shapechangers

Shapechangers in Winter


I.

Through the slit of our open window, the wind
comes in and flows around us, nothingness
in motion, like time. The power of what is not there.
the snow empties itself down, a shadow turning
to indigo, obliterating
everything out there, roofs, cars, garbage cans,
dead flowerstalks, dog turds, it doesn’t matter.
you could read this as indifference
on the part of the universe, or else a relentless
forgiveness: all of our
scratches and blots and mortal
wounds and patched-up jobs
wiped clean in the snow’s huge erasure.

I feel it as a pressure,
an added layer:
above the white waterfall of snow
thundering down; then attic, moth-balled
sweaters, nomadic tents,
the dried words of old letters;
then stairs, then children, cats and radiators, peeling paint,
us in our bed, the afterglow
of a smoky fire, our one candle flickering;
below us, the kitchen in the dark, the wink
of pots on shelves; then books and tools, then cellar
and furnace, graying dolls, a bicycle,
the whole precarious geology of house
crisscrossed with hidden mousetrails,
and under that a buried river
that seeps up through the cement
floor every spring,
and the tree roots snouting their slow way
into the drains;
under that, the bones
of our ancestors, or if not theirs, someone’s,
mixed with a biomass of nematodes;
under that, bedrock, then molten
stone and the earth’s fiery core;
and sideways, out into the city, street
and corner store and mall
and underpass, then barns and ruined woodlands, continent
and island, oceans, mists
of story drifting
on the tide like seaweed, animal
species crushed and blinking out,
and births and illnesses, hatred and love infra-
red, compassion fleshtone, prayer ultra-
violet; then rumours, alternate waves
of sad peace and sad war,
and then the air, and then the scintillating ions,
and then the stars. That’s where
we are.

2.

Some centuries ago, when we lived at the edge
of the forest, on nights like this
you would have put on your pelt of a bear
and shambled off to prowl and hulk
among the trees, and be a silhouette of human
fears against the snowbank.
I would have chosen fox;
I liked the jokes,
the doubling back on my tracks,
and, let’s face it, the theft.
Back then, I had many forms:
the sliding in and out
of my own slippery eelskin,
and yours as well; we were each other’s
iridescent glove, the deft body
all sleight-of-hand and illusion.
Once we were lithe as pythons, quick
and silvery as herring, and we still are, momentarily,
except our knees hurt.
Right now we’re content to huddle
under the shed feathers of duck and goose
as the wind pours like a river
we swim in by keeping still,
like trout in a current.
         Every cell
in our bodies has renewed itself
so many times since then, there’s
not much left, my love,
of the originals. We’re footprints
becoming limestone, or think of it
as coal becoming diamond. Less
flexible, but more condensed;
and no more scales or aliases,
at least on the outside. Though we’ve accumulated,
despite ourselves, other disguises:
you as a rumpled elephant—
hide suitcase with white fur,
me as a bramble bush. Well, the hair
was always difficult. Then there’s
the eye problems: too close, too far, you’re a blur.
I used to say I’d know you anywhere,
but it’s getting harder.

3.

This is the solstice, the still point
of the sun, its cusp and midnight,
the year’s threshold
and unlocking, where the past
lets go of and becomes the future;
the place of caught breath, the door
of a vanished house left ajar.

Taking hands like children
lost in a six-dimensional
forest, we step across.
The walls of the house fold themselves down,
and the house turns
itself inside out, as a tulip does
in its last full-blown moment, and our candle
flares up and goes out, and the only common
sense that remains to us is touch,

as it will be, later, some other
century, when we will seem to each other
even less what we were.
But that trick is just to hold on
through all appearances; and so we do,
and yes, I know it’s you;
and that is what we will come to, sooner
or later, when it’s even darker
than It is now, when the snow is colder,
when it’s darkest and coldest
and candles are no longer any use to us
and the visibility is zero: Yes.
It’s still you. It’s still you.


Margaret Atwood, in Eating Fire

Werecritters and Names

So many people know the term Lycanthrope, a fancy term for Werewolf, a person who turns into a wolf and/or a wolf-human hybrid.

Some RPGs (like Dungeons & Dragons, and Pathfinder) use “Lycanthrope” to refer to all such types of shapechangers, regardless of which animal it is.  Problem is, this is linguistically incorrect.

Lycanthrope comes from two Greek words, Lykos (“wolf”) and Anthropos (“human”), which works fine for werewolves but not other werecreatures.  Using the Greek word for whatever animal it is they turn into as the prefix would be more appropriate.

