Saturday, August 13, 2016

Racial Template: Shapeshifter

The clothes make it easier.
I've kinda wanted to play a shape shifting focused character for a while, but I always find it prohibitively expensive. The other day though, I took a closer look at the Wildcard installment of Power-Ups at the behest of a reader, and found a solution to this tangentially related problem: wildcard advantages. This is the mechanic that will allow me to build up a character that can turn into a bajillion things without doing all sorts of beancounting or spending a brajillion points. Though, after thinking about it, I think I'll use morph instead, but put in the closing notes how many points one or the other saves (spoiler: it depends) Let's see how this goes.


So first and foremost, obviously, the central focus of this template is Morph. But let's think about what kind of advantages and disadvantages would be central to a race that can change form at will. Starting with advantages:
  • Chameleon 2 [10]
  • Double-Jointed [15]
  • Elastic Skin [20]
  • Injury Tolerance (Homogeneous) [40]
  • Mimicry [10]
Typical disadvantages associated with these traits, to me, would seem like:
  • Curious [-5]
  • Invertebrate [-20]
  • Unusual Biochemistry [-5]

And, these are some options that I want to add that are slightly less setting agnostic, but ignore them if they don't work for you:
  • Easy to Read [-10] - Shapeshifters have incredibly expressive faces and a very sympathetic response to all stimuli. They are known to "overreact" even to small social slights or to show unwarranted levels of appreciation for even small tokens or gifts, but these aren't totally universal traits.
  • Secret Identity (Utter Rejection)[-10] - people are superstitious about those that freely change form. If one is caught they are branded with a sign that is detectable no matter what form they are in, and the secret identity is traded for supernatural features and social stigma.
  • Xenophilia [-10] - Shapeshifters are excited about unusual lifeforms and exotic races. Studying them up close regardless of personal safety is a must.
Alternate Form is kind of a weird special case when it is on a racial template, as in, it's point cost is counted, but yet not counted. See the example of forest dwarves that can turn into bears on p.84 of Basic Set - Characters to see what I mean. 
For the bare minimum version of Morph, it costs 100 character points. Some of the minor perks have some overlap with the advantages I have chosen, so I'll take out Elastic Skin and put in 120 points worth of Morph instead. I want the ability to not be over-abused with rapid switches between different races, so I'll limit this with Limited Use, twice a day. Enough times to switch to and from one form a day. I'll also add Requires One Minute Immediate Preparation before the 10 second transformation can occur. I was thinking of adding minimum duration as well, but I think the minimum usages a day works well enough. 
This Morph advantage will cost us 48 points (but let's add another 5 to the cost to make it an even 50,) require 70 seconds to transform, and let us change into any form that costs 40 character points or more. This slightly breaks my rule of trying to make a racial template that divides by 5, but on the other hand, I need to add two (or subtract three) points from the cost of morph to make it all work (can't use it on anything else because then the numbers won't add up the right right way, oh well.) Let's see what this all looks like.


65 points
Advantages:  Chameleon 2 [10]; Double-Jointed[15]; Injury Tolerance (Homogeneous) [40]; Mimicry [10]; Morph (+25) (Limited Use, Twice a day, -30%; Immediate Preparation Required, 1 minute, -30%)[50]
Disadvantages: Curious*[-5]; Easy to Read [-10]; Invertebrate[-20]; Secret Identity (Utter Rejection) [-10]; Unusual Biochemistry [-5]; Xenophilia [-10]
Features: Neutral form will look close to a dwarf, elf, goblin, or human, but be murky enough that many people will either expect a mixed heritage, or suspect wrongfully that he or she is just a slightly attractive or unattractive variant of any.

Power Ups

  • Any unusual biology may be purchased with switchable, and may only be purchased with the switchable enhancement. Extra Arms, Legs, etc.
  • Regrowth
  • Unlimited Morphing[50+] adds the Unlimited modifier to Morph (Basic Set - Characters, p.85) The price of this power-up changes depending on how many points are invested in morph.
  • Any type of Animal/Spirit/Plant/Etc. Empathy and/or Speaks with Animals/Spirits/Plants/etc. advantages.
  • Every 4 points (or 9 with the unlimited morphing ability) invested in Morph increases the racial template cap by 10 more points.

Other Thoughts and Closing

If we did go ahead and use the wildcard version of Alternate Form, That would cost [15 + (0.9*25)]*4*0.4 = 60... so actually, even more expensive? Meh, I guess I overestimated the cost. Also, Blogger glitches out the HTML so that some fields stay bold, especially when trying to use tables to display the information, anyone know how to fix that? In any case, this went on a bit long, but I think I have the basis of a decent race. I was thinking of setting low racial maximas for attributes so that one would depend more on the morphing ability for specific needs, but I am not sure what would be good. 15 all across?


  1. Nice write up, got a player for a campaign that I'm working on who could use this as a nice starting point.

    1. Flattered! One hint I forgot to call out, if this is for Dungeon Fantasy and you have Dungeon Fantasy 5, you might want them to invest at least a total of 84 points into morph to afford being able to transform into all of the 125 point animals, and perhaps work towards 109 points to be able to afford to turn into any of the 187 point animals.


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