Shifters

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Havard
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Shifters

Post by Havard » Mon Oct 05, 2015 12:22 pm

Do you like em? Did they ever catch on as a PC race? What is cool about them?

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Re: Shifters

Post by AvonRekaes » Mon Oct 05, 2015 2:40 pm

I've run several groups of players in Eberron and shifters have come up as PCs a lot. I've had shifter druids, shifter rangers, and even a shifter warlock (who was also a spellthief before an edition switch). I think what draws people to them is the quasi-"barbarian rage" feel to their racial shifting power. Players like to feel like they have a "hulk out" mode when stuff gets real, and now they can get that feeling from their race instead of only from the barbarian class.

They also add a bit more to the "wild PC race" option since Half-Orcs are a fair bit more universally accepted in Eberron than other campaign settings, though this was before the shift to include Tieflings as a standard player race. In either case, it's another option for players who like to have their backstory be outside generally civilized culture.

There's also the thing that some people want to play a werewolf, and since that would be game-breakingly unbalanced, they can settle for a shifter descended from one.
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Re: Shifters

Post by dulsi » Wed Oct 28, 2015 11:40 am

I liked the idea but never got a chance to play one. I think they got a decent amount of material for them. It struck me as sad that I didn't hear about the other races of Eberron until later. Everyone talked about the warforged but changeling, kalashtar, and shifter were not as visible to those outside of Eberron. D&D Online decided to add Drow instead of one of the other new races which felt like a waste to me.
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Re: Shifters

Post by AvonRekaes » Sat Oct 31, 2015 4:44 am

I agree, the shifters should have been added to D&D Online probably before the Drow. Though I guess for a game set in Stormreach, Drow aren't that strange. I think Changelings could have been fun, but since DDO was a freemium game that likes to charge for things like cosmetic changes to your character, playing a changeling would be like getting an infinite amount of those cosmetic change items that they could be charging you for every time you used Minor Shapechange. Logistically, it might be a strain on their data warehouse to constantly be updating your appearance data, maybe? I don't know for sure.

The Kalashtar would be neat, but I think a game would need to have a significantly strong presence of the Inspired and Dreaming Dark to really sell the idea of them, not to mention psionic player classes, which I don't think DDO had? Otherwise they come off as elves by a different flavor (beautiful, graceful humanoids with enhanced mental faculties)
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Re: Shifters

Post by HellcowKeith » Wed Nov 04, 2015 7:15 pm

One of the things I like about shifters is they are inherently diverse. This is mechanically represented by the shifting trait - are you Razorclaw? Beasthide? - but I like to explore it as part of the primal nature of the character. As a shifter in Sharn, are you a caged beast struggling in the confines of the city? Or are you a ratlike rogue, with instincts perfectly adapted to urban life? Whether barbarian, ranger or rogue, I like to explore the ways that the character ISN'T just a hairy human - but is driven by instinct and a primal aspect.
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Re: Shifters

Post by willpell » Wed Nov 04, 2015 7:21 pm

I'm not entirely satisfied with the execution, but I love the general concept. Are there any Eberron PBPs on this forum? I would definitely like the chance to play one.

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Re: Shifters

Post by Beoric » Fri Nov 06, 2015 4:08 am

I like them. On the rare occasion that I don't have to DM, my go-to character is a razorclaw predator druid.

But there is there is a common thread in their depictions that always bothers me, whether it is drawings of them as hairy, unattractive mountain-men, or psychological descriptions that make them seem maladjusted or emotionally unstable. Its like someone took all of the traits than one does not like to see in a human, and assumed those traits apply to all non-human animals.

I had a bit of a diatribe here, which I cut. Suffice to say, if you want to see what I mean, look at your cat, which is essentially a wild animal that chooses to live with humans. How many stereotypical shifter traits apply to it?

When I play a shifter, I look at the animal it is based on - the actual animal, not the folklore about the animal - and start there.

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Re: Shifters

Post by willpell » Fri Nov 06, 2015 6:01 pm

Beoric wrote:I like them. On the rare occasion that I don't have to DM, my go-to character is a razorclaw predator druid.

But there is there is a common thread in their depictions that always bothers me, whether it is drawings of them as hairy, unattractive mountain-men, or psychological descriptions that make them seem maladjusted or emotionally unstable. Its like someone took all of the traits than one does not like to see in a human, and assumed those traits apply to all non-human animals.

I had a bit of a diatribe here, which I cut. Suffice to say, if you want to see what I mean, look at your cat, which is essentially a wild animal that chooses to live with humans. How many stereotypical shifter traits apply to it?

When I play a shifter, I look at the animal it is based on - the actual animal, not the folklore about the animal - and start there.
I have a similar issue with actual lycanthropes, which shifters descend from. Why is the Werewolf evil? Wolves aren't evil; humans just slander them because the two species used to be territorial rivals, fighting over limited resources. Both are highly social, organized, and for the most part predatory (humans are omnivores, but if I've learned anything from the writings of Piers Anthony, it's that being *able* to eat twice as many things does not make you eat each of those things *half as often*, it only results in you eating *twice as much*). And making the werewolf evil while the werebear is good is just silly.

In my campaign I address this with the idea of totemic spirits - the werewolf isn't really a werewolf at all, it's a were*worg*, who has hunted the good werewolves to extinction just as the worgs are trying to do to normal wolves.

