The Scions of Amber
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Shapeshifting is a uniquely internal power that denotes a certain level of power and nobility in the Courts of Chaos. While it is not a well known talent of Dworkin’s brood, his blood carries the potential for Shapeshifting and thus it is possible for Amberites to learn this power, though more difficult than for pure or halfbreed Chaosites, to whom it comes more naturally. Not every person or creature in Chaos can change shape. Some demons are adept at such change, and some have their powers in other aspects. The bloodlines of the families of Houses of the Courts generally include such power but it is a talent that sometimes is weak even in Chaos Lords and Ladies.
Shapeshifting is a pre-requisite for the ability to successfully navigate the Logrus, as the Blood of Amber is a pre-requisite for the ability to Walk the Pattern. It is possible to enter the caverns of the Logrus and navigate them without Shapeshifting, and indeed, some demon tribes do this as part of their rites of passage. However, without Shapeshifting ability, the character does not gain mastery of the Logrus, the Logrus masters the character, and twists them into some new and powerful creation.
This power heavily stresses a character’s body, both Strength and Endurance are excellent attributes to invest in for a Shapeshifting character. Shapeshifters who want to impersonate specific people would be wise to invest in Cunning as well. Psyche is actually of quite limited use for a Shapeshifter, at most a high Psyche provides a resistance to powers that attempt to forcibly shift the character or prevent shifts, but those are rare in any case. Shifts are tiring, multiple shifts more-so. Eating a lot can help in the short-term, but eventually a character using a lot of Shapeshifting will have to rest.
It’s best to use Shapeshifting strategically, picking forms that are broad in their application rather than highly specialized, to minimize the total number of shifts needed. Maintaining a form is much, much easier than changing to a whole new one. Because Shapeshifting is internal, there is little difference between using it in Chaos, Amber, or some far flung Shadow. In the rarest of cases a specific shadow may have rules that alter the way Shapeshifting works, but for the most part this power is immune to the shifts in the rules of reality that plague other powers.
Basic Shapeshifting – 30 points
This level of Shapeshifting is generally learned by those with the talent in Chaos when they mature and reach adult age. It can be learned by an Amberite of equal age but generally requires some fairly painful trials and experiments to attain. The character will experience this power as sort of an athletic talent. Something her body is good at doing, that can be pushed at the cost of being sore and tired. Shapeshifters often experience the same sorts of exhilaration and joy at shifting that athletes get from exercise, but they can also experience problems similar to cramps and other sports injuries.
Second Skin: Every Shapeshifter gains a second form upon learning this ability. For Lords and Ladies of Chaos, it is the ‘demon’ form, a powerful and resilient war form that acts as both protection in combat and adaptation to the varied environments of Chaos. Young lords and ladies of Chaos are actually fairly vulnerable to Chaos’s many strange shadows, hence why the Houses built the great Ways in and around the mostly stable Abyss.
The second skin can look like anything the character desires, but it must mass about the same as he does, and does not provide direct attribute bonuses. It can provide extra capabilities for protection, offense, or even the senses. It can provide basic armor, melee weapons (usually in the form of claws and teeth but not always), and enhanced vision, smell, hearing, etc. Generally either the form is more combat oriented or more sensory oriented, though particularly powerful Shapeshifters can refine their second form as they gain in power and understanding.
The second form can also have a little more flexibility in the matter of limbs. The character’s second skin can include one of the following: A prehensile tail (regular tails don’t cost a ‘slot’); two extra arms or legs (or one of each, these are weaker than the primary limbs); or wings, not strong or large enough to fly un-aided but enough to glide.
- Shifting Particulars: Changing to the second form is the fastest shift the character can make, with the exception of reverting to one’s natural form. It takes mere seconds, never more than a dozen seconds, less for those blessed with good attributes or who are masters of this power. Once a character has shifted to the Second Skin, they may wear that form naturally without any need to maintain it for as long as they wish.
