The Shifting tongue grants the ability to manipulate biology and alter one’s own form according to whim and will. Master Shifters are capable of slipping between different bodies as easily as others change clothing.
Also known as: Slipskin, Werecreature, Skinthief, Therienthrope, Protean
Restricted to: Humans
Power over: Emulation, Combination, Originality, Healing
Shifters have learned the words that define their very form, and by doing so have learned how to change it. The earliest iteration of their power typically manifests as a particular affinity for, and gift at communicating with certain breeds of beast. Shifters gain forms by learning the words used to create the myriad species they mimic. In the process of shifting the way one thinks also shifts. An ever present danger lies in the potential to become so bestial in form that reverting to ones ‘original’ body becomes impossible. Shifters do not need to speak aloud to change, it is enough to merely think the quicksilver thoughts of a Shifter to change oneself. The words do need to be vocalized to have a direct effect on others, and those others must be willing for this to work. A Shifter cannot shift an unwilling subject. The duration of a shift is as long as a Shifter wishes but the longer held, the more difficult it becomes to revert to the original form. The more proficient Shifters are capable of feats beyond mimicry of the beasts; they can hybridize or combine multiple features from various sources to create specialized forms. Shifters can also be gifted healers with the ability to heal themselves and others.
The danger of Shifting is that one can fall wild and become trapped in the body and mind of a beast.
- 1 Shifter Core – Morpheme
- 2 Abilities
- 2.1 Healing
- 2.2 Shifting
- 2.3 Atavistic Form
- 2.4 Favoured Form
- 2.5 Hybrid
- 2.6 Trueform
- 2.7 Splitting
- 2.8 Bestial Power
- 2.9 Predatory Grace
- 2.10 Natural Symmetry
- 2.11 Enhanced Sapience
- 2.12 Vector
- 2.13 Transbiota
- 2.14 Biostasis
- 2.15 Pheromones
- 2.16 Klepton/Syncklepton
- 2.17 Agamogenesis
- 2.18 Genomic Transmission
- 2.19 Toxifer
- 2.20 Storage Organ
- 2.21 Heart Stone
- 2.22 Apotheosis
Shifter Core – Morpheme ∞
This represents the general skill of the shifter. Advancement costs 5xp times new level. The Shifter cannot advance any specific shifter ability above their Shifter core level. For example, if they have a shifter core of 2 they can have a maximum Active Regeneration value of 2.
Each of the abilities below must be purchased and leveled up separately. Advancement costs 5xp times new level.
Passive Regeneration ∞
All shifters passively heal an additional point of health/week equal to their base level in Shifter. They gain the ability to heal from more grievous wounds as well, such as missing limbs or organs.
Active Regeneration ∞
The Shifter can channel a portion of their focus to enable rapid regeneration. This can be done 1/day and requires a Will + Morpheme + Active Regeneration check. The results of this roll are compared against the Lingua Self-Healing column of the healing table or the or the table below.
Also known as Accelerated Recovery, this ability allows the Shifter to use the Lingua to modify a targets biology and accelerate their natural healing rate. The target of this ability must be willing and the Shifter must both physically touch them initially and maintain regular proximity to the target for the duration of this ability to work (12 hours without conversational proximity ends the effect).
The Shifter takes 2 Stress to activate the ability and the target gains a bonus to their natural healing rate equal to the Shifter’s level in Pluripotency. The Shifter can apply Pluripotency to a number of targets equal to their rank in the ability, but each new application costs 2 additional Stress.
This ability only works at half its normal rate for forms which the Shifter is not familiar with. For example, a Shifter with level 3 Pluripotency using this ability on a Bellator can only grant a bonus of +1 to their healing rate, however if the Shifter knows the Bellator form the bonus is the full +3.
Shifters already benefit from Passive Regeneration and cannot use Pluripotency on themselves or other Shifters to accelerate that rate further.
Chirurgus Cascade ∞
Also known as Mend Wounds or Healing, the Shifter is able to heal others wounds directly and rapidly by passing a mutable portion of the Shifter’s own protean body and then controlling this portion of their form to trigger a controlled healing cascade. The target of this ability must be willing and the Shifter must maintain physical contact with them during the healing.
