A player in my group wanted to play a shapeshifter, but not the Druid.

A player in my group wanted to play a shapeshifter, but not the Druid.

A player in my group wanted to play a shapeshifter, but not the Druid. He wanted something more feral, heavily influenced by the Navajo skin-walker legends, but not necessarily evil.

Here is the Skinwalker. I cobbled it together, inspired by/borrowing from the core Druid, the Druid playbook from David Guyll and Melissa Fisher, and the Slayer compendium class from Class Warfare by Johnstone Metzger. I have heavily re-flavored the moves I borrowed from the Slayer class to feel more feral, and less soldierly. I also reworked the skin-walker move to be a little more structured.

For those that are not familiar with the skin-walker legends, typical powers of a skin-walker are shapeshifting into the form of animals, increased strength, increased dexterity, increased speed, and regeneration. I tried to incorporate some aspect of each of these in this playbook.

Let me know what you think!


19 thoughts on “A player in my group wanted to play a shapeshifter, but not the Druid.”

  1. Great playbook!

    I’ll go nuts and post everything that comes to my mind as I read. Don’t take it personally, it’s just first impression from a read (and no playtest)!

    Hmm Skinwalker move seems like it’s not totally making the character feel competent. I like that you choose a specialization. I like useful adaptation. I don’t like complete

    mastery as it makes me feel like I’m just a noob.

    In DW, lvl 1 character are supposed to be highly competent. I’d expect that the character had a whole past of practicing his transformation move and thus would be competent in most form.

    Moreover, I think that useful adaptation kinda plays the same role as complete mastery, but in a much more comprehensive way.

  2. I’d consider putting checkboxes next to the options of Skinwalker move (and maybe removing the “requires” text). That way when you take the appropriate move, you can check the option to know this is also available as a choice. It’s more visual.

  3. Narratively speaking, what does the -1 ongoing to a stat when you transform represents? Have you considered gaining a debility instead? Would use the already existing mechanics in place, is more visual and allows you to heal it if needed in certain circumstances.

  4. Choose an appropriate size:

    • Tiny – gain Stealthy, damage reduced to 0

    • Small

    • Medium

    • Large

    • Huge (requires Animal Instincts)

    To me, I read it as if I can adopt a form and then choose any size for it. So I could be a Large mouse or a tiny tiger. Is this intended behaviour?

    Since there’s only effects for tiny, is it even necessary to have this? Druid doesn’t, it’s implied depending on the animal form you take.

  5. Addramyr Palinor Wow! Thank you so much for all of your feedback! I really appreciate it! For skin-walker, I really feel that making choices is important, and even more so not ever quite giving the player everything they would want, especially at the beginning. At level 1 the player can absolutely choose to have complete mastery over some unique and defining aspect of their form, but it doesn’t come free. They have to choose between extra damage, extra armor or being as good as the real thing when doing something that uniquely defines that animal. And I like how as the character gains more experience it becomes easier and easier to always take the narratively strong useful adaptation / complete mastery option, in addition to the crunchy damage / defense bonuses. By level two or three, they will likely have the option of taking two specializations, and by level six, three specializations. So as the character grows more competent, so too does their ability to mimic the animals whose form they assume. I like the progression and mastery this represents.

  6. Addramyr Palinor I totally hear what you are saying, regarding the -1 ongoing. A lot of moves incur -1 ongoing for powers that the player can maintain at will. That way the player doesn’t simply maintain said power indefinitely. To me weighing those costs are important. Using a debility that can be healed can be circumvented by a clever player. I prefer to mimic other moves without a defined duration that also incur a -1 ongoing. In this case I am giving the player a choice in what that -1 is affecting, which might be too generous, since they will likely always choose INT, since it likely is already a dump stat. And just leveling up offers improved options, at level 6+ the player can choose to lose the -1 ongoing entirely at the cost of a specialization. Maybe I’ll change the -1 to affect either STR or DEX. Taking on the form of a completely different creature must be taxing… Eventually you might get used to it, but again I really like to force a player to make difficult decisions. In light of that, I think I will remove INT, and force the player to choose between DEX or STR.

  7. Addramyr Palinor Size is intended to be vague. That is why the move asks the player to choose an appropriate size. Depending on the situation a mouse the size of a tiger might be very appropriate. I want the move to be as fluid as the game itself can be. If the player can defend their choice of size and why it is appropriate in the situation, then they have earned the right to assume an animal form of that size. I also wanted to give a little incentive to choosing Tiny, especially at low levels when specialization choices are few. Something the size of a humming bird or butterfly will never be able to do any damage, so that is a very cheap price to pay for automatically gaining the Stealthy specialization, freeing the lower level player to explore non-combat related opportunities to use skin-walker. Besides, Tiny and Stealthy seem to go hand in hand.

    And, just because the Tiny size states they do 0 damage does not mean that a tiny spider, snake or scorpion that chooses the useful adaptation of venom can’t still hurt someone or even indirectly damage someone. After all, it isn’t the needle like fangs of the pit viper that kills you, it’s the venom.

  8. As for the Angel of Death move, you are absolutely right. Hack and Slash does cover applying your damage to multiple targets, but only if the action that triggered it could reasonably hurt multiple targets. Angel of Death does not have that restriction. The only restriction it has is the number of blood you are currently holding. That is a powerful distinction. A Skinwalker can pull off multiple target attacks that few other classes can duplicate, it really doesn’t matter where the targets are in the scene. The power of the blood spent fills the gap, the Skinwalker could attack two foes on opposite sides of the room. Given that boosted speed is already an option for the Skinwalker, it is not difficult to come up with a reasonable explanation of how the Skinwalker just did 10 damage to both the evil mage and his hired thug when they are standing 20 feet apart from each other. That is another reason why I felt the move deserved a -1 forward which represents the level of physical strain it takes to pull off such a move.

  9. I will say that I feel the playbook still has too many of the “nature-y” moves left over from the Druid. I have been thinking of a few new moves that better fit the concept of the feral shapeshifter. Once I get them hammered out, I’ll update the Playbook I have linked above.

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