Shifters are one of the races to come out of the Eberron setting, alongside the Changeling and Warforged and oft-forgotten Kalashtar. The basic idea is that they are werebeasts-lite, having similar shapeshifting into beast powers without being as utterly broken as true lycanthropes. It's commonly believed that they are the descendants of humans and lycanthropes, hence the watered down shapeshifting power. In truth it's the other way around: Lycanthropes of Eberron are corrupted shifters created by either Dealkyr or one of the Overlords, depending on whom you believe (or maybe both). As usual with Eberron, there's no hard canon on that, only speculations and researches of characters in-setting, with actual truth left for each DM to set.
On their own world, they suffer from something of a bad reputation; this is because Eberron has twelve moons (and used to have 13), which means that, originally, werebeasts were A Big Fucking Problem. It got so bad that the Church of the Silver Flame, the resident "uber-good church", led a genocidal anti-lycanthrope crusade that pretty much wiped them all out. However, since this is Eberron and thusly squeaky-clean black 'n' white alignment isn't a thing, the Silver Flame also got trigger happy and massacred thousands of innocent, harmless shifters in the process. The shifters have never really forgiven the Silver Flame for this and tend to be some of its most zealous criticizers, if not full-fledged anti-church terrorists in the most hard-up cases. And in case you think you could be bros with werewolves tough luck, because were-creatures were even bigger dicks than the church and actively set Inquisition on shifters in order to get them involved in the war and get some heat off themselves, so to these days there's a lot of bad blood between shifters and lycanthropes.
Initially, they weren't very popular, perhaps because the art made them absolutely butt-fuck ugly. Seriously, even your typical furry wouldn't bang the Eberron corebook shifters. Perhaps noting the attempts by fans to redraw them as monstergirls, WoTC prettied them up in subsequent art and they steadily grew more popular, though Warforged have always beaten them out.
Dungeons & Dragons
Shifters are known to be native to two settings; Eberron, which is where they started, and the Nentir Vale. They also became a thing in the Forgotten Realms during the post-Spellplague era, but presumably they've been retconned out of the setting with how much fans hated that edition.
On Eberron, shifters are divided into many different subraces, with the precise number based on edition. Subraces are based on which "element" of their therianthropic ancestors they are able to manifest, although certain manifestations are generally considered more associated with specific ancestries than others. For example, Beasthides are able to manifest therianthropic durability and resilience, but are likely to be descended from or associated with werebeast strains particularly known for their toughness, such as werebears, wereboars and werebadgers.
- Humanoid (Shapechanger)
- +2 Dexterity, -2 Intelligence, -2 Charisma
- Base land speed 30
- Shifting (SU): 1/day for 3 + Con modifier rounds, a shifter can enter a transformed state superficially similar to a barbarian rage, gaining a benefit and a +2 bonus to one ability score based on their shifter subrace. For every Shifter feat, their transformation time per day increases by +1 round, and for every 2 such feats, they can transform +1 time per day.
- Beasthide: +2 Constitution, +2 natural AC
- Longtooth: +2 Strength, bite attack 1d6+1/4 levels damage
- Cliffwalk: +2 Dexterity, Climb speed 20 feet
- Razorclaw: +2 Dexterity, 2 claw attacks 1d4+1/4 levels damage
- Longstride: +2 Dexterity, +10ft speed
- Wildhunt: +2 Constitution, Scent
- Low-light Vision
- +2 racial bonus on Balance, Climb, and Jump checks.
- Favored Class: Ranger
Although Shifters kind of got ignored for most of Eberron's publication, Dragon Magazine did throw them a few bones. Perhaps the biggest of which was the Saurian Shifter variant race in Dragon #328, which replaces the mammalian traits/origins of the classic shifter with saurian ones. Or, in other words, it turns the shifter race into a way to play your choice of were-dinosaurs, which is either awesome or the stupidest thing you ever heard of, depending on who you ask.
- Ability Score Modifiers: +2 Constitution, -2 Intelligence, -2 Charisma
- Racial Classification: Humanoid (Reptilian, Shapechanger)
- Size: Medium
- Base Land Speed: 30ft
- Low-Light Vision
- Racial Skill Bonus: +2 to Balance, Climb and Jump checks.
- Shifting (Su): Each saurian shifter has one dinothropic lineage, chosen from the list of seven below. This choice is set at character creation and cannot be changed afterwards. Once per day, the saurian shifter can tap into this lineage, gaining bonuses dependent on their lineage. Shifting is a free action and lasts for a number of rounds equal to 3 + the saurian shifter's Constitution bonus (using the increased bonus caused by any Constitution boost gained from shifted form, if appropriate). As with normal shifters, a saurian shifter can increase this duration and how readily it may take shifted form by taking Shifting Feats; shifting duration increases by +1 round per Shifting Feat taken, whilst every 2 Shifting Feats taken increases the amount of times a saurian shifter can shift each day by +1. If shifting grants a natural attack option, a saurian shifter may only make one natural attack each round, even if they have a base attack bonus high enough to grant multiple attacks.