The Shifter takes 3 Stress to activate the ability and must then roll a Will + Medicine + Chirurgus Cascade check. The results of this roll are compared against the Lingua Heal Other column of the healing table or the table below.
|*20*||Full -1||Full -1|
Shifters regenerative abilities make them highly resistant to death or permanent disability due to disease but that does not make them immune to the effects, direct or otherwise. The Crucible ability represents the Shifters capacity to both consciously adapt to disease in order to hasten recovery *and* the ability to analyze a disease in order to discern treatments and cures for others. To use this ability the Shifter must focus on their body, engaging senses that are unavailable to others and manipulate their internal biological environment directly. This process can take up to several days depending on the severity of the illness.
The Shifter takes 3 Stress and must roll a Will + Morpheme + Crucible against the target defined on the table below. If they are successful they gain the following benefits:
- They are cured of the illness and inoculated to future infections of the same
- They gains a bonus to Medicine checks regarding that illness equal to their level in Crucible
- They are able to use the Chirurgus Cascade ability to cure others of the disease
A roll of 2 always indicates a failure and may result in a worsening of the infection or a mutation of the disease. Conversely a roll of 20 always indicates success.
|Disease Type||Examples||Crucible Target|
|Low||Cold, Flu, Dysentery, Gonorrhea||12|
|Medium||Ergotism, Malaria, Measles, Smallpox, Typhoid||14|
|High||Leprosy, Plague, Cancer, Autoimmune, Parasites||16|
|Deadly||Flux, Sleeping Sickness, Rabies, Black Fever, Amoebic Encephalitis, Prion||18|
|Engineered||Indomire, Aeger, Labryonch||22|
The Shifting tongue allows the Linguist to take a form similar to that of any creature they are sufficiently familiar with. Gaining familiarity entails close exposure to the species in their natural habitat over a length of time equal to the creature’s difficulty rating in weeks. As a result, there is considerable danger for those Shifters who seek to learn the forms of the most dangerous wildlife. Due to the limitations of mass/size differences the Shifter form is often noticeably larger or smaller than a natural example of a natural version. A Shifter can learn multiple forms concurrently but the effort is taxing and is limited to learning a number of simultaneous forms equal to ones Will.
Each form a Shifter learns entails a special subset of knowledge and most find it difficult to learn more than a handful of forms. Each level taken in Shifting grants the Shifter 1.5 form slots. E.g. at level 1 they can know 1 form, at 2 they can know 3 forms, etc.
Taking on a new form is no simple task. The Shifter must maintain their concentration through the breaking of their bones, twisting of muscle fibre, sliding of skin and reconfiguration of their very organs. To take a new form (including their original form) the Shifter must take 3 stress to roll a Will + Morpheme + Shifting with a base difficulty of 12 + the difficulty modifiers shown on the Difficulty table below. Failure on a roll indicates the Shift failed and the character takes an amount of health damage equal to 1/2 the range of failure. A character reduced to zero health by a failure is left comatose for a number of hours equal to the failure range. A roll of 20 indicates a flawless shift and the Shifter can refund the stress spent on the roll. A roll of 2 always indicates a failure.
Shifters who spend too long in an alternate form often find their mind pulled by the natural urges of that form. For example, a Shifter who takes on a predatory form for too long may find it harder and harder to control their prey instinct, turning on their allies, while a Shifter who takes on a herd or prey form is constantly fighting the instinct to flee.
Each time the Shifter resists the urge to return to their base form they become slightly less focused, increasing the difficulty to shift to any other form by 1. The higher the Shifting level the longer they can sustain alternate forms without risk of losing control and the easier it becomes to resist that urge.
|Rank||Duration of Shift||Will Check to stay in Form|
|1||1 hour||Will check every hour after, target 18|
|2||12 hours||Will check every 12 hours after, target 17|
|3||24 hours||Will check every 24 hours after, target 16|
|4||1 week||Will check every week after, target 15|
After the spending the listed period in a form the Shifter must spend at least an hour in their human form and not use any other Shifter power during that period before they can attempt another Shift.
