Skinwalkers

(no stats are presented as the 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 as 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 hereditary order, sometimes descended from the tribes that were once subjugated 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 carnivores 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 his bestial 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 many mercenaries of the north who don bearskin shirts as a sign of virility  but hidden among 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 as shock-troops  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 number among a larger company of mercenaries  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 their mercenary 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 priestesses among 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 generally sought out as auguries  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 a cloak of swan feathers and a diaphanous gown. The woman is a swan maiden,  a sisterhood of women who propagate a curse down the ages, to be changed by sunlight, and trapped in the form of a Swan. A swan-maiden 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 a swan-maiden 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.

Most swan-maidens 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 conscious control, although there may be a few who have learned the witchcraft 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.

Monster Skin of Transformation

Caera made a few skins of truly powerful creatures for her lieutenants, such as Mandrakes and Dragons. Quickly these men cam to revel in their new found power, and realizing the threat they presented Caera stole them away and hid them. Those who wore the skins were cursed with both the lifespan of their monstrous form, and an insatiable hunger to regain their lost power.

Skin-stealer

When the Skin of Transformation made from a powerful predator is worn the will of the beast, un-banished by fire, grows stronger and stronger until it overtakes the wearer. After a time living as a beast the wearer, or one of its mad half-animal descendants, may seek to once again walk in the form of a man (or woman), and be willing to kill their former kind to make that happen. A Skin-stealer will generally work with a descendant of Caera, or one of her disciples, who knows the secret of making a Skin of Transformation. A Skin-stealer must brutally (and ritualistically) slay an innocent human as a blood sacrifice to the line of Caera, then have the skin enchanted and prepared by one of the skin-weaving descendants of Caera. The enchantment of the first skin causes it to become disenchanted over the course of 1d100 days, requiring another victim be taken.


Written by Capheind in Roleplaying on Mon 08 May 2017. Tags: RPG, Swords and Wizardry, D&D,