Automatic Shifting: This aspect of Shapeshifting is focused on keeping the character alive. It’s not a learned thing, rather, just as any living being will desperately claw for air when drowning, escape a fire, or otherwise survive, so will a shapeshifter’s body react to save her life. The most common application that a shapeshifter will see from this ability is fast closing of wounds. When a Shapeshifter is cut, the wounds automatically attempt to close, shifting themselves closed, cutting off blood-flow, and so on.
This is very effective at keeping a character alive but is not always optimal for fighting. For particularly large wounds, shapeshifting often tries to cut blood flow to the area rather than close a bigger wound. This works well for stopping blood-loss, but if that wound is on a major muscle, like say a character’s arm, then it makes it very hard to use those muscles as well.
When faced with life-threatening circumstances that are not wounds, this ability does what it can. Shapeshifting gills for a drowning character, hardening the body against extreme heat or cold, and so on. Minor problems don’t trigger this ability. A shapeshifter doesn’t suddenly gain fur if it’s a bit chilly out, and doesn’t automatically close papercuts. Attempting to stop this ability from working, to not reveal one’s heritage as a shapeshifter is possible but very difficult. It would be like trying to suppress one’s gag reflex, and do it in whatever life-threatening situation the character is in.
- Shifting Particulars: This power does drain endurance, and since it can’t easily be shut off, it does accelerate the fatigue a character gets from fighting. Of course, the fact that the character stops bleeding in mid-fight usually means that the net effect is positive, over a bleeding character who can’t close their own wounds. Wounds closed by this power may leave ugly scars, and in some cases might have to be re-opened in order to heal properly. The power concentrates on life-saving, not making sure that area of the body will be useful later, and in most cases a shapeshifter who’s using this is moving the wound around, making closing it cleanly very difficult.
Shift Body: Shapeshifters, at least ones at the basic level of ability cannot just mold their bodies like putty. Like most true Powers, Shapeshifting is image based, though it has an advantage over Pattern and Trump in that it doesn’t require any light. The Shapeshifter changes his own self-image, which is much easier to say than to do. Shapeshifters need a very clear and firm notion of what they will change into, or they will find their subconscious making decisions about their form that they might not agree with. The easiest forms to emulate are ones the character has seen before. Animals, demons, specific races of humans, and so on. Anything the character is very familiar with is easy to emulate, he’s already got a good notion of exactly how the form looks and moves.
Coming up with new hybrid or just weird forms is possible but is a lot of work. Often the character will need several exhausting tries to get something that satisfies an unusual set of requirements and actually works and looks right when shifted. Once the character has this form figured out, it can be used again, but until it’s been practiced many times it won’t feel as easy or natural as a better known form.
Maintaining a form other than one of the character’s two ‘natural’ forms is work. Depending on how well practiced the form is, that could be like moving at a constant walking pace, or more like constantly pumping iron. The more the form deviates from the character’s natural forms, the harder it is to keep up for a long time. As the character reaches his limit, or if his concentration is greatly disrupted, he will start to shift back to whichever natural form is closer to the current one.
At this level of shapeshifting abilities, all forms have the same amount of limbs and organs as the natural forms. Extra eyes, hearts, livers, arms or what have you are not possible. An injury to a specific part of the body (like Jurt’s ear from the Merlin saga) is reflected in all forms.
- Shapeshifting Particulars: Shifting to a non-natural form is slow. Normally it takes between 1 and 3 minutes, so it needs to be done well before any kind of combat occurs. A character with good Strength and Endurance who’s practiced a specific form might be able to get the time to shift under a minute, but never less than 45 seconds without a Shapeshifting Specialty being learned.
Partial Shifting: This is an advanced ability of Shapeshifting, and thus is at more of a ‘parlor trick’ state at the basic level of the power. Shifting one’s facial features or otherwise imitating a specific person (or demon) counts as a partial shift. After all, you’re taking a basic form (human or demon) and altering it a little. Getting a claw on one’s hand to demonstrate shapeshifting is easy enough, as long as the change is quickly reverted. Keeping a partial shift around is very difficult, requiring total concentration. It’s not possible to fight, hold a Trump conversation, use any other Power, or move through shadow while partially shifted. Some careful moving around and the like is possible.