Each form has its own set of attributes. Consult the form table below for example values but consult with the storyteller to determine the exact traits of the form.
|Form Type||Example Species||Aspect Modifiers||Abilities and Attacks|
|Small Predator||Fox, Weasel, Snake, Monitor||+1 Grace, -1 Intellect||+2 Survival, +2 Stealth, 1/2 Environment Penalties|
|Predator||Wolf, Hyena, Lion, Alligator, Yeligwi, Jaghund||+1 Grace, + 2 Power, -1 Intellect, -1 Will||Low Light Vision, +2 Survival, Attack: Claws – 4D, Attack: Bite – 3D + Grapple|
|Apex Predator||Vargr, Bear, Grommen, Faeles Ur||+3 Power, +2 Grace, -1 Intellect, -2 Will||Low Light Vision, +3 Survival, Attack: Claws – 5D, Attack: Bite – 4D + Grapple|
|Hyper Predator||Ursu, Tyrn, Uzhas||+5 Power, + 1 Grace, -2 Intellect, -4 Will||Health +5, Stress + 10, Attack: Claws – 6D, Attack: Bite – 5D + Grapple|
|Pack/Herd||Horse, Camel, Llama, Daedon, Elk. Gazelle||+2 Power, +1 Intuition, -2 Will||+50% Speed, +2 Athletics, Attack: Trample (3D)|
|Prey||Rabbit, Hog, Rat, Lesser Primates||+2 Grace, +1 Intuition, -3 Power, -3 Will||Keen Senses (+1 Perception) Evasive (+2 Defense)|
|Avian||Raptor, Raven, Condor, Urvogel, Bat||+3 Grace, -3 Power||“Flight, Evasion (+5 defense), Attack: Rake – 3D”|
|Shifting Variable||Difficulty Modifier|
|Size – Tiny||4|
|Size – Small||2|
|Size – Medium||‘0|
|Size – Large||2|
|Size – Huge||4|
|Size – Gargantuan||8|
|Type – Common||1|
|Type – Unusual||3|
|Type – Rare||4|
|Type – Unique||5|
|Danger – Prey/Pack||‘0|
|Danger – Predator||2|
|Danger – Apex Predator, Avian||4|
|Danger – Hyper Predator||6|
|Engaged In Combat||2|
|Practiced Form (has been used at least once)||-1|
|Aberrations (e.g. Glutor, Evicar, Brog)||5|
|Quasi-human (Bellatori, Oneiri, Tamaa)||10|
Example Form Abilities ∞
The following abilities are intended to be an list of inspirations and are not comprehensive.
Basic: Speed, Strength, Stamina, Digestion, Natural Armour, Resistance to Poison, Enhanced Healing
Advanced: Electrical Discharge, Echolocation, Magnetic Sense, Direction Sense, Gills, Hibernation, Longevity, Non-verbal communication, Venom/Toxins, Silk-weaving
Atavistic Form ∞
The Shifter is able to assume an enhanced version of a known form. For each level in Atavistic Form the Shifter can apply one of the following traits to that form.
|Terrifying||Doubled Stress Effect on Targets|
Favoured Form ∞
The Shifter selects 1 particular form. This form becomes easier to take and leave, can be maintained for longer, and gains benefits to its stats. All other forms become more difficult to take and leave. Shifting to a favoured form incurs only 1 stress, the difficulty is reduced by 5, and the Shifter is not damaged by failures. This ability comes with a penalty to Shifting to all other forms; the Shifter now incurs double stress and *all* failures incur damage.
The Shifter takes on aspects of a form they know without fully transforming. This allows them to take on specific traits such as gills, claws, fangs, venom sacs, etc. The Shifter takes 1 point of stress for each trait they wish to adopt and can only take on a number of traits equal to their level in Hybrid with a maximum of 5. Taking on Hybrid traits is easier than taking on a full form but the Shifter must still roll a Will + Morpheme + Hybrid against a target of 10 with the following results.
|2||A roll of 2 always indicates a failure.|
|20||Flawless shift and the Shifter can refund the stress spent on the roll.|
The duration the Shifter can maintain their Hybrid traits is indicated on the table below.
|Hybrid Rank||Duration of Shift|
|1||1 hour, Will check every hour after, target 18|
|2||12 hours, Will check every 12 hours after, target 17|
|3||24 hours, Will check every 24 hours after, target 16|
|4||1 week, Will check every week after, target 15|
A list of example traits is provided below.
