemic" article, in issue 157, which shifted the wemic even further toward the beastly: "Their faces are basically human, but with forward-thrust jaws, pointed ears (placed high on the head) that can move like those of a cat, and sharp feline teeth. Their eyes are feline as well." We've moved from a "slight cast" to out-thrust jaws and sharp feline teeth.

Now, in the Third Edition "Monsters of Faerun" book, the transformation is complete: "Their entire bodies are covered in dusky golden fur, and the tail is tipped with a brush of black hair. Adult males have a mane of long black hair that covers the top and back of the head and extends down to the neck and shoulders. Their underbellies are white. A wemic's face is a mixture of human and leonine features, with a black or russet nose, gold eyes with catlike pupils, and high-set ears. All six limbs end in claws; the claws on the humanoid arms and leonine forelimbs are retractable."

Under these 3.0 rules, wemics are covered in fur all over, with black cat-noses, and have claws on their hands! We've gone from the centaur-like human form to a furry beastial cat-monster!

And in my personal opinion, this is a horrible transformation! Let me try to put together why I am so offended.

  • This furry depiction of wemics makes them into monsters and beasts. It becomes easier to dismiss and categorize wemics as raw-meat-eating savages.
  • This description dehumanizes wemics, literally. Since wemics are "only" monsters, why is it wrong to sell cubs into slavery, for example? And there is a tradition in D&D of enslaving wemics.
  • Centaurs don't have noses and ears like horses -- why should wemics have cat-like features? The first-edition wemics were centaur-like, so the non-furry wemic is truer to the original vision.

Making the problem worse, many artists, both pro and am, seem to delight in drawing wemics to look as beastly as possible. The yerf and furry crowd I understand -- they draw everything with fur all over. But even people who are supposedly drawing pure wemics tend to add catlike features with abandon.

I have been tempted recently to make a distinction between old-style lion-centaurs and third edition furry wemics. Let "wemic" refer to the 5-hit-die, beastial creature in "Monsters of Faerun," that is, the WotC intellectual property. And let "liontaur" refer to the less beefy, more traditional, human-from-the-waist-up creature -- and let liontaurs have only one racial hit die. That way, if a person wishes to play a wemic-style creature from level one, the liontaur fits the bill.

I'll use a future screed to look at rules for playing a one hit die liontaur.

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