- Shapeshifting Particulars: Maintaining a partial shift at this stage is brutal, it is analogous to a heavy, intense workout, one that’s designed to push the character’s abilities. Partial shifts are somewhat fast, as long as only a hand or the face is being shifted, taking about 1 minute to shift. Shifting one’s whole body just a little is very hard, the body keeps wanting to return to it’s normal state, and it takes easily twenty or thirty minutes to accomplish.
Shapechanger’s Blood: Shapeshifters are hardy folk, though they have a few peculiarities to their physiology in the Amber end of the universe. A shapeshifter recovers from wounds faster than someone who doesn’t have that talent. They are harder to poison, need less sleep (unless they’ve been doing a lot of shifting) and rarely if ever get sick. They get the benefits of exercise faster, and recover from periods of inactivity much more quickly. When a character regenerates something with their Endurance, a Shapeshifter always does so more quickly, assuming Endurance is equal between the two characters. Shapeshifters almost always look extremely healthy, vital, and robust.
- Shapeshifting Particulars: In certain parts of shadow, especially in and around Amber, the blood of a Shapeshifter may smoke, spark, or even blaze into fire. This is not always directly dangerous to the shapeshifter, most Demon Forms can handle a little fire without a problem. If the character’s body is weakened by Pattern Power, the fire may do actual damage in addition to being alarming. Without that kind of attack, the fire itself is the same as an open wound on a character with normal blood. Either way, the character is losing something vital, blood or fire, from their body. When shapeshifters die, they often burn to ash, even in Chaos, as the inner fire of their shapeshifting consumes them.
Internal Shifting: Shapeshifting can make the character more robust, add redundant organs, and otherwise change the character inside in ways that can provide powerful advantages.
- Cost: 10 points for the first Specialty, 5 points per additional improvement.
- Shift Organs, manipulations that improve the character’s health and survival.
- Shift Aura, special mystic shifts that confuse abilities that would attempt to name or identify the character.
- Innate Shift, improving the usefulness of automatic shifts.
- Blood of Power, shifts that manipulate powerful blood, allowing for many strange techniques including blood creatures and even moving through shadow.
Form Mastery: A popular specialty for shifters, this is a specialty to improve one’s ability to take on other forms, or partial forms.
- Cost: 10 points for the first specialty, 5 points per additional improvement.
- Avatar Form, a powerful form that improves attributes but is difficult to maintain.
- Heraldic Form, a third ‘natural’ form, usually of some animal or demon that the shifter identifies with.
- Shifter Library, create new forms more easily, remember forms better, learn forms faster.
- Shifting Stamina, hold on to forms with less effort, improve partial shifts.
Elemental Shifting: A rare use of shifting talents, this specialty grants access to inorganic but animate forms, or at least adding aspects of such into one’s other forms.
- Cost: 5 points for this specialty and the same for further improvements.
- Elemental Aspect, add aspects of classic elements to one’s forms, fiery demons, shadowy cats or wolves, birds who crackle with thunder, etc.
- Elemental Attunement, make one of the natural forms immune to an extremely broad range of elements. Extreme examples of those elements can still cause harm, but it will be less.
- Elemental Form, take on a form of pure elements. Even more difficult to maintain than the Avatar form, and not incorporeal. Fire forms will be liquidy or lava-like, air forms will be the most whispy but will still contain some solid storm like elements, etc.
Mimic Shifting: Like form shifting, but with less of an emphasis on learning new forms and variety as being able to specifically mimic individuals. A specialty that synergizes very well with Form shifting, and is excellent for characters with a good Cunning..
- Cost: 5 points for this specialty and the same for further improvements.
- Mirror Memory, the character gets much better at remembering the little details of someone’s appearance, things that really sell an imitation.
- Slight Shift, a big improvement to partial shifting, especially for small details that are so important on faces.
- Character Shift, the ability to maintain a single mimiced form for quite a while. Switching to a new mimiced form makes the old one ‘normal’ in regards to maintaining it.
- Ideal Shift, take on an ideal form that is perfect for getting a specific reaction from those that view it. Great for seduction, intimidation, inspiring crowds, and so on. Can be combined with mimic abilities to make a form that looks ‘more’ like the original person because it captures how people think of them.