|Claws, Small||3d Natural Weapon, +2 to Climb|
|Claws, Large||4d Natural Weapon, +2 to Climb|
|Talons||4d Natural Weapon, Brutal, +3 to Climb|
|Fangs||3d Natural Weapon|
|Horns/Spines||3d Natural Weapon|
|Venom Sac, Average||Target of 14 to resist|
|Venom Sac, Lethal||Target of 17 to resist|
|Venom Sac, Apex||Target of 19 to Resist|
|Scales, Normal||Armour B1-S1-P1|
|Scales, Thick||Armour B2-S2-P2|
|Scales, Apex||Armour B3-S3-P3|
|Prehensile Tail||+2 to checks for balance, distraction, or manipulation|
|Webbing||+2 to Swim|
|Digitigrade Legs||+2 to Athletics checks|
|Fur||+2 to cold weather endurance|
|Tapetum lucidum||Low light vision|
|Echolocation||Navigate in full darkness|
|Syrinx||Mimic any sound|
|Lethal Toxin-Neutralizing Factor||Immunity to Venom|
|Enhanced Senses, Olfactory||+2 to Perception, Survival|
|Enhanced Senses, Vomeronasal||+2 to Perception, Survival|
|Enhanced Senses, Magnetoreception||+2 to Navigation|
|Gliding Wings||Slow falls, Increase Balance|
|Hollow Bones||Reduces weight, +2 to Jump, -3 to Health, Needed for Flight|
|Flight Musculature||+2 to Athletics, Needed for Flight|
|Flight Wings||Paired with Hollow Bones and Flight Musculature, allows for sustained flight|
|Decreased Size||1/2 Power, x2 Grace|
|Increased Size||x2 Power, 1/2 Grace|
The Shifter takes on a personal form that is unique or blends traits from known forms. This is also sometimes referred to as a Trueform or, for some Shifters, a Warform. The Shifter’s Trueform has is composed of a number of features determined by their level in the Trueform ability multiplied by 2. The Trueform can combine features from the following Shifter Abilities:
- Atavistic Power (Persistent Increase to Power by Level in Ability)
- Predatory Grace (Persistent Increase to Grace by Level in Ability)
- Symmetry (Persistent Increase to Appearance by Level in Ability)
Note: The exact features of this form must be approved by the Storyteller.
The personal connection between the Shifter and this form makes it easier to enter and exit. As with a normal Shifting roll, the Shifter must take 3 stress to roll a Will + Morpheme + Trueform but the target difficulty is 10 with the following results.
|2||A roll of 2 always indicates a failure.|
|20||Flawless shift and the Shifter can refund the stress spent on the roll.|
The duration the Shifter can maintain their Trueform is indicated on the table below.
|Trueform Rank||Features||Duration of Shift|
|1||2||1 hour, Will check every hour after, target 18|
|2||4||12 hours, Will check every 12 hours after, target 17|
|3||6||24 hours, Will check every 24 hours after, target 16|
|4||8||1 week, Will check every week after, target 15|
The Shifter takes a form with multiple bodies such as a pack or swarm. Each splinter is a fraction of the whole Shifter, a single node in a greater network. Very few Shifters possess the skill or will to take form in multiple bodies. Most Shifters who attempt it fail in transition, and the handful who succeed still face a considerable risk of losing any sense of coherent identity. Taking the form of a hundred bats each diverging slightly, each pulling further from the axial personality. For the very few who can successfully transition and maintain control of a swarm the act is has significant benefits.
- The Shifter cannot easily be killed
- The Shifter can undertake multiple simultaneous actions
- The Shifter can be in multiple places simultaneously
Each Level in Splitting reduces the difficulty of taking a splintered form.
|Splitting Rank||Injury Range||Damage Taken||Success Range|
Bestial Power ∞
The Shifter modifies their body, altering the composition and increasing the density of their muscles and bone to temporarily increase their Power for one roll. The Shifter takes 2 points of stress and gains a bonus to their Power equal to their level in this ability. The Shifter can use this ability as many times in a row as they like but each new roll incurs an additional 2 points of stress.
Predatory Grace ∞
The Shifter modifies their body, altering the structure and composition to temporarily increase Grace for one roll. The Shifter takes 2 points of stress and gains a bonus to their Power equal to their level in this ability. The Shifter can use this ability as many times in a row as they like but each new roll incurs an additional 2 points of stress.
