(no stats are presented as theÂ SRD has stats for those forms. No XP or GP value is assigned as I havent worked out what they should be worth.)
When man was only slightly more than snarling savage beasts the witch queens (hags) ruled the northlands with withered and clawed fists. The Queens worked their witchcraft, blood magic and deals struck with elder horrors, on man and beast alike to build their petty fiefdoms. One, known asÂ Caera Skin-stitcher, developed a way to enchant a skin such that when worn it would turn the wearer into the form the skin was clad to in life. With the help of her children, sired by beings to horrid to contemplate, she clad whole armies in the skins of powerful beasts and monsters, and gave her acolytes the ability to travel quickly to any part of her empire on wing or fin. Caera was undone by her own subjects when she was fool enough to teach a few of them the secrets of fire making, she was burned alive in her sacred bog.
Skin of Transformation
There are many different versions of the Skin of Transformation in the world, and a handfull of descendants of Caera still capable of creating them. The skins, though hundreds of years old, will still appear new when found. Most often a Skin (or Skins) of Transformation is held by a hereditaryÂ order, sometimes descended from the tribes that were onceÂ subjugatedÂ by Caera. A few examples are presented here, but many others are possible, and indeed likely.
Most skins have a ritual way to activate and deactivate the transformation, while others can be used at will. Generally the skins of carnivoresÂ are put on facing a sacred fire of special woods and herbs, as the wearer walks away from the fire he turns to the beast, when he returns to the light of the fire the beast is banished and the man (or woman) returns. If the skin of a carnivore is worn for more than a day a savings throw is required to remove it, with a -1 penalty for every day after the first. If killed the wearer retains the form of the beast, but if skinned the leather garments made from the hide retain the powers of the Skin itself. Skins need not be complete (a glove that grants a claw attack, a mask that grants sensory powers, etc), and need not be of only a single animal, or even a mundane animal.
Wolf Skin of Transformation (Rougarou)In the wetlands and swamps there persists a myth relating to fallen men with the heads of wolves and long claws, told as a bedtime story to scare children away from disobeying the strictures of the faith. There is a kernel of truth to the tales of the Rougarou however, a band of swamp dwelling gypsies who make their living as trappers and employ the tatters of a dozen or so Skins of transformation. These remains were found in the swamp by the forefathers of the Rougarou and fashioned into an array of garments. Rougarou gloves allow a claw attack for 1d6 damage, the more common cowl transforms only the head and allows the Rougarou to track prey as a wolf would. Occasionally a Rougarou becomes obsessed with retaining hisÂ bestialÂ power and flees into the woods, with the body of a man and the head of a wolf.
Bear Skin of Transformation (Berserkr)There are manyÂ mercenariesÂ of the north who don bearskin shirts as a sign ofÂ virilityÂ but hiddenÂ amongÂ them are a handful who wear Bear Skins of Transformation, to be used when times are dire or revenge is required. All Berserkrs are descendants of a barbaric clan that served Caera asÂ shock-troopsÂ The tales of the Bear Clan teach that it was they who slayed the witch queen. A band of Berserkr's will generally hide their numberÂ amongÂ a larger company ofÂ mercenariesÂ and will fight in the traditional manner under most circumstances. While they wear their bear skin shirts that are impervious to iron weapons and fire, but will hide this fact from their brothers in arms. When facing an overwhelming foe, or after having lost theirÂ mercenaryÂ brothers in battle, the band will steal away in the night to construct a sacred lodge, and a sacred fire, and undergo transformation into cave bears to take revenge.
Aquatic Bear Skin of Transformation (Bear-maiden)There exists a band of Aquatic Bear priestessesÂ amongÂ those peoples who generally devote their praise to the pagan cult of the Dire Trout. When an Aquatic Bear female falls in battle defending her young they secret away the carcass to fashion a Skin of Transformation with the knowledge given to them by one of the few daughters of Caera. The Priestesses draw their numbers only from older mothers, or young ones who've lost their children, and seek out revenge for the Aquatic Bear, slaying her killer and raising her young in the guise of their mother. Bear Maidens live on the outskirts of their clans lands as hermits, with a family of Aquatic Bears descended from the one who's skin they use. These women are generallyÂ soughtÂ out asÂ auguriesÂ but only by the brave as they are wild and mad and known to kill and eat even their own kind when the mood strikes them.
Swan Skin of Transformation (Swan Maiden)When kings and noblemen fear their daughters becoming women they are sometimes given a choice by a wandering young woman of great beauty clad in aÂ cloakÂ of swan feathers and a diaphanous gown. The woman is a swan maiden, Â a sisterhood of women whoÂ propagateÂ a curse down the ages, to be changed by sunlight, and trapped in the form of a Swan. AÂ swan-maidenÂ retains her youthful beauty at the brink of womanhood in perpetuity, but finds sunlight lethal, and is transformed into a swan during the day to protect her. When aÂ swan-maidenÂ is able to make a contract with the father of a girl who has not yet known a man she is allowed to transfer to the girl both her cloak and her curse, freeing her to grow old, live in the sun, and know a man. Should a Swan maiden know intimacy with a man she is permanently transformed into a swan.
MostÂ swan-maidensÂ are secreted away by their fathers in hidden gardens, with their wings clipped, until the father grows old and dies. Often, a swan maiden will haunt her garden long after she is freed only because she knows of no other place. The transformation from maiden to swan is immediate in the sunlight and not under her consciousÂ control, although there may be a few who have learned theÂ witchcraftÂ necessary to control their transformation, such a woman would live as a free spirit in the world, traveling as a bird, but living in the lands she travels to as a woman.