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Author Topic: Shapeshifting in Sorcerer  (Read 4257 times)
Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 336

aka Sean

« on: January 06, 2004, 12:47:39 PM »

OK, here's a problem I've been struggling with for a while.

Let's say you have a demon concept which involves a parasite/possessor demon allowing its host to take on any vertebrate animal form, or alternatively just to transform certain parts of his or her body. This is very powerful, no question, though also limiting in certain ways, in the sense that any access to any ability requires an actual, physical change in form.

It seems to me that the 'right' way to do this in Sorcerer would be as follows. You have a base demon, that's the parasite/possessor, representing the primeval animal lust for freedom, rage, sensuality, however you're thinking about that. It would have something like

Boost Stamina (with the defined special effect that body parts change shape)

Cover (not very well, but changing your head a little dogwards or catwards would make you unrecognizable except via your telltale - it would be a funny cover though, like Freak)

Perception (this is ugly - it could be almost anything a vertebrate could do, violating the rules big time - that would maybe even border on Perception and Hint combined)

Travel (again defined with the special effect that you've got to grow wings or fins, etc. - again violating the specificity constraint)

Plus maybe Armor, again with the same special effect. Animals aren't so all that that you'd have to give a Special Damage alongside the Stamina boost, though you could if you wanted of course.

Then, on top of this, you'd have particular animal forms as Possessor demons, with relatively low Lore (Shapeshift, Cover (Nature?), plus Travel, Big, and/or Perception as applicable by animal type), and highly variable Stamina.

OK, so you can do it. But there are some questions. First of all, if you wanted the animal shifting to be spontaneously possible, you'd have to effectively let the player try a contact-summon-bind sequence right there as a stated combat action, which is sort of nutty, though perhaps not completely beyond the pale. (Narratively the character could 'go inside' and try to find the animal form within him or her.) You COULD avoid this by having the character only gain new animal forms in seance, or whatever, but that seems to deviate somewhat from the character/demon conception outlined above, where the character goes within (via his demon) to completely be taken over by some other animal form.

Another option would just be to allow a single core demon to have a variable shapeshifting power, but that's even farther outside the core rules than some of the stuff above.

So, what would you folks do if you were confronted with a player who wanted this power for his character? Would you just say no? Would you handle it as above, or similarly, and with what changes? Can you think of a different way to handle something like this? Flavor-wise, this isn't so much different than the 'werewolf' archetype, but the power is much more flexibly defined.


It occurs to me that the game I'm playing in which such a character is desired is working with an interpretation of Humanity as Memory, both in the absolute sense (Humanity 0 people are sort of in a haze where they respond entirely to present stimuli and social expectation) and particularly as the way that personal identity gets constituted via Memory (so for example a wife with Humanity 0 would recognize her husband if she saw him, and would probably go to bed with him out of rote and habit if nothing unusual happened (since without memory it's mostly body-habit and social roles that constitute behavior), but he would have no influence on her behavior whatever if he was not in the room). I mention this because the demon-as-inner-animal thing makes a lot of sense against this background: you've got to lose yourself to get the power you need to find yourself against an environment which actively works to destroy memory (but more on all that in a subsequent post, I've got too much RL work to do!), but then finding yourself also involves coming to terms with the thing you lose yourself in, the beast within.
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 10459

« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2004, 02:00:55 PM »

The limit that the specificity requires is, I think, there not to limit power (indeed the more power the player has, the better), but rather to make the abilities less generic, and more interesting to play. As such, Travel: Moving like the current animal form moves, is just one form of Travel. A second one would be if he could also Teleport or something that changed the power's paradigm.

The point is that I can't see how the single demon concept would be problematic. It manages to define what the player wants in game terms - and that's really all that matters.


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Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Posts: 16490

« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2004, 02:58:56 PM »


Mike's on the right track: insofar as two types of Travel have the same basic physical effect, they are just one single ability.

Run fast on your four legs? Hop fast on your two legs? Slither fast on your no legs? All the same ability.

Fly fast on your rib-extension membranes? Fly fast on your feathered arm-wings? The same ability.

One single ability to cover any kind of Travel is too few. One ability for each of every imaginable way to move is too many.

I suspect that will drop down the number of abilities to some extent.

Also, consider: If the player really wants the ability to move through space in every way that any living thing can move, that is a hell of a lot of ability. That's a major difference from the human baseline that sets most metrics in Sorcerer.

Lots of ability = lots of Lore = lots of Power. I don't recommend trying to get around this with "variable slots" or multiple mini-demons.

Tim Alexander

Posts: 304

« Reply #3 on: January 06, 2004, 03:21:12 PM »

Hey Calithena,

I think I'd want to have an understanding of why the player wants the demon with that power. I'd work up a few specific instances with the player of what kinds of things they'd like to do because of the power in question. I'd be on the lookout for a jack of all trades demon answer, which would make me nervous.