Natural Symmetry ∞
The Shifter modifies their body to improve aesthetic quality, refining features and increasing bilateral symmetry to temporarily increase Appearance for one roll. The Shifter takes 3 points of stress and gains a bonus to their Appearance equal to their level in this ability. The Shifter can use this ability as many times in a row as they like but each new roll incurs an additional 3 points of stress.
Enhanced Sapience ∞
The Shifter modifies their brain, increasing the density of neuronal connections to temporarily increase Intellect for one roll. The Shifter takes 5 points of stress and gains a bonus to their Intellect equal to their level in this ability. The Shifter can use this ability as many times in a row as they like but each new roll incurs an additional 5 points of stress.
Shifters can turn their ability to survive disease to darker purposes, becoming asymptomatic carriers, able to spread terminal illness with a touch. The Shifter must have a Crucible ability of level 3 or higher to take this ability. The Shifter must first become infected with the disease they wish to be a Vector for and then succeed in the relevant Crucible check to eliminate their own personal symptoms. The Shifter’s level in Vector determined how easily they can spread the disease and the difficulty to resist it.
To spread the disease the Shifter takes 2 Stress and rolls a Will + Morpheme + Vector. This creates the target others need to beat to survive the disease.
While most Shifters contain their metamorphoses to the animal kingdom, a few explore more exotic forms of biology including the fungal and the floral. While there are no records of a Shifter fully assuming a floral or fungal form and returning to speak of it, it is possible to take inspiration for traits from these domains. With this ability the Shifter can acquire hybrid traits from non-animal species and assume abilities from fungal and floral sources. The Shifter spends 5xp for the Transbiota class of abilities and can then purchase the following traits for the listed prices. Shifters wishing to learn the Tamaa form must have the Transbiota ability.
|Transbiota Trait||Effect||XP Cost|
|Thorns||2d Natural Weapon||5|
|Photophagy||Convert sunlight to energy removing need for food though they do still require water||10|
|Spore Nodule||Expel an obfuscating cloud that can trigger allergic reactions||10|
|Toxic Sap Nodule||Expel a blinding or acidic sap-like secretion||10|
|Capsaicin Nodule||Exude a disabling spray of burning chemicals||15|
|Cerbera Touch||Toxic touch that is incredibly deadly||20|
The Shifter is able to enter a form of biosis that sustains them in hostile environments; this can include cryobiosis to survive in deep cold, chemobiosis to survive high levels of toxins, anoxybiosis to survive the absence of oxygen, or anhydrobiosis to survive the absence of water. For each level taken in Biostasis the Shifter chooses a new form of Biosis they can take. They gain the benefit of all known Bioses when in biosis. A Shifter in biostasis typically reduces their size significantly and encase themselves in an extremely hard shell. The Shifter takes 5 Stress when transitioning to this form and the length of time they can maintain this state is dependent on their Rank in Biostasis.
The Shifter can learn to generate pheromones to increase favour with other species. The Shifter must know the form of the species they wish to generate Pheremones for. The Shifter takes 2 Stress to activate this ability and gains a bonus to all animal handling and social rolls with that species equal to their level in Pheremone. This bonus lasts for 1 hour. This ability does not work on humans.
Some Shifters become so enamored with the species they emulate, spending whole lifetimes in their alternate forms, that they seek to procreate as one. In most cases the act is futile as the act of Shifting does not modify the gametes of the Shifter. Some Shifters have learned how to overcome this limitation however, via the Klepton/Snycklepton ability. A Shifter with this ability is able to impregnate or be impregnated by any member of a species for which they know a form. This process often produces Chimera, offspring possessing traits not normally found in their species and which is often deeply loyal to their progenitor. Some particularly degenerate Shifters use this ability to produce unique abominations and horrors which are then compelled to serve their parents. Gestation and maturation periods are unaffected by the use of this ability.