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Re: Shifters

Post by Beoric » Sat Nov 07, 2015 4:43 am

Yes, in my homebrew setting (in which shifters have no relationship with lycanthropes), lycanthropy is a disease that projects the victim's perception as to what is animalistic. In other words, it has nothing to do with actual animals, and everything to do with the darker part of the victim's own personality. So a victim who is bitten by a werewolf, looks and acts like he subconsciously thinks a werewolf should look and act. Obviously this can vary from person to person, and culture to culture.

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Re: Shifters

Post by HellcowKeith » Sun Nov 08, 2015 4:37 am

willpell wrote:I have a similar issue with actual lycanthropes, which shifters descend from. Why is the Werewolf evil? Wolves aren't evil...
Just from a design perspective: the original approach to lycanthropy in Eberron was informed by its presentation in 3E D&D, under which a few things were true...

1. Lycanthropy was a curse that completely transformed its victim. It didn't simply change alignment: it produced an extreme version of that alignment. The original SRD noted that evil lycanthropes were murderers who would target their own friends and loved ones. Even good lycanthropes would shun civilization - so a good person who became a werebear would still become a completely different individual. There's nothing "natural" about lycanthropy under this model: it is a curse that destroys the original personality.

2. Under original 3E rules, afflicted lycanthropes could pass the affliction - meaning that lycanthropes have the same potential for explosive expansion as zombies.

So when I originally created the Lycanthropic Purge, it wasn't based on the idea of innocent lycanthropes being hunted down; it was the idea that a werewolf apocalypse had been narrowly averted, and that the Church had then taken extreme measures to ensure that it was completely eliminated. 3.5 confused the issue by changing the rules so that afflicted lycanthropes couldn't pass the affliction; what we've now said is that this is a change that has occurred in the wake of the Purge.

But in that vision of the world, lycanthropy isn't a natural thing that causes you to take on the actual traits of the creature. It is a curse that causes you to become a monster shaped by people's fears or perceptions... the wolf is a predator who stalks the villagers, the rat a cunning plague-spreader, the bear stoic and isolated. Personally, if I was creating a new world where the creatures are viewed in a radically different way - where wolves are seen as noble allies - I'd change the alignment.

Also, as a side note: The idea that shifters descend from lycanthropes is simply that: an idea. We've thrown other myths around that suggest that the first lycanthropes were cursed shifters. It's a possibility, but it's not an absolute truth.

None of this should affect how you run your game- I'm just saying that the default Eberron story is based on lycanthropy as an unnatural curse, not a totemic blessing... but shifters could be tied to a more positive and pure source.
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Re: Shifters

Post by dulsi » Mon Nov 09, 2015 9:14 pm

HellcowKeith wrote:Also, as a side note: The idea that shifters descend from lycanthropes is simply that: an idea. We've thrown other myths around that suggest that the first lycanthropes were cursed shifters. It's a possibility, but it's not an absolute truth.
I could picture the first humans encountering a shifter. Thinking the person was cursed they try to cure him. Unfortunately attempting to turn him "human" strengthens the shifting. Instead of gaining only partial shifting, he becomes a lycanthrope and can transform into a full animal.
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Re: Shifters

Post by willpell » Mon Nov 09, 2015 9:43 pm

dulsi wrote:
HellcowKeith wrote:Also, as a side note: The idea that shifters descend from lycanthropes is simply that: an idea. We've thrown other myths around that suggest that the first lycanthropes were cursed shifters. It's a possibility, but it's not an absolute truth.
I could picture the first humans encountering a shifter. Thinking the person was cursed they try to cure him. Unfortunately attempting to turn him "human" strengthens the shifting. Instead of gaining only partial shifting, he becomes a lycanthrope and can transform into a full animal.
I think I have to steal this, if you don't mind....

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Re: Shifters

Post by HellcowKeith » Tue Nov 10, 2015 12:00 am

One more side note: In my Eberron, shifter traits are totemic as opposed to genetic. That is to say, a shifter isn't BORN a longtooth shifter; they are born a shifter, and at some point the trait emerges. As I said, I consider this a totemic thing; all shifters have a primal connection, and it's a matter of which aspect of it is most aligned to the shifter's personality. The Weretouched Master takes this principle further, as do the various feats that enhance shifting abilities. When the trait initially manifest, it does alter the shifter's default physical appearance. So you can look at a shifter and say "Oh, that's a razorclaw shifter"... but they still weren't born that way.

You COULD have a family of shifters who all share the same trait, but that is a matter of a strongly defined family personality as opposed to being enforced by genetics.

Again, that's just how I do things.
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Re: Shifters

Post by Sturm » Tue Nov 10, 2015 9:57 am

Hi Keith, am I correct in assuming you are THE Keith Baker?
I assume so because I know that's your twitter account.
If it is so, it's great to have the designer's insight on his campaign world.
I'm not really knowledgeable about Eberron yet but from what I've read so far it's a very interesting setting and I'm following the discussion in this forum. I plan to get and read all the books eventually and hopefully one day even play in it :)
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Re: Shifters

Post by HellcowKeith » Wed Nov 11, 2015 3:24 am

Sturm wrote:Hi Keith, am I correct in assuming you are THE Keith Baker?
Yes, that's me! I've been busy finishing my new RPG (Phoenix: Dawn Command) so I haven't been on the boards much, but I'll be checking in when I have time.
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Re: Shifters

Post by Sturm » Wed Nov 11, 2015 9:56 am

Great to have you here!
I think Havard will soon add you to his list of celebrities on The Piazza :)
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