I might nudge them in the angle of narrowing the scope a bit, say begin with the dog parasite that gives them shapeshift, perception (doggy sense), etc. I think the advantage in handling it that way is that a jack of all trades demon seems to be a somewhat static device. There's very little impetus for the character to attempt new summonings. That's not always an issue, but it's somewhat sidestepping an aspect of the game.

If it's not a jack of all trades issue, and instead the player just wants the nifty look of shifting into different animals, I'd have little problem with that. However, they don't get a game effect without an associated backup power. So, for example:

Shapeshift (Any Vertebrate Animal)
Travel (Flight, if shapeshifted to a winged vertebrate)
Special Damage (Claws, if shapeshifted to a nasty vertebrate)
Big (If shapeshifted to a biggee animal)
...etc. etc.

Basically, special effects can be basically whatever, but they have no game effect with something at the core of it.



Posts: 2233

My name is Raven.

« Reply #4 on: January 06, 2004, 03:24:50 PM »


Maybe I'm misunderstanding what Sean is doing, but isn't Travel restricted solely to bizzare, non-possible forms of Travel? Isn't most of this covered under Shapeshift?

That is, if the sorcerer Shapeshifts into a bird, then he can fly because he's a bird, no Travel power necessary?

I understood that to be the case given the discussion about the game wherein a space station was given the Big ability, and this was marked as a mistake (as the space station is already Big, it doesn't need it to be Big).

Quote from: Calithena
OK, so you can do it. But there are some questions. First of all, if you wanted the animal shifting to be spontaneously possible, you'd have to effectively let the player try a contact-summon-bind sequence right there as a stated combat action.

Sean, it seems to me what you're aiming for is most easily covered in how Parasites work -- they confer the Shapeshift power upon the host when asked (hopefully), since body-sharing is part-and-parcel of that type (they don't simply take over).

If you still want to go with temporary Possessions by animal spirits, I suggest the sorcerer sets up Pacts with "animal spirits" or whatever (the Possessor demon) as a "possess me when I call to you" sort of deal.

Or an alternative version of necromantic Tokens seems as though it would work here as well -- the Token is invested with enough dice to perform the Contact/Summon/Bind rituals on the spot (or perhaps just the Summon/Bind) to achieve the effect you're looking for.

(Note: Pacts and Tokens are covered in Sorcerer & Sword -- I don't know if you have the book, so those suggestions may not be of help right now)

Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 336

aka Sean

« Reply #5 on: January 06, 2004, 04:45:33 PM »

Wow, this is great. This is turning into a discussion.

I think the crux of the whole thing lies with how you rule on the Shapeshift power. If you follow the book - one alternate form - then any Parasite who could do what the player is asking for would have - what are there, Ron, you're the biologist, 43,000 vertebrate species? - one pretty high power score.

So you pretty much either have to chuck the power, form an alternate ruling on shapeshift to accomodate your player's desires, or else go with the multiple Possessor trick and allow some weird 'spot summoning' rules to do this.

Cripes, time for dinner - more later. I don't think the player wants this just  to get a jack of all trades demon, and while the thing is amazingly powerful within its sphere, it has limitations too, since all its powers are pegged to the shifting. Well, thanks guys, more soon.

Posts: 159

« Reply #6 on: January 07, 2004, 06:06:11 PM »

There may be a way to cheat with this one, actually.

You've got your demon, and they have:

Shapeshift (Weird kind of smooshy beclawed winged hellmonkey thing, basically such that it looks like every animal all at once, and, even with vertebrates, that's still a lot of fish and vermin and wee birds and that)
Perception (Sorceror's Desired Animal Form)
Cloak - so it can look like what it Perceives
Travel (Flight)
Boost (Stamina) - this covers the running with speed
Cover (Zoologist)? - this might be unnecessary, as it could take the image from the Perception ability, which might have interesting consequences
Perception (Heightened Senses - possibly one at a time) - which is enough to give you other animal forms' "special abilities"

So you could wrap it up into a Lore 6 (or is double Perception 5?) Demon, less if you change the demon type. It's still a big fellow, but not that big, and, neatly, it's wrapped up in one thing. You can push it by including the power, but again, that could come from type.

Though what the telltale would be I'm not sure. My suggestion would be some sort of 'bleed' in the Cloak that suggests the animal is like other animals. Of course, with something of this kind of wrongitude (it's basic function is to become a hell creature from the id, no?) you could throw in Taint or Mark and it wouldn't jar. Then, of course, as they're expecting a big demon anyway, you've got all sorts of fun to have.

Drew (at work, and trying to remember things, probably incorrectly)

edit: damn parentheses!

my name is drew

"I wouldn't be satisfied with a roleplaying  session if I wasn't turned into a turkey or something" - A
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