With that in mind, here’s what I’ve cobbled together:

A more correct proper term for such shapechangers as a whole would be Therianthrope, from Therion (“beast” or “wild animal”) + Anthropos — a term I first encountered in the AD&D 2nd Ed. Monster Manual — or Zoanthrope, from Zoion (“animal” or “living being”) + Anthropos.

  • Wereape = Pithekanthrope, from Pithekos (“Ape”) + Anthropos
  • Werebat = Chiropteranthrope, from Chiroptera (from Cheir “Hand” + Pteron “Wing”) + Anthropos
  • Werebear = Arktanthrope, from Arktos (“Bear”) + Anthropos
  • Wereboar = Kapranthrope, form Kapros (“Boar”) + Anthropos
  • Werecat = Ailouranthrope, from Ailouros (Greek name for Bast & for Egyptian cats) + Anthropos
  • Werecow = Bouanthrope, from Bous (“Cow”) + Anthropos
  • Werecrocodile = Souchanthrope, from Souchos (“Crocodile”) + Anthropos
  • Weredeer = Elefanthrope, from Elafi (“Deer”) + Anthropos
  • Weredog = Kyontanthrope, from Kyon, Kyontos (“Dog/Hound”) + Anthropos
  • Weredolphin = Delphanthrope, from Delphis (“Dolphin”) + Anthropos
  • Weredonkey = Gaidaranthrope, from Gaidaros (“Donkey”) + Anthropos
  • Wereeagle = Ornanthrope, from Ornis (“Bird/Eagle”) + Anthropos
  • Wereelephant = Elephanthrope, from Elephas (“Elephant”) + Anthropos
  • Weregiraffe = Kamelopardanthrope, from Kamelopard (from Kamelos “Camel” + Pardos “Leopard”) + Anthropos
  • Weregoat = Traganthrope, from Tragos (“Goat”) + Anthropos
  • Werehorse = Hippanthrope, from Hippos (“Horse”) + Anthropos
  • Werelion = Leanthrope, from Leon (“Lion”) + Anthropos
  • Werelizard = Crocodilanthrope, from Crocodilos (“Lizard”) + Anthropos
  • Weremouse = Musanthrope, from Mus (“Mouse”) + Anthropos
  • Werepig = Khoiranthrope, from Khoiros (“Pig”) + Anthropos
  • Wererat = Arouraianthrope, from  Arouraios (“Rat”) + Anthropos
  • Wereshark = Karcharianthrope, from Karcharias (“Sharp-Tooth”) + Anthropos
  • Wereserpent = Drakontanthrope, from Drakon, Drakontos (“Serpent”) + Anthropos
  • Weresquid = Kalamoanthrope, from Kalamos (the Grerek word for squid, literally meaning “reed/tube/pen”) + Anthropos
  • Wereswan = Kyknanthrope, from Kyknos (“Swan”) + Anthropos
  • Weretiger = Tigranthrope, from Tigris (“Tiger”) + Anthropos
  • Werevulture = Aegypianthrope, from Aegypius (“Vulture”) + Anthropos
  • Werewhale = Falenanthrope, from Falena (“Whale”) + Anthropos

Miscellanea

Greek did of course have its own words for many things, but some were borrowed from other cultures, and some things were named by combining the names of two or more things.

  • Cats & Big Cats: These are really tricky, since for one thing the Ancient Greeks didn’t really have cats until they met the Egyptians.  (What was the most common housepet for the Ancient Greeks?  Weasels!)  Ailuros was what they called the Egyptian cats (and was itself the Greek word for the Egyptian goddess Bast, whom they likened to Artemis), but after interacting with those and other breeds of cats for a while they adapted the Latin word for cats, cattus.  As for the big cats… things get confusing.  The word “leopard” comes from Leon (Greek word for lion) + Pardos (Greek for panther), since it was believed leopards were the offspring of a lion and a panther.  But the word “panther” itself is a folk etymology stemming from the Greek words Pan (“all”) + Therion (”beast”).  Tigris is the Greek word for tiger, but that came from either Latin or Persian.

  • (Pantherianthrope could refer not to a werepanther but to someone who could shift into any animal form!)

  • Giraffe: Supposedly, when the Greeks first saw giraffes, they thought they looked like camels with the spots of a leopard, so the called them camel-leopards, or camelopards.  (The Ancient Greek term for baboons?  Khoiropithekos, from Khoiros + Pithekos, since they were thought to look like monkeys with pig snouts.) “Cameleopard” was a not uncommon term for giraffes in some parts of the world on up to the 19th century!