- Favored Class: Ranger
Saurian Shifter Lineages:
- Beasthide: +2 Constitution and +2 natural armor bonus.
- Broadwing: +2 Dexterity, ignore the first 40 feet of a fall.
- Junglerunner: +2 Dexterity and increase base land speed by +20 feet.
- Longtooth: +2 Strength, grow fangs that bestow a natural attack (bite) that inflicts 1D6 + 1 per 4 character levels damage. A shifted Longtooth can make its bite attack as a secondary attack with a -5 penalty.
- Raptorleap: +2 Strength, +4 to all Jump checks, always counts as having a running start for Jump checks.
- Razorclaw: +2 Strength, grow claws that bestow a natural attack (claw) that inflicts 1D4 + 1 per 4 character levels damage. A shifted Razorclaw can make an attack with one claw as a standard action or with both claws as a full-round action (in both cases as a primary natural weapon). They can also use their claw as a secondary attack (light off-hand weapon), with a -2 penalty.
- Widetail: +2 Constitution, grow a powerful tail that bestows a natural attack (tail slap) that inflicts 1D6 + 1 per 4 character levels damage. A shifted Widetail can make its tail slap attack as a secondary attack with a -5 penalty.
- Ability Scores: Longtooths get +2 Strength/+2 Wisdom, Razorclaws get +2 Dexterity/+2 Wisdom - they didn't even get flexible stats in Dragon #397!
- Size: Medium
- Speed: 6 squares (30 feet)
- Vision: Low-Light
- Skill Bonuses: +2 Athletics and +2 Endurance for Longtooths, +2 Acrobatics and +2 Stealth for Razorclaws
- Racial Power - Shifting: When bloodied, as a minor action, you can Shift into a more bestial form until the end of the encounter. The precise bonuses you get from your shifted form depend on your subrace. Longtooths gain +2 damage and Regeneration (2/4/6) whilst bloodied, and Razorclaws gain +2 Speed, +1 AC and +1 Reflex.
Shifters first made it into 5e in the early "Eberron Update" Unearthed Arcana, before Keith Baker put out his own glorified playtest version in the Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron. The final version appeared in Eberron: Rising From The Last War, and was mostly identical to Baker's version... save for replacing his "+1 Dexterity is the shifter core racial trait" so the Beasthide shifter could have a +2 Constitution/+1 Strength racial ability modifier, and stripping out all racial traits other than the Shifting feature and the subrace-based skill bonus.
- Ability Scores: Depends on subrace.
- Size: Medium
- Darkvision 60 feet
- Shifting:As a bonus action, you can assume a more bestial appearance. This transformation lasts for 1 minute, until you die, or until you revert to your normal appearance as a bonus action. When you shift, you gain temporary hit points equal to your level + your Constitution modifier (minimum of 1 temporary hit point). You also gain additional benefits that depend on your shifter subrace, described below. Once you shift, you can't do so again until you finish a short or long rest.
- Laguages: Common
- Ability Scores: +2 to Constitution, +1 to Strength
- Natural Athletee: You have proficiency in Athletics.
- Shifting Feature: Whenever you shift, you gain 1d6 additional temporary hit points, and while shifted, you have a +1 bonus to your AC.
- Ability Scores: +2 to Strength, +1 to Dexterity
- Fierce: You have proficiency in Intimidation.
- Shifting Feature: While shifted, you can use your elongated fangs to make an unarmed strike as a bonus action. If you hit with your fangs, you can deal piercing damage equal to 1d6 + your Strength modifier, instead of the bludgeoning damage normal for an unarmed strike.
- Ability Scores: +2 to Dexterity, +1 to Charisma
- Graceful: You have proficiency in Acrobatics.
- Shifting Feature. While shifted, your walking speed increases by +10 feet. Additionally, you can move up to 10 feet as a reaction when an enemy ends its turn within 5 feet of you. This movement doesn't provoke opportunity attacks.
- Ability Scores: +2 to Wisdom, +1 to Dexterity
- Natural Tracker: You have proficiency in Survival.
- Shifting Feature. While shifted, you have advantage on Wisdom checks, and enemies within 30 feet of you can't attack you with advantage unless you're incapacitated.
Called Skinwalkers in Pathfinder. The basic Skinwalker is the product of a tryst between a lycanthrope and an intelligent humanoid. The vast majority of Skinwalkers are half-human, although halfling, dwarf, orc or elven (and possibly even gnome) Skinwalkers are said to be possible. Deciding to RP as a non-human Skinwalker does not affect their base stats, the only thing it might effect is your size and thus the things that your size would effect (such as the size of the damage dice you would roll for natural attacks, and since Skinwalkers are natural attack machines, choosing to be a small race is gimping yourself).
The bog-standard Skinwalker is descended from a non-descript werebeastie, but with variant bloodlines rules released in later splatbooks you can say who's your daddy. Complete with different modifiers to Ability Scores, skills and unique spell-like abilities. Some are absurd and niche, but some are pretty awesome. New options include:
- Aerieborn: Wereraptors. Of the predatory bird variety, not the "Clever girl" variety. Wise and perceptive and one of the few "nice" Skinwalkers. They can't fly naturally, at best they can only feather fall, which is lame.