To attempt such an act of procreation the Shifter must take 5 Stress and roll a Will + Morpheme + Klepton. The results are determined on the table below.
|2||Grotesque Failure: The procreative partner is killed and the Shifter is reduced to 1 Health|
|3-10||Failure: No offspring is produced|
|11-15||Success: Normal offspring are produced|
|16-18||Success: A single chimeric offspring is produced with 1-3 traits|
|19+||Success: A species appropriate number of offspring are produced with 2-4 traits each|
|20||Success: The Shifter determines whether the offspring is chimeric or normal. If Chimeric they can add one additional Hybrid trait|
Some Shifters eschew sexual reproduction entirely, choosing instead to produce offspring via a sophisticated use of the Lingua that enables asexual reproduction. The Shifter literally self-fertilizes and then carries their clonal child to term.
To attempt such an act of procreation the Shifter must take 10 Stress and roll Will + Morpheme + Agamogenesis. The results are determined on the table below.
|2||Grotesque Failure: The Shifter is reduced to 1 Health|
|3-16||Failure: No offspring is produced|
|17+||Success: The Shifter is now gestating a clonal child|
|20||Exceptional Success: The gestation period for the clonal offspring is halved or the Shifter produces clonal twins|
Genomic Transmission ∞
The Shifter is able to transmit or receive knowledge of a form directly to, or from, another Shifter, allowing them to take a form without the typical prerequisite study period. Both the tutor and the student must have this ability. The act takes 12 hours of joint meditation without interruption and both the tutor and student take 5 stress during this period. Forms gained by Genomic transmission are 2 points more difficult to take or leave.
The Shifter is able to generate a personal toxin. The effects of this toxin and the method of application, are determined by the Shifter’s level in Toxifer. The roll to resist the Toxin is against a target set by the Shifter’s Will + Morpheme + Toxifer + 1d10
|Rank||Method of Application||Effects|
|2||Blood||Toxifer Level in Damage|
|3||Bite||Toxifer + Morpheme Level in Damage|
|4||Spit||Toxifer + Morpheme + Will Level in Damage|
|5||Contact||Toxifer Roll in Damage|
Storage Organ ∞
The Shifter is able to create an organ which can store food or items within the body. The capacity of this organ is dependent on the size of the Shifter’s current form. For example, a Shifter in the form of a mouse cannot have a storage organ that holds a greatsword.
Heart Stone ∞
A rare and taxing ability available only to fifth level Shifters that enables them to create an embryonic replica of themselves granting Shifters a crude sort of immortality. This hardened replica is inert until the Shifter’s death at which point the ‘stone’ awakens, a diminished copy of the original. Creation of a Stone is no small task, requiring the Shifter to sacrifice 4 points in Will and 2 Power and take max health -1 damage as they literally duplicate their body. This damage cannot be healed with active regeneration. The replica cannot awaken until the original dies and the replica’s memories are foggy and limited to the period prior to their creation. The Replica’s aspects are all 1 lower than the original Shifter.
Shifters who develop a truly profound knowledge of the Lingua Arcana come to understand the true nature of shifting and form bending, attaining an altered state of existence known as Apotheosis. In this state the Shifter abandons any sense of ‘true form’ and becomes perfectly mutable. To begin the path towards Apotheosis the Shifter must master five separate forms. Each time the Shifter wishes to ascend a level in Apotheosis they must spend a full day and night in formless flux, maintaining the state between forms. During this period, they are entirely helpless as their body and mind are lost between forms. In this protean state they are a magnet for ancient beasts and aberrations guided by a deep instinctual desire to destroy the Shifter. If they survive this the Shifter achieves a new state of being. By the end of this path the Shifter is closer to Celestial than human.
Level 1: The Shifter no longer needs to spend extended time with a creature to learn its form. A single observation role is sufficient to learn a form. They are also no longer impeded by size, able to draw organic material from the environment to increase their bulk.
Level 2: The Shifter regenerates at an astonishing rate. All known regeneration effects are tripled.
Level 3: The Shifter can change the forms of others who are willing, to grant them minor alterations. Their own hybrid traits can now be sustained indefinitely.
Level 4: The Shifter can apply significant alterations to the forms of others who are willing. This includes placing others into an entirely new form or reverting Shifters lost in an altered form to their original form. Maximum subjects = Apotheosis level.
Level 5: The Shifter can become protean at will and gains the ability to communicate directly with Celestial entities without risk of madness. They take no damage from mundane weapons and can create temporary doppelgangers at will.