If I’ve gotten anything wrong, or you know of a better word, please let me know!

filbypott :

I’ve often wondered about “furry” humanoids with lycanthropy. Osirion: Legacy of the Pharaohs introduces a human werehyena NPC with gnoll followers - what if she infected her henchmen with her curse? Would you be able to tell if they transformed into hybrid form? The same goes for catfolk weretigers or, I dunno, lizardfolk weremonitors.

It could get weirder — Ratfolk Weretigers?  Catfolk Werewolves?  Gnoll Wereboars?  Strix Werecrocodiles/Wereserpents?  Madness!

Idk if i’ve already expressed my thoughts on shape shifters vs shape changers but if i haven’t here they are because i think its an important thing.

Shape shifters, at least in my account, can shift their form to be anything, but in every form they are themselves, so they are just shifting into different forms of their original self. They cannot turn into another person, or change there appearance once in a select form. (although changing their gender is a possibility)

Shape changers on the other hand can only become something else other then what they are originally. They can, for example, turn into a copy of another person they see, but cannot become a dragon that was drawn on a sheet of paper, if they tried they would likely become the exact sheet of paper with the drawing on it. (they cannot change their gender or select things when in a form, they can only really copy what they see, but might be able to copy select attributes like hair color or nose shape of other people or things to look different from the original person or thing they copied, they just cant change select things based on imagination.)

idk what the real true true meanings are behind these words because people use them pretty interchangeably but this is what i think.

Aaaaand done.

Again, this was requested by krakenguard.

Backgrounds? Yeah I can do those. I don’t like to. So I don’t.

Cause I’m lazy.

On a side note, I’d like to think a shapechanger mauled Bolgs face, being at the center of Azogs hate for them. *shrugs* Don’t look at me. It’s far fetched, but eh. It makes sense to my tiny brains.

Crafty.  Shape-shifting.  German (although somewhere along the way they lost the umlaut).  Not to be trusted.  At low levels they make for excellent solo assailants (see the notes below); at mid- and high levels their machinations can still make PCs’ lives miserable—abducting and replacing their friends, framing them for felonies, and otherwise creating an atmosphere of paranoia to hamper their every move.

[snip]

I can’t believe I’m about to reference Star Trek (before this springs I’d barely ever watched any; I grew up in a Star Wars house), but any episode of Deep Space Nine with the Dominion will likely hold a nugget or two of inspiration for making your doppels truly wicked and manipulative.

I prefer the shriveled, gray nosferatu-looking doppelgangers of “basic” D&D to the grey-alien-looking beasts that are currently in vogue, but too each his own.  Also, while not about doppelgangers per se, Races of Eberron is worth checking out for seeing how that setting’s doppelganger-derived changelings handle multiple identities in the world.

Back when I was playing D&D 3E/3.5 regularly (which ended around 2007, for a number of reasons), one of my longest-running characters was Odokwarque, a CN doppelganger.  (Yes, his name’s a ST:DS9 reference.)  When the Epic Level Handbook came out (mid 2002) we decided to make new high-level characters so we could work our way up to level 21+ and test out the new Epic rules.  I made a Psion (Egoist) — I think we started at 15th level, so he would’ve been a Doppelganger Psion (Egoist) 7 — and worked our way up.  By the time the Epic game had wound down, about four years later, we were something like level 35, I’d taken all 10 levels in the Chameleon prestige class (from Races of Destiny) and all 5 levels in both the Mindspy and War Shaper prestige classes (from Complete Warrior), and would’ve made a badass infiltrator… if our party ever did anything remotely subtle.  Sure, we had a high level Rogue/Assassin, but thanks to our evocation-focused Wizard/Archmage, and our monstrous half-dragon werebear…. thing (he barely took class levels, just kept adding templates), we usually went in blasting/clawing.

tattoo artifacts part I

Lunar tattoos. They are awesome. I mean, magical glowing marks! Neat! Wouldn’t it be even more neat if the Children of Luna would share the love?

Well, the answer isn’t exactly clear. Obviously it would cheapen Lunars thematically - the tattoos serve a great purpose, and are vital to the existance of the Silver Pact and Lunar culture. No other Chosen (or any Essence user, period) can take part in that culture fully - only Lunar Essence can harmonize with moonsilver to such extent that it can flow and rearrange in response to the Moonchilds actions, or shapechanging.

Nevertheless, I think there’s a space in the theme - by allowing the other Exalts to be tattooed (to some extent) by their associated magical materials, but making the Lunars the only type of Exalted that has both the lore and magic to create such workings, and they shouldn’t bestow them on any random Solar (or, Luna forbid, Dragonblood). Therefore, I propose some rules under the cut.

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