- Bloodmarked: Descended from werebats! They are like quasi-vampires, valuing their flock hierarchy and having a thirst for blood. Can turn into bats to fly around and do bat things.
- Coldborn: The only truly good Skinwalker, the were-bear derived Coldborn is a stoic and powerful defender of the natural order of things.
- Fanglord: Arrogant tiger assholes. They are strong and agile, capable of great cunning and tend to rise to the top of human organizations by means of charisma, intimidation and treachery.
- Nighskulk: Sneaky wererat spawn which typically infest urban areas and cities. Physically underwhelming (compared to other Skinwalkers), but they can sicken with a natural attack.
- Ragebred: The spawn of a wereboar. They will fuck you up with natural attacks, making them a perfect choice for a barbarian in a race that already makes a stupendous choice for a barbarian.
- Scaleheart: Cold and patient swamp-dwellers. Somehow said to be the most common type of Skinwalker, because I know when I see a crocodile the first thing that runs through my mind is "I wanna fuck that!"
- Seascarred: Fuckin' were-sharks! They tend to think highly of themselves as kings of the sea, with their ferocity they can continue to fight on the brink of death. Most of their ability is tied to the water and aquatic life, but they can survive on land indefinitely.
- Witchwolf: Werewolf? Were- is a masculine prefix. Wyfwolf. Savage and cunning as their sires, they tend to be found near forest and field, often in the service of witches. They get 1/day Magic Fang to add a little more bite to their bite.
To make things more confusing, the splatbook Ultimate Wilderness introduced the Shifter as a Pathfinder class. This is a kind of hybrid fighter-druid, and has some vague similrities to the Warden; a melee warrior character whose identity revolves around its ability to shapeshift at will, invoking animal "aspects" that grant different abilities. Unlike the druid, it gains only a few different "aspects" - 5 in total, by 20th level. Initially, it can only invoke Minor Forms, but at 4th level it gains its own version of the Wild Shape feature, which lets it invoke a Major Form - that's shifting into the animal into the animal in question. For example, the Bat Aspect grants Darkvision as a Minor Form, and the form of a Dire Bat as a Major Form. In all cases, the potency of both Minor and Major Forms increases as the Shifter levels. It can combine minor forms with its Chimeric Aspect class feature, produce Shifter Claws as a defensive weapon, and its Defensive Instinct ability encourages it to embrace its theme of forsaking metal armor by letting its Wisdom modifier affect its Armor Class and CMD.
For the full run-down, see Shifter (Pathfinder).
|The Races of Pathfinder|
|Player's Handbook:||Dwarf - Elf - Gnome - Half-Elf - Half-Orc - Halfling - Human|
|Aasimar - Catfolk - Changeling - Dhampir - Duergar |
Drow - Fetchling - Gillman - Goblin - Grippli - Hobgoblin
Ifrit - Kitsune - Kobold - Merfolk - Nagaji - Orc - Oread
Ratfolk - Samsaran - Strix - Suli - Svirfneblin - Sylph
Tengu - Tiefling - Undine - Vanara - Vishkanya - Wayang
|Bestiaries:||Android - Astomoi - Caligni - Deep One Hybrid - Gathlain |
Gnoll - Kasatha - Munavri - Naiad - Orang-Pendak
Reptoid - Rougarou - Shabti - Trox - Yaddithian
|Adventure Paths:||Being of Ib - Kuru|
|Inner Sea Races:||Ghoran - Monkey Goblin - Lashunta - Skinwalker |
Syrinx - Triaxian - Wyrwood - Wyvaran
|Ultimate Wilderness:||Vine Leshy|
|Blood of the Sea:||Adaro - Cecaelia - Grindylow - Locathah - Sahuagin - Triton|
|Planar Adventures:||Aphorite - Duskwalker - Ganzi|
|Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Races|
|Player's Handbook 1:||Dragonborn - Dwarf - Eladrin - Elf |
Half-Elf - Halfling - Human - Tiefling
|Player's Handbook 2:||Deva - Gnome - Goliath - Half-Orc - Shifter|
|Player's Handbook 3:||Githzerai - Minotaur - Shardmind - Wilden|
|Monster Manual 1:||Bugbear - Doppelganger - Githyanki |
Goblin - Hobgoblin - Kobold - Orc
|Monster Manual 2:||Bullywug - Duergar - Kenku|
|Dragon Magazine:||Gnoll - Shadar-kai|
|Heroes of Shadow:||Revenant - Shade - Vryloka|
|Heroes of the Feywild||Hamadryad - Pixie - Satyr|
|Eberron's Player's Guide:||Changeling - Kalashtar - Warforged|
|The Manual of the Planes:||Bladeling|
|Dark Sun Campaign Setting:||Mul - Thri-kreen|
|Forgotten Realms Player's Guide:||Drow - Genasi|