View Full Version : Balance issues : new Shifter race

2009-07-04, 11:57 AM
One of the things I've been toying with for my setting-in-the-works is a race of shifters, who are seen at best as opportunistic and unreliable, and at worst as active liabilities. The idea behind them being that each would have a single animal form they could change into, and their "primary" form being indistinguishable from humans.

What I'd been thinking about doing was making their shapeshifting ability similar to the Shapeshifting variant for Wildshape; Break it into predators/stalkers/flyers, and give stat bonuses/movement abilities based on that. What I've come up with recently, however, is a more broad option.

Give the players a list of animals, the way Animal Companion currently does - in fact, the animal companion starting list is a good starting point for this. The PC can shift into that form, but loses the ability to manipulate/wield any tools it was previously wearing. Equipment melds into the new form, and becomes inactive. They take on the animal's physical abilities, and gain all special attacks/qualities the creature would normally have - this means wolf/riding dog shifters would get the trip attack, but since they're medium sized and not huge strength, I don't think this would really make a big difference. For reference, the list of animal companions allowed is :

badger, camel, dire rat, dog, riding dog, eagle, hawk, horse (light or heavy), owl, pony, snake (Small or Medium viper), or wolf. If the campaign takes place wholly or partly in an aquatic environment, the following creatures are also available: porpoise, Medium shark, and squid.

I'd also add others - cats, for example. The players would, of course, maintain their own hit point total, even if their constitution changed, since this would be working off of the Wild Shape rules - though it would be at-will, and wouldn't give healing.

I may also give feats that would allow the player to increase the power of his shifter form; Gaining Scent in their human form, for example, or their animal form's increased visual acuity. I would probably also give the option of taking a "Dire form" feat for any animal that has one, so that someone whose animal choice was Wolf, for example, could later increase their usefulness in wolf form by increasing its power.

Mark Hall
2009-07-04, 12:05 PM
Check out the Hengeyokai from Oriental Adventures.

2009-07-04, 12:10 PM
Check out the Hengeyokai from Oriental Adventures.

Yeah sure.

Oh wait - I don't have it. That might make that difficult, being that I believe it was 3.0, and at this point, even finding 3.5 books is difficult.

2009-07-04, 12:13 PM
I am not a big fan of shapeshifting into animals. Depending on the setting, it makes some skills unnecessary (hide/move silent doesn't matter too much, social doesn't matter if you can't speak anyway).

If I were you, I would model this off of the Tibet in Dragon Compendium. Which offers a single animal form, cat, and not a whole lot else. With that said, I wouldn't let them transform into anything much stronger than a cat.

Flavor wise you seem to be moving away from there lycanthropic heritage by changing into different kinds of animals. Also, your descriptive words (opportunistic yet unreliable) don't reflect there abilities.

I like the current shifter, if only for flavor wise, mechanically I feel they need more shifts per day or simply better bonuses for shifting. I had a thought of a houserule (not yet tested) that gave extra shifts but possibly out of the shifters control (like the Kensai's power surge, but tied to the skill control shape). So you would start by giving Control shape as a class skill for shifters. Required a control shape (lets say DC 10) for your first shift. Increase the dc by 5 every time there after. Fail the check by 4 you still shift but are uncontrollable (possibly make a table like the confusion table), fail the check by 5 to 15 you don't shift. Fail the check by 16 or more and you are dazed for the round. Something along those lines.

2009-07-04, 12:27 PM
The problem with these other shifter-like races is that I don't have access to those books. I'm creating my own setting, the only other setting I've ever picked up is the old 3.0 Forgotten Realms book.

As for the "Opportunistic and unreliable" bit; Perhaps that was poorly worded. They'll take advantage of situations as they come up, and will back up whichever side they feel has an advantage in a fight - but in general, will try and avoid getting into said fights in the first place. Several of them, in fact, will use their animal forms to flee the moment a fight seems to be going badly. Adventurers, of course, are the exception to that rule.

All in all, this is just a step along the way to deciding whether this race works or not as a part of the world; I do like the mental image of a race of diverse animal-people who either live in the unsettled regions of the world, away from the eyes of the races of man, or live in hiding among those same races. I just don't have a really good niche for them yet, sadly.

That all being said, it may be worthwhile to simply stick with full-on lycanthropes for what little role I do have them playing, rather than trying to create an entire new player race for them.

Mark Hall
2009-07-04, 12:57 PM
Yeah sure.

Oh wait - I don't have it. That might make that difficult, being that I believe it was 3.0, and at this point, even finding 3.5 books is difficult.

How silly of me. I forgot to use my magic powers to divine what books you did and did not have access to, and failed to read the part of your post where you so clearly did not state that.

2009-07-04, 01:11 PM
How silly of me. I forgot to use my magic powers to divine what books you did and did not have access to, and failed to read the part of your post where you so clearly did not state that.

I suspect OA is less common than the majority of, say, the 3.5 books. If you'd actually said *something* about the race aside from "Go look it up in this book", it would have sounded a lot less condescending.

That being said, I think we got off on the wrong foot here. Snark-ending truce?

T.G. Oskar
2009-07-04, 01:27 PM
Hmm...it's even more odd that it's not on Crystalkeep. Must be a lack of sight.

In either case, Hengeyokai is exactly what you'd be looking for. They have a slight stat weakness (-2 Wisdom), and the ability to turn into one animal per day, exactly as you placed it. Heck, the stat penalty isn't as bad as the shifter's stat penalty.

Their greatest benefit is that you can use it a number of times per day equal to your character level, but you couldn't change back (although the new rules allow you to do so). You get an ability and stat boosts/penalties based on your chosen animal. No biggie.

So, if you wanna replace your shifters, why not look for buy a PDF and watch Oriental Adventures? There must still be some around. Also, if you're particularly lucky, look for buy Dragon #318 and look for the 3.5 update to OA. It's particularly fine, and it has the Shapeshifter update, which is perfect for even regular shifters (although it may need some work).

Otherwise, Shifters are fine as-is. The introduced mechanic feels unique, even though it's not the kind of thing an optimizer would look for. Most shifter feats are pretty awesome: Healing Factor for fast healing, Shifter Defense and its "Greater" enhancement (DR 2 or 4/silver), the Elite feats for enhanced shifting, Extra Shifter Trait for a new ability... It's a pretty feat-intensive race, but Eberron pretty much made most races feat-intensive, and it really made the whole game feat-intensive. Plus, remember; every two shifter feats become an extra use of shifting, which means that Greater Shifter Defense doesn't make Shifter Defense rather obsolete, since it adds to your feats and hence to your shifting attempts.

Still, a Warshaper/Shapeshifter combo is pretty powerful. I'd allow shifters to get to it, since shifting is pretty much similar to an alternate form. And it benefits shifters to no end (one extra shifting per level